Volunteer of the Year honour a complete surprise

Spences Bridge resident Jim Ryan was shocked to find he was named the Community Futures Volunteer of the year for 2016.

Spences Bridge resident Jim Ryan

Spences Bridge resident Jim Ryan

Community Futures Sun Country (CFSC) has recognized Spences Bridge resident Jim Ryan as its 2016 Volunteer of the Year. Ryan has been on the CFSC board since 2003, but was one of the three board members who had to leave his position at the end of March as a result of new Federal government regulations which come into effect this year.

“We’ll really, really miss him,” says CFSC general manager Debra Arnott. “He focused a lot of energy on his community, and was always someone who said ‘How can we make this happen?’ He was always pushing the envelope.”

Ryan says he’s enjoyed his years with CFSC. “It’s a great organization with great people. And I’ve been proud of the help we’ve been able to give to businesses in our area.”

He was something of an accidental recruit to the CFSC board, when the organization was looking for a replacement for Spencer Bridge board member Gar Bulmer, who had retired. “The board tries to get representation from across Sun Country, and they asked my wife Mavourneen first,” Ryan explains. “She’s the real volunteer in the family, but had too much on her plate, so I said I’d do it if they’d have me.”

He says that while he was always ready to speak up for his community, w takes a “big picture” approach “We try to help all the communities in the region in terms of enabling small businesses through self-empowerment and access to loans.” That said, he notes that “Spences Bridge certainly does continue to benefit from CFSC because of all the services they provide.”

Ryan downplays his own individual involvement. “I’m proud of the help we’ve been able to give to businesses in our area, but mine is really an advisory position. Decisions are really a board matter.”

Arnott says that Ryan has always been very committed and passionate about the region. “At the end of each meeting each board member does a roundtable discussion, and Jim always had good, sage advice.” What she’ll miss most about him, however, is his great sense of humour and his directness.

The presentation to Ryan, which was made in Spences Bridge on April 26, caught him completely by surprise. “He had no idea,” laughs Arnott. “And his reaction was to say ‘You know, I don’t think I’ve done enough’.”

“Yes, it was a complete surprise,” acknowledges Ryan. “I walked into the coffee shop and Deb was there, and I was shocked. You try to do your best, and these are people I definitely admire for all they do. It was nice to have them turn around and give me this honour.”

He’s now looking forward to the board reunion on May 14, and meeting up with CFSC board members past and present. He also hasn’t ruled out a return to the board. “I’ll see next year if I want to go back on.”