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NICHOLAS MERCER: George Sheppard's giving a good fit for Corner Brook Winter Carnival patron

Corner Brook’s George Sheppard is the patron for the 2019 Corner Brook Winter Carnival.
Corner Brook’s George Sheppard is the patron for the 2019 Corner Brook Winter Carnival. - Nicholas Mercer

George Sheppard has developed bone spur in one of his heels. It can be painful at times and cause him discomfort when he moves.

It has impeded Sheppard’s daily movements to a crawl but isn’t enough to really slow him down.

The soon-to-be 80-year-old Corner Brook man is still heavily involved with the Children’s Wish Foundation, Salvation Army’s Kettle Drive, Canadian Red Cross, Royal Canadian Legion and others.

There isn’t much he hasn't done in the 60 years he has been helping various organizations in Corner Brook.

He doesn’t spend much time at home.

His wife will tell you that she barely sees him. With a laugh, she says it is a good thing. It keeps him from under her feet.

Sheppard just chuckles at that and mentions he had a Children’s Wish function on the go the same evening. Bone spur or not, he would be there to help out.

The positive influence Sheppard has had on many people in the region and his unrelenting volunteer efforts were key reasons he was named the Corner Brook’s patron for the 2019 incarnation of the Winter Carnival.

He has been recognized before for his volunteer work.

Just last year, he received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General.

This year’s honour came as a bit of a surprise to Sheppard. He wasn’t expecting it and he’s looking forward to taking in all of the events, albeit in a different capacity.

He probably would’ve helped out with some of them.

His volunteer spirit starts in an unusual place. In his teens, his mother-in-law and her friends would play a regular game of 120s.

They went all over for a game and it was Sheppard’s job to drive them. It might’ve been in a snowstorm, but the women would all pile into his large sports utility vehicle and off they’d go.

He’d then have to wait until the game was over. If you ever played 120s before, games tend to go a bit long.

Sometimes, Sheppard’s mother and her friends would play into the early morning hours. My grandmother would say they were up with the birds.

Sheppard would say something else.

“I’ve been volunteering all my life,” he said.

He was a longtime member of the local RCMP Auxiliary before becoming a full-time member of the RCMP. It's safe to say, he’s been constantly giving his time.

Volunteering isn’t what it was.

People are more inclined to seek some form of compensation for giving up their time instead of freely helping out because someone needs a hand.

There isn’t anything wrong with that. It is to be expected.

What you are seeing is the pool of people ready to help out at a moment’s notice dwindling. Often, they’re older and their families have moved on. They’re looking to pass the time and giving themselves to a cause is always a good move.

You don’t see too many young people offering themselves to that degree these days.

Too many people volunteer because it can help raise their social standing. They’re there to help out, but they make sure they’re seen doing it.

Not Sheppard.

His motivations come from a genuine desire to help other people.

For the last 30 years, he has been helping out with the Children’s Wish foundation grant hundreds of wishes.

Whether that is organizing a concert in Cox’s Cove to help with the foundation or organizing charity golf tournament that has raised more than $300,000 over the last decade.

He credits the smiles of the people he’s helped as the top form of payment he’s received when working for the foundation.

Sheppard can’t say for sure if he’s ever asked himself if this was going to be his last year helping out.

He doesn’t know when he’ll stop.

Best he figures, there is still work to do.

Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at Nicholas.mercer@thewesternstar.com.

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