By Kyle Reid
The City of Mount Pearl has no shortage of volunteers and community-minded individuals.
Accordingly, it’s no surprise that two Mount Pearl residents received nominations for the prestigious Gordon Seabright Volunteer of the Year Award, with one Mount Pearl citizen taking home the honour.
Mount Pearl residents Claudette Coombs and Zita Kavanagh-Taylor were both recognized for their volunteerism and hard work in their community with nominations for the province-wide volunteer award.
Ultimately, Coombs was named the Gordon Seabright Volunteer of the Year among two other well-deserving nominees.
For Coombs, who was nominated by her fellow Lions Club members, the recognition had a very personal meaning.
“I actually had the privilege of working with Judge (Gordon) Seabright,” said Coombs, who noted that she worked with colourful character in the late 1980s to help write and implement new legislation to stiffen penalties for those convicted of impaired driving. “His wife was (at the award ceremony) and his (great-niece), and I was able to tell them some of the stories of being in court and how significant his work was on me and the kind of impression it left.”
Seabright lived in Mount Pearl and played a large role in the community. The award that has been named in his honour is meant to recognize a dedicated community volunteer who has made an extraordinary contribution to their community and demonstrated community leadership through volunteerism.
Coombs certainly fits that criteria.
The Mount Pearl resident has worked extensively, particularly with the Mount Pearl Lions Club, at engaging the local community in a number of international initiatives. Recently, Coombs worked with others, including the Lions Club, the Church of the Good Shepherd and St. Peter’s Parish, to sponsor two Syrian families immigrating to Newfoundland, helping both families make Mount Pearl a home.
Coombs has also worked with initiatives at Iris Kirby House, the Naomi Centre, Choices for Youth, The Gathering Place and has served as a volunteer Education Director with the Canadian Cancer Society — just to name a few of the many projects she has involved herself in over the years.
Always active, Coombs is also involved with an initiative to make clothing for children in a developing country which couldn’t be named due to risks to contacts in the country.
Like many dedicated volunteers, Coombs prefers not to take sole credit for her community work, instead pointing to the network of community-minded people engaged alongside her.
“The more you get people involved the more people realize that they can actually do something to make a difference,” said Coombs. “I think that’s the way you make a difference…you don’t do it yourself…it’s as much about networking and having a greater impact than it is doing it or being responsible yourself.”
Coombs said that she believes that everyone has something to give to their community, whether it is their time, compassion, talents, skills, practical support or any other resources.
“Anyone that’s interested (in volunteering), you find out first what their good at and what they like to do,” said Coombs. “We can’t do all of the stuff, but we can help, we can connect…It’s linking with people — that’s how we make our volunteer hours expand.”
Joining Coombs as a fellow Gordon Seabright nominee, Kavanagh-Taylor is well known in Mount Pearl for her role as the chairperson for the MS Society of Canada Avalon Chapter.
Through that role she advocates for awareness for MS and organizes support for those living with the disease. After she was diagnosed with MS in 2010 she became chairperson for the Avalon Chapter in 2011, working to organize MS Society initiatives such as the annual Paws for MS Walk which takes place in Mount Pearl each spring.
Kavanagh-Taylor has also recently joined the Mount Pearl Kinettes becoming involved with a number of projects with the active volunteer organization. She thanked her family for supporting her volunteer work with the MS Society and the Kinettes.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without big support from my family,” said Kavanagh-Taylor, who noted that her 9-year-old son Alex normally accompanies her on any volunteer projects.
Kavanagh-Taylor said that it was a wonderful feeling to be nominated for the prestigious award, noting that she was energized by the amount of community involvement shown by her fellow nominees.
“It was amazing to listen to all of the work done by everyone,” said Kavanagh-Taylor.