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This year's NWT Outstanding Volunteer Awards went to, left to right, Yellowknife Victim Services, represented by Dayle Handy; Bhreagh Ingarfield of Nahanni Butte; Mary Kudlak of Ulukhaktok (Holman) and Barb Tsetso of Fort Simpson. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

NWT's outstanding volunteers honoured

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Kakisa (May 08/06) - The winners of the 2006 volunteer awards for the Territories have one very special thing in common: they volunteer because they love it.

The NWT Outstanding Volunteer Awards were presented last week in Kakisa, with winners ranging from a 62-year-old Ulukhaktok (Holman) elder to a 14-year-old Nahanni Butte girl.

The winners in the four categories were: Fort Simpson's Barb Tsetso (individual); Ulukhaktok's Mary Kudlak (elder); Nahanni Butte's Bhreagh Ingarfield (youth) and Yellowknife Victim Services (group).

The annual awards are presented by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) and Volunteer NWT.

Kudlak said she "volunteers with anything." She's involved with numerous organizations in Ulukhaktok - the district education authority, tenant relations, a justice committee, and also serves as a hamlet councillor.

She's even a singer and drummer for the Central Style Drummers and Dancers.

She explained she got her sense of volunteerism partly from her late grandfather.

"People looked to him for advice," she said, noting he would also help needy people with food.

Her late grandmother also offered help to people such as the homeless.

The Inuvialuit elder said she gets a lot of satisfaction from volunteering. "But I was not trying to get an award for it."

Ingarfield was the driving force in establishing the Nahanni Butte Animal Shelter.

She and her friends - Kayla Betsaka and Kyra Tanche -- began working on the shelter in September 2004 and got government grants to get a building up and running.

"All three of us love dogs," Ingarfield said.

The Grade 9 student said she doesn't really consider herself a role model for youth.

"But some kids have started hanging around the shelter and we want to start a program to show them how to take care of dogs," she noted.

Tsetso volunteers with the Fort Simpson Historical Society, the Open Sky Creative Society and other groups.

The Deh Cho region program co-ordinator with Aurora College admitted to being a bit puzzled when named a volunteer of the year.

"I suppose, in the long haul, I've been involved in a lot," she said. "It's a long, drawn-out process."

The 55-year-old has been involved for four or five years with the Open Sky Creative Society, which promotes the arts.

"I'm just an appreciator of the arts. I've always liked to support the development of the arts."

Yellowknife Victim Services was represented at the awards ceremony by volunteer Dayle Handy.

The organization's volunteers assist people through various traumas, including spousal assault and sexual assault and help people through the court process.

"We feel proud of what we're doing. We give generously from our hearts."

MACA Minister Michael McLeod, who presented the awards, said volunteers help in many ways.

"Too often, these people are not recognized for their efforts," McLeod said.

"Volunteerism is very important to our communities," said Bill Graham, chair of Volunteer NWT. "It's a sign of a healthy community and something we need more of."

Both McLeod and Graham congratulated Kakisa - the smallest community in the NWT with just 50 people - for successfully hosting the awards.

"It's a good thing to have these awards here in this community," said Chief Lloyd Chicot of Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation.

Chicot noted that, in small communities, everyone has to help out to get things done. "I think about that when I think of volunteering."