Local volunteer looks back on 40 years of community service

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Volunteering is what gets Betty Snowadzki out of bed in the morning.

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The 78-year-old Spruce Grove resident has over 40 years of combined community service experience in the community. Across the country, people like Snowadzki will be recognized for their tireless efforts during National Volunteer Week (NVW) from April 24-30.

“I like being out in public and meeting people rather than staying at home vegetating. It’s a way of helping someone else while keeping myself busy,” Snowadzki said.

In 1969 Snowadzki and her husband purchased an acreage just south of Spruce Grove along Pioneer Road where they lived until 1987. She worked as a payroll supervisor for the University of Alberta (UofA) before retiring in June 2009.

As a member of St. Andrew’s United Church, she began volunteering at its thrift store around 1980 as a cashier on Saturdays. She said she was first drawn to the social aspect of working in the workshop and has remained a volunteer there until now. Over time, she formed friendly relationships with regular customers, getting to know them and their areas of interest.

In the early 1990s she joined the ‘Horizon Stagelighters’, a group of community volunteers providing frontline services at Horizon Stage such as reception and ticket collection, bar and concessions management and greeting customers upon arrival. She loved being able to watch performances and meet new artists and fans. She remained a ‘Stagelighter’ until the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

When she retired, she stumbled upon an ad that the City placed in the Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter looking for a volunteer “tax preparer” for their Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) run by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS). With 40 years of experience as a payroll supervisor managing T4 slips and other financial documents, she felt she had enough transferable skills to make her the right person for the job.

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Danielle Peyton, supervisor of FCSS programs, said tax filing support is an important part of Spruce Grove’s poverty reduction strategy. She said filing a tax return can help low-income people maintain or access needed financial benefits, pay off debt or develop a savings strategy. These supporters also inject dollars into the community, as low-income people earn more money to spend locally. In 2020, Community Social Development (CSD) staff along with seven community volunteers, including Snowadzki, supported approximately 700 eligible low-income residents with tax preparation supporting a return of approximately $6 million to the community .

“Volunteers like Betty help deliver vital programs and services to residents of the tri-municipal area. We are truly grateful to the five long-time volunteers who support this program; the program would not exist without their efforts. Their hard work is having a measurable impact,” Peyton said.

Looking back on her decades of volunteerism, Snowadzki said her time with the CVITP has been both the most rewarding and the most memorable, as she feels she is truly providing an essential service to members of the community. She said the role of tax preparer made her realize that there were more people struggling to get by in Spruce Grove than she previously realized.

“We have very needy people in the area who can really use all the help they can get. They are very grateful to us for doing (their taxes) for them. Being part of a community means you should want to give back and volunteering is one way to do that,” Snowadzki said.

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For community members considering a volunteer position, she said the best approach is to start by finding something they enjoy doing. That’s half the battle, Snowadzki said. Once this is determined, finding a suitable volunteer position is not difficult to do.

Approaching 80, she has no intention of slowing down. She said she would continue to volunteer with the thrift store and CVITP as long as she was mobile and “got her mind.”

“There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain. I encourage people to find something they love to do and go out and volunteer,” Snowadzki said.

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