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This article was published 14/4/2015 (2260 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A number of southwest Winnipeggers — including Philip Spevack, the Court family, and Vic Bellay, among others — have been honoured by Volunteer Manitoba for their extensive volunteer work in the community. The Sou’wester spoke with some of the honourees to get their take on the importance of community service:
Building up the community with hammers, songs and sport
If you ever pass by a Habitat for Humanity construction site and hear the ringing of a guitar and a tenor voice coming from within, chances are you’re listening to Philip Spevack.
The 68-year-old from River Heights has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for a number of years, joining in with the blitz build and contributing a week of his time "bending nails."
Along with the typical tools required to build a house, Spevack brings his guitar and some words of reflection to the job site.
"It’s a primarily a Christian organization and I add a Jewish flavour to it," Spevack said. Spevack, a shamus at Temple Shalom, leads the Habitat builders in a lesson about mitzvahs, or good deeds, in Judaism.
"It’s also a mitzvah for the homeowner for the need to help, as in the opportunity to help," Spevack explained, as he would to his fellow builders.
Along with fellow volunteer and friend Neil Klippenstein, Spevack also wrote a song to get builders motivated to the tune of Uncle Kracker’s Follow Me.
"Follow me to build a habitat; we got the plans to know where it’s at; we put in labour, we do it for free; here on Main at house number three," Spevack sang along with his guitar.
“The only non–renewable resource we have is time”
Klippenstein and Spevack would perform the tune at every build until a crash in 2011 left Klippenstein paralyzed from the neck down. Klippenstein still comes to Habitat builds to supervise, Spevack said.
"The number of people he has helped is phenomenal and he still continues to do that from his wheelchair," the volunteer said of his friend.
Spevack is the winner of The Lieutenant Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for his work with Habitat, as well as the Tuxedo Tennis Club where he has served on the executive for over 20 years, the Valour Road Curling Club, and Temple Shalom.
"The only non-renewable resource we have is time," Spevack said of his volunteer record. "You spend your time on your career to earn income to raise a family and pay for a house, food, clothing, shelter and all that good stuff, but it’s the time you spend beyond that — that is the mark of a person."
Volunteering a family affair for the Courts
For the Court family, volunteering is just second nature.
Karen, Jessica and Jamie Lee Court have spent the better part of their lives volunteering for numerous causes in Winnipeg.
The family has spent countless hours volunteering at the Earl Grey Community Centre, Winnipeg Folk Festival, the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival, and the Canadian Cancer Society. For their work, the Courts received the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Family IMPACT Award on April 14.
"It’s very overwhelming getting this award because we don’t expect things like this. We just do it," Karen Court said.
“It’s a fun way to have your family together”
Court began volunteering over 30 years ago with her husband Alan at the Winnipeg Folk Festival on the suggestion of a family member.
"It started from there and we’ve just always done it," Court said.
The two celebrated 30 years of volunteering for the festival shortly before Alan passed away from cancer in 2013. A huge supporter of the family’s volunteer efforts and a fixture at the Earl Grey Community Centre, Karen says the award is special in its recognition of her husband’s volunteerism.
"It’s a nice little tribute to him as well," she said.
Court is also a longtime volunteer with the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival and has spent over 30 years with the organization. She is currently the environment crew co-ordinator and her daughter Jessica is the assistant co-ordinator.
Through their position with the festival, the Courts run a "skills for living" program that brings out children with special needs to the festival and gets them working in a meaningful way.
"It’s fun and you’re doing something for a huge reason, you know. Kids Fest is really for the kids, literally. That’s why we do it," said Court.
Along with their contributions to the festivals, the Courts have also volunteered together at Earl Grey Community Centre, with Jamie Lee coaching eight seasons of basketball and is now a youth mentor.
"It’s just part of what we do," Court said simply. "It’s a fun way to have your family together."
"I am certainly honoured and humbled to be recognized in this way.”
Responsibility to make community a better place to live
No one had to ask Vic Bellay to take on his first volunteer role.
As a youth growing up in Ontario, Bellay noticed a need in his community and jumped at the chance to address it. The community softball program needed some extra hands and at 16 years old, Bellay, on his own initiative, enrolled in a coaching program and got onto the ball diamond with the kids to offer some insight.
Now 54 and a Crown attorney with Manitoba Prosecutions, Bellay has carried on volunteering in a number of capacities here in Winnipeg.
The Linden Woods resident is president of the Pembina Curling Club (and has held other seats on the executive board), a board member of Career Trek, and a lifetime member of the Kinsmen Club.
Bellay is the recipient of the 2015 Lieutenant Governor’s Vice-Regal Volunteer Award for his years of community work.
"I didn’t know that I was being nominated for the award," Bellay told The Sou’wester. "So when I was told that I was given these awards I didn’t know what to think initially. When I had time to process it I thought there are probably many more people who are more deserving of the award than I am but I am certainly honoured and humbled to be recognized in this way."
Bellay spends most of his volunteer time with Career Trek and Pembina Curling Club though he also lends a helping hand at St. Peter’s Anglican Church as well.
As president, the avid curler recently helped the club begin a strategic planning process where the club identified its mission, vision and values. He can also be spotted helping to organize bonspiels and keeping the club running smoothly.
Bellay was also instrumental in the creation of Career Trek, a non-profit that exposes youth to post-secondary institutions through hands-on lessons with the intent of getting kids thinking about careers and the benefits of post-secondary education. He helped with the incorporation of the organization and now sits on the board as treasurer.
"I am fortunate that I have received the type of education and training that I have," Bellay said. "I have the ability to make a contribution and I think it’s important and it’s a responsibility that I feel to make a contribution back to my community and try to make it a better place to live."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.