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Giving back a family affair
Local family picks up volunteer award for dedication to Winnipeg Folk Festival
As far as the Friesens are concerned, everyone in their household has a duty to help make their community better.
The St. Vital-based family recently received the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Family IMPACT Award at the 31st Annual Volunteer Awards, hosted by Volunteer Manitoba last month.
For the past 20 years, the husband-and-wife team of Pamela Poulter Friesen, 52, and Kevin Friesen, 49, have co-ordinated the Winnipeg Folk Festival’s on-site first aid crew. During that time, Pamela, a registered nurse, and Kevin, an emergency physician, have dedicated countless hours recruiting teams of doctors and nurses to join their crew, sourcing donated first aid and medical supplies and helping visitors to the five-day festival, organizers say.
And in terms of leading by example, the couple has also instilled the value of volunteerism and helping out in the community in their four sons — Aaron, 22; Thomas, 20; Cole, 17; and Jonas, 14. At this year’s festival, Cole and Jonas will be volunteering on different crews.
"At the festival, there’s a little field hospital, and the goal is to help patrons on site," Pamela said, noting the family has hosted international students from many countries through the years. "Whether it’s treating headaches or dehydration or occasionally something more serious, it’s a fabulous crew."
The mother of four said both her parents and Kevin’s parents raised them to play an active role in the community and it’s important for the family to continue that legacy.
"It’s about being in a relationship with people and helping people out. It’s about being there and giving back and helping make someone’s day a bit better, as that’s what our families always did. Both sets of parents were always volunteering and active in the community, so we grew up with the idea that you help make the community better," Pamela said.
"Volunteering also allows to you to try a lot of different things and experience events in a different way than if you’re a spectator," Kevin added.
Jonas, a Grade 9 student at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, is looking forward to another upcoming stint helping out at the festival.
"You get to meet different people and help them out and sometimes recommend different music to them. It’s a lot of fun," he said.
Thomas, who is studying science at Canadian Mennonite University, enjoys devoting his energy to coaching basketball.
"It’s a good experience. When you teach someone something in practice and then see them use it a game, especially when it comes together, is a cool moment," he said.
Continuing the theme of being big music lovers, the family also hosts concerts in their homes for local musicians several times a year.
"We’ve been music fans for a long time. The artists love to play here and have that interaction with a small crowd." Pamela said, noting the family was delighted to receive the recent award.
"We’re really honoured and humbled to get this award, especially in a place like Manitoba where so many families would have been worthy of it. We’ve been blessed and it’s great to be part of our community."
For more information about the Winnipeg Folk Festival, go online at winnipegfolkfestival.ca
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