Volunteering is described as an unpaid activity where someone gives their time to do a particular task or job that is not required nor an obligation nor being forced to do it. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together and allows connection to the community. This connection also enables individuals to help others in a selfless way especially for not-for-profit organizations that we recognize today.
The community life is very dynamic in Métis-sur-Mer. Many local committees and organizations greatly contribute to the vitality of our community, and the community has relied on volunteers from the time when the early settlers came to live here. They banded together to survive the harsh New World, forming support groups to help each other in planting crops, building houses and fighting sickness.
By the 19th century, understanding and addressing the needs of the disadvantaged was emphasized more by the religious institutions and the 20th century was when volunteerism really began to flourish. Metis Church bazars took hold with the benefits being not only what money was raised for but also the binding impact they had on the community.
In the borough of MacNider in Métis-sur-Mer, then known as Little Metis, a group of twelve young girls formed themselves into a little society, called the “Willing Workers”, on November 25th, 1893, with the object of working willingly for each and every good cause, at home and abroad. They felt that there was a need for some public place for meetings, since the churches were the only place at the time to go. They felt that the erection of a Hall for the purpose of instruction and amusement would be a benefit to all the residents of Little Metis.
In the autumn of 1897, the ‘’Willing Workers’’ had the Town Hall moved to its present location. The Hall, constructed of wood and built before the 1890s, sat across the road and up on the hill on what was then Mrs. Burland’s land.
Between 1893 until 1897, these 12 little girls put on many fundraising events with the help of Doctor & Mrs. Kemp in order to pay for the move of the Hall. Doctor Kemp taught the girls to play instruments – guitar and the mandolin – as well as to read music. The girls wrote their own music scores for the many concerts and drills that they put on for the residents of Little Metis.
The Town Hall has had different names over the years. The Willing Workers called it the Union Hall, and in the 1980s l’Association Socio-Culturelle de Metis (ASCM) became the new name, although the residents have always referred to it as the Town Hall.
The Willing Workers formed the first volunteer committee of the Town Hall, and many of the volunteers today are family members of those 12 young girls. Evelyn Annett was president of the ASCM group for over 50 years and she held seniors game night every Wednesday for many years. Edith Turriff and Kathy Dodson volunteered for over 30 years, working together with Evelyn. Gaby Turriff also has been a longtime volunteer member, who has done many fundraising activities to collect money for building improvements. Bill and Doreen Pearce and Derek Astle have also donated many volunteer hours towards the improvements of the Hall.
The Town Hall (ASCM) volunteers committee aim and objective have always been to maintain and operate the building as well as to organize and fund social and cultural activities for the benefit of the community. Over the years, the Town Hall has hosted: Metis Beach School Christmas concerts and graduations, harvest dinners at an affordable price, Halloween parties, dances, public consultations, private events, exhibitions, cabarets, and the list goes on.
In Secteur Les Boules in Métis-sur-Mer many social groups also have been formed over the years and the social groups act as a great support system when needed in the community. These social groups were mainly run by women volunteers and they played an important role in daily life of the Les Boules people, helping to identify problems and then unifying to solve them or improve the members’ quality of life to provide a sense of safety and belonging. Many of the activities are held today in the Centre des loisirs – once a school – on 10 rue de l’Église behind the church.
L’AFEAS (The Women’s Association for Education and Social Action) defends the interest of Quebec and Canadian women, and began in 1966 from the merger of two women’s organizations, the Cercles d’ économie domicile (CED), which began in Les Boules in 1951 thanks to Madame Marie Louise Turcotte and the Catholic Union of Rural Women (UCFR), which began in Les Boules in 1951 thanks to Madame Wilfrid Turcotte. AFEAS was started in Les Boules on November 8, 1966 with Madame Rose Thibeault being the first president and she brought together women from all walks of life and all interests, of all ages and backgrounds, who shared the same talents and concerns.
FADOQ (Fédération de l’Âge d’or du Québec) started in 1960 as a result of changes in society, religious practices, and their families. Seniors felt a strong need to connect with one another and the first Âge d’Or clubs appear in Quebec. Then in 1969 came the first Conseil de l’Âge d’Or: some 50 clubs join together in the Quebec City area to found the Âge d’Or movement. Club members come together to counteract loneliness, insecurity, inactivity, and feelings of inutility. The Fédération de l’Âge d’or du Québec charter was adopted on June 16, 1970, today known as Réseau FADOQ and its mission was to serve all seniors, regardless of race, religion, or language; its mandate was to bring seniors together and provide them with a voice, promoting their physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. Les Boules became a member on December 10, 1972, with Madame Rose Thibault the first president of the committee.
The 50 Plus Club todays plays an essential role in Secteur Les Boules and is a non-profit organization that offers social and recreational services as well as lunches and physical activities for the benefit of the members. The Club engages people 50 years of age and older, offering social contact and friendships and helping reduce the isolation felt by many seniors. Through participation in activities and events, their lives retain meaning and value; at the same time, seniors have a lifetime of knowledge to contribute to their communities and through their memory’s history is preserved and passed on.
Many thanks go to Françoise Rousseau and Diane Dubé Guilbeault for their many hours of volunteering over the years.
*Please note that not all volunteers could be mentioned by name here, but they are worth their weight in gold and are truly our heroes, each and every one! They shared their time and talents without any compensation, so it’s crucial to acknowledge their contributions and let them know they are valued. We thank them all, past and present, for the amazing work they have done.
By Pam Andersson