Combining his love of the outdoors with his passion for helping others, Winnipeg Police Service Sgt. Randy Antonio created and heads Winnipeg Search and Rescue, a chapter of Search and Rescue Manitoba. The local organization's members support police in missing-persons cases, assisting with searches in and around Winnipeg.
Growing up in a remote Manitoba town, Antonio, a former military member, has knowledge of the outdoors as well as survival skills and training. But his drive and passion for assisting in missing-persons cases come from more than that.
"I have a special-needs son and I have an aunt who was a victim of homicide years ago, who was dumped in the bush, killed after a night out with a stranger," explained Antonio, who also spearheaded the creation of the Winnipeg Police Service's ground search and rescue unit and co-ordinates it.
"That all kind of led to this. It's just a natural fit for me," Antonio said.
Now in its fourth year, Winnipeg SAR assists in five or six searches each year, usually assisting the RCMP.
Kevin Williams, a fire instructor with the province of Manitoba, is now entering his second year of service with the group. He said volunteers with the team benefit from extensive training in search-and-rescue techniques. Not only is that useful when in the field, but the training exercises are fun, giving members the chance to network with other outdoors enthusiasts with similar interests.
"I just love hanging out with the gang and the group. We all come from a very diverse mix of people," said Williams, a father of two.
Ingrid Kampff, a WPS civilian member, came on board as a volunteer after attending a course for work.
In addition to serving as a searcher on the volunteer team, she helps out as a team leader, training other volunteers. Kampff said she enjoys the physical challenge of the job and the feeling when the team can provide closure to a family who has lost a loved one. But she warns the volunteer role isn't for everyone.
"It's really easy after you've gone out for a few days to really get discouraged. You're achy and you're tired and you're cold and you're wet."
Winnipeg SAR is recruiting new volunteers. Antonio said they must have outdoor skills.
"We don't get called in 20-degree weather in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. We get called at three o'clock in the morning when it's snowing or raining and miserable," explained Antonio.
He said many of the volunteers are campers, hikers, hunters or military personnel. "That's the kind of people we're recruiting."
If you would like more information or would like to become a volunteer with Winnipeg SAR, please contact Randy Antonio at email@example.com.
All volunteers must submit a criminal-record and child-abuse-registry check, and must be healthy and physically capable of the work. Volunteers are responsible for purchasing the supplies in their deployment kit.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer opportunities advertised in the Winnipeg area. For more information about these listings, please contact the person/organization directly. You may also call (204) 477-5180 ext. 221 to set up an appointment to see an interviewer at Volunteer Manitoba. Email: email@example.com or visit our website: www.mbvolunteer.ca for other available volunteer opportunities.
-- Nature Conservancy of Canada requires volunteers for The Forks prairie garden cleanup and planting event, May 31, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at The Forks. Volunteers plant additional seedlings and unveil the new growth of more than 65 species of prairie grasses and flowers. Register: www.conservationvolunteers.ca or 942-0900.
-- Age and Opportunity looking for a friendly visiting volunteer to share life stories and experiences with older adults. Information: Dianne, 956-6440.
-- Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba is recruiting volunteers to be Dr. Goodbear! As the mascot, you will help promote the foundation at fundraising events, photo opportunities and in-hospital events. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 787-4000.
-- Community Legal Education Association seeks individuals to join its team of board members. Leadership experience, a knowledge and understanding of community needs specific to seniors, newcomers, First Nations or Franco-Manitobans are being recruited. Forward resumé and cover letter by noon, May 27, to Community Legal Education Association, 205-414 Graham Ave., Winnipeg, R3C 0L8, Attention: Nominating/Board Development Committee.
-- Brain Tumour Foundation needs volunteers for its annual Winnipeg Spring Sprint walkathon fundraiser June 5. Volunteers needed: setup and takedown, directing participants, water stations, route marshals, food service. Information: Tanya, 1800-265-5106 ext. 231 or email@example.com.
-- May is Vision Health Month, and during the month, the CNIB will have high-quality sunglasses for sale. Volunteers needed to assist with sales. They will be stationed in the main reception area at a table featuring displays of sunglasses. Shifts: four hours each Monday to Friday; 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Call Candace, 789-0955 or firstname.lastname@example.org