Longtime Chestermere volunteer honoured
Friday, May 20, 2011 01:43 pm
You won’t often see Chestermere resident Jennifer Peddlesden idle.
Known for her seemingly ceaseless energy and passion for others, Peddlesden has been a renowned fixture in the town for the past 34 years.
Her vitality, coupled with a long and diverse volunteer career, has recently earned Peddlesden, also known as Granny Jen, a position as one of four finalists in the 2011 Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award, jointly sponsored by Direct Energy and the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association.
For the award, which garnered nominations from more than 100 Alberta communities, Peddlesden earned $1,000 for her favourite charity, which she donated to the Chestermere Library.
“It just makes your heart swell to think that people appreciate what you do… just out of your love of doing it,” said Peddlesden. “(Volunteering) is like having a hobby, it is very diverse and wonderfully exciting. There is always another opportunity.”
Peddlesden has indeed taken many different opportunities, working tirelessly on behalf of a number of community groups.
She first remembers volunteering as a Grade 5 student in Strathmore, when she and several friends started a junior Red Cross group. That same year, her teacher arranged for several students to take a trip to a Calgary orphanage.
She has never looked back, learning from each experience.
“There is something in me that finds it fulfilling to help those who have a need,” said Peddlesden, who describes herself as energetic.
“There is a richness that you can take advantage of because there are so many things to broaden your life experience and (help you) become a wiser person.”
A pharmacist by trade, Peddlesden began her volunteer career after the birth of her two now-adult children when she helped start the Chestermere Community Playschool in 1983.
She later volunteered at the local elementary and high schools, initiated a Parent Volunteer Program and sat on the Alberta Home and School Association Board for two years.
In 1993, Peddlesden helped start the Chestermere Rocky View South East Family School Liaison, fundraised and brought in a social worker to serve local children and families in the five schools surrounding the town. That program was taken over by Family Community Support Services in 2000.
Peddlesden’s passion for education continues to this day as she still volunteers in her grandchild’s school.
In addition to her education-focused volunteering, Peddlesden has a passion for history and has been a key member of the Chestermere Agriculture Society, where she has served in various positions, including as board chair.
After taking a break, Peddlesden returned in 2007, helping to revitalize the annual country fair, which last year had more than 10,000 entries from pies and vegetables to crafts.
She became the coordinator of the Red Ribbon Competition and partnered with the Alberta Active Community Enhancement (ACE) program to develop a “bake it, don’t fake it” competition to encourage additional entries.
From 1991 to 2005, Peddlesden was a regular volunteer columnist for the Rocky View Five Village Weekly, reporting Chestermere’s news. She also penned a chapter in Growing Through Time, a 1982 history of Chestermere Lake, of which Peddlesden is intimately familiar, having visited as a child and lived on the banks of it since the town had a population of about 500.
Peddlesden also contributed to another history book: A Home for All Seasons, and has launched the Chestermere Historical Society.
After a lifetime if these and other volunteer opportunities, Peddlesden has made quite an impression on the community.
Debbi Weber, the library’s interim director, called Peddlesden “a bundle of energy” and said she is always cheerful and is not afraid to speak her mind.
“She is a big part of Chestermere,” said Weber. “I think of her and I think of Chestermere. She embodies the spirit that I like to think our town has.”
According to Weber, Peddlesden has the unique ability to excite others with her passion, which helps her get things done.
Weber said library staff and volunteers are very excited about the $1,000 donation, although they aren’t yet sure how the money will be spent.
“We are very grateful that she thought of us for this funding,” said Weber. “There are a lot of places that need money and that she thought of us… it’s exciting.”
Although retired, Peddlesden’s life is as full as ever, and she doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I am not going to go out with a whimper,” she said. “There are just so many things you can do.”