Long-time Inuvik resident Margaret Miller has been named the town’s 2020 recipient of the Bill Mero Memorial Volunteer Recognition Award.
Started in 2019 to honour the memory of the late Bill Mero – a former resident and avid volunteer – the award was created by the town to show appreciation for those who give up their free time to make things happen.
The entire town of Inuvik was the award’s first recipient in 2019.
“People here volunteer for multiple things, or they keep with their volunteering for quite a number of years,” Lise Saumur, director of community services for the town, told Cabin Radio.
“It’s pretty impressive. A lot wouldn’t happen here if it wasn’t for volunteers. We rely on them and all the groups rely on them heavily for things to happen.”
Miller is the award’s first solo winner.
After moving to Inuvik in 1998, Miller began her illustrious volunteering career with the Great Northern Arts Festival, serving as both a board member and festival volunteer for a decade.
She was one of the original volunteers for the Inuvik Food Bank, helping to start the organization in 2005, and continues to keep the bank’s books on a volunteer basis.
She has also organized and hosted bingo events for a number of groups in town.
Ask Miller why she volunteers so much, and her answer is simple: “I have trouble saying no when people ask me to do things.”
She enjoys helping out, she continued, and understands volunteering is an important part of creating a community.
“Volunteering is good for people to get out there and get active and to interact with other people,” she said.
Miller’s contributions to Inuvik aren’t exclusive to humans. She has been a key volunteer with Arctic Paws – a program that runs free spay and neuter clinics for animals in the Beaufort Delta – since 2013.
“I started out just holding small animals after they had their surgery, because they like to be comforted when they’re coming out of anaesthesia, and it just grew from that,” she said.
Saumur, who was on the committee that chose the winner, said the decision “was tough” since so many community members dedicate their time.
“There are so many people that volunteer and so many people that are deserving,” she said.
When Miller found out she had won the award, she said she was “a little flabbergasted and quite pleased.”
The win was made even more special by the fact that Miller personally knew Mero and was good friends with Bill and his wife.
“Bill was a very nice gentleman, and he and his wife came up here every summer to spend time with their daughter,” she said. “He got involved with the community, and it was very sad when he died.”
The award, she said, was “a great honour because he was such a good and kind gentleman.”
Miller received the award from Inuvik’s Mayor Natasha Kulilkowski at a small, socially distanced ceremony in December.
Though she says she has slowed her volunteering a little as she gets older, she is committed to helping others in the town for as long as she can.
“I originally thought I would stay for five years, and that was 22 years ago,” Miller said.
“This is a great place to live, and I like to do my little bit to help other people who may not be as fortunate as I am.”