I’m fortunate to have parents who taught me the value of community at an early age. They led by example. Kindness was taught. Compassion was shown. Generosity was given without need for recognition. Their actions spoke volumes. Do what is right, because it’s right. Be grateful for what you have. Share what you can when you can. Volunteer. Help out. That’s what community is. This is who we were as a family when I was growing up. I’m grateful that is how we remain.

Last week, my father launched the Fergus Lions Toy Drive with Reliable Ford. It’s his 11th year taking on this role as a proud member of the Fergus Lions Club, where he is also the treasurer. He enjoys the toy drive because it benefits local children. When I was a child, I remember Christmases when he would help disperse toys to families in my hometown who weren’t as fortunate as we were. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club then, so he was involved in the Santa Claus Parades too. Dad believes in the magic of Christmas and every child’s right to experience it.  That’s my dad. How lucky am I?

Throughout their careers, when my parents were both busy with work, us kids in extra-curricular activities, and also their own sports, my parents still made time to volunteer. Whether she was leading my Brownie pack, fundraising for our schools, or canvassing for causes, my mother was on a mission to make a difference. She was instrumental in a large fundraising campaign for Sick Kids hospital in her corporate days. My mom never stopped. I have no idea how she kept up with that while raising a family, but in her retirement, I assure you she hasn’t slowed down much. In recent years she’s rolled up her sleeves for my kids’ school, helped with their sports teams, and joined a group of local women through the Fergus Lions to support women’s shelters, community living for young mothers, and helped support local athletes too. How lucky am I?

My parents are not unique in their generosity. They are a part of an incredible network of neighbours involved in Wellington’s many service clubs. Optimists, Kinsmen and Kinettes, Rotary and Lions Clubs are in every corner of our county. We owe gratitude to these volunteers, men and women who are the heartbeat of our communities. They fill needs that exist in our towns, sometimes where we don’t even know the need exists. It’s about much more than writing cheques to good causes. They give us their time. It’s work. It’s fundraising. It’s coordination. But more than anything, it’s the desire to make our communities better. And they do. How lucky are we?

From Santa Claus parades to toy and food drives, this holiday season, I hope you will support local service clubs in helping to make a difference at home. And thank those volunteers if you get a chance.

I know my dad will be overcome with emotion this year when he and his fellow Lions load up their cars with toys to take to the food hamper sorting station on Dec. 11. Every year he is shocked by the generosity of our community. I believe when you put your heart into a project like this, the love you get back is tenfold. That’s community. That’s Christmas. That’s my dad.