Look up ‘volunteer’ in the dictionary and there is Peter Redwood smiling happily back at you

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Peter Redwood is one of those rare people who you see at every event and fundraiser. His intention is to help out where he can. He’s not a limelight kind of guy although people joke that he appears in the media more often than the mayor.

Peter seems to look for reasons to say “yes” to a request to help out. It started with his parents who believed in giving back to the communities of Cochrane and South Porcupine, where he was born and grew up. “My dad was especially involved as a Scouts leader, church supporter and volunteer fireman. He taught me that volunteering is self-fulfilling and helps you to develop a range of skill sets.”

The list of organizations and events that Peter has helped is truly too large to include in its entirety. He was a Scout leader, is a life member of Kin Clubs, a past-president of the Huntsville Lake of Bays Rotary Club, and he represented Bell Canada as a Community Service Representative far past his 2005 retirement date. Peter makes a point about what was known as the the Kinsmen Club: “The Kinsmen got all the glory but the Kinettes raised the majority of funds. My wife Irene and I were co-coordinators for the Cystic Fibrosis initiative across Canada, which raised just shy of a half million dollars for research.”

He’s been heavily involved with Dragon Boat Races, Operation Red Nose at Christmas, the Winter Carnival and has been involved with the Santa Claus Parade for over 30 years – first with the Kinsmen Club and then with Rotary, which he’s belonged to for 21 years. He did maintenance for years at Kinsmen/Rotary Beach, works the Kids’ Triathlon and is one of the behind-the-scenes volunteers at the Hospital Gala at Deerhurst every year. He was a big part of the Winter Games and the Paralympic Games, the Pond Hockey events and did construction on two Habitat for Humanity builds. The Heart and Stroke Big Bike event has utilized his organizational skills. And he also worked at countless fundraising events for the hospital, Chrysalis, Scouts, Cystic Fibrosis and the library. It’s uncertain if even Peter remembers all that he’s been involved in.

Peter and Irene have made Huntsville their home for 37 years since Peter transferred to Huntsville from Sudbury with Bell Canada. He met Irene through a classmate at Ryerson who was dating her until they had a falling out. Peter smiles, “I needed a date for some event at school so I asked Irene and that was that! We’ve been married for 41 years as of this June.”

Working for Bell in Outside Plant Engineering, Peter credits the company and his boss at the time with encouraging his community participation. He says, “Jim (Hajas) always told me that as long as I got the job done I could take a Friday off or leave work early for a few days to work on a volunteer project.” A self-confessed workaholic, he always more than made up for any time he took off.

He was one of the people who made the decision to go to a nighttime Santa Claus Parade. He explains, “The parade was dying. People worked though the day and shopped on Saturdays for Christmas so there wasn’t anyone to work or to watch the event either. The mall had just opened up and downtown needed something.” With the switch to nighttime the event went from 10 or so floats to 40 to 50 and has been a rousing success ever since.

Estimating that he has worked with over 20 organizations over the years, Peter isn’t one to pop in and out of an organization.

I like those who belong for true reasons. Volunteering shouldn’t be about hanging a plaque on the wall. I have a hard time with people who don’t stand up and fulfill the role they’ve committed to. Job, family and health are priorities so I understand that sometimes you can’t do something for one of those reasons. But if you say you will do it…then do it.Peter Redwood carefully explaining what volunteering means to him

He continues, “I’ve seen people lacking any kind of leadership skills and looking for direction in life and in work and I’ve tried to mentor them a bit by offering volunteering as a method of moving forward.” He pauses, “I sincerely believe that being a volunteer will make you a better parent, a better citizen and a better employee.”

Peter believes that volunteering at his level of commitment is harder for young people: “They often don’t have the support at home, and they lack job security and decent wages so often they simply can’t afford to volunteer. Plus, work intrudes 24/7 these days thanks to cell phones and other devices.”

He feels that if volunteerism is to thrive there needs to be a financial and recognition component to it. “Tax breaks for deducting expenses associated with volunteer work have been contemplated but not implemented. Recognition isn’t always done well either since it’s sometimes hard to recognize true commitment from a bit of dabbling.”

Redwood isn’t preachy and he acknowledges that not everyone can or wants to make multiple volunteer commitments. But he does say, “Set your level of involvement and then stick to it.” He firmly believes that in ‘just doing it’ at first you’ll be engaged and encouraged to do more. He ponders, “I think that some people don’t value what’s within them and miss out on what they are capable of and therefore they miss out on incredible opportunities.”

Like many dedicated volunteers, Peter Redwood sincerely believes that he has received as much from volunteering as he’s given. He concludes, “There are 45 people in Rotary alone that have my back and that I can turn to in a crisis; and I’d go to hell and back for them too. That’s what volunteering has given me.”

In a lighter vein he jokes, “People keep telling me that I have to learn to say ‘no’.”

But it is pretty clear that he has no interest in saying no: Peter Redwood is the best kind of yes-man there is in any community.

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3 Comments

  1. Brian Cotterchio on

    I’ve known Peter for many years and I can honestly say everything Dale is saying here is an accurate description of the person I respect and look up. Thanks Peter for everything you do for our community. Hats off to Peter!

  2. Robert Attfield on

    Peter Redwood is a community treasure. His list of public service involvements is nothing short of incredible. Hats off to you Peter.

  3. Michelle Tripp on

    Peter’s face is exactly what I picture when I hear the word: Volunteer. I have never met a more dedicated, selfless person. I worked on many projects with this man, including the Dragon Boat races a decade or so ago… I really don’t think he knows the word: NO. He always finds a way to get the job done, and he is absolutely pleasant while he is doing it.

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