Gordon and Karen Smith aren’t the types to lounge around watching television or idly passing away the time.
The 108 Mile Ranch residents have been involved in dozens of groups and organizations in the South Cariboo since moving here from Calgary in 1981. And they have no intention of slowing down their community volunteer work anytime soon.
“That would drive me crazy, sitting around watching TV,” Karen laughed, when asked if they ever have lazy days with not much to do.
The couple were inspired to move to the South Cariboo after a May long weekend visit to the area. Gordon remembers being taken aback by the relaxed atmosphere in the community.
“They actually closed Highway 97 for the rodeo parade, I remember I couldn’t believe that,” he recalled. “We figured it must be nice and relaxed here.”
Although Gordon’s volunteer career started in Abbotsford – he coached minor softball, was a director of the Abbotsford Curling Club and worked as treasurer for the Clearbrook Chamber of Commerce – long before meeting Karen, the couple wasted no time in getting involved in the South Cariboo community together.
Karen began volunteering shortly after they moved to 108 Mile Ranch when a teacher at Mile 108 Elementary asked her to help out in the library.
“I really loved it and one thing led to another,” she said. “I became one of the first noon-hour supervisors and then started helping out in the classrooms.”
Karen went on to take an Education Assistant course and spent the next few decades working with local students before retiring in 2016.
“I loved working with the kids and teachers, it was really hard the first year after I retired,” she said.
Gordon held a few different jobs around the community, including working for 100 Mile Electric, before relocating to a job in Williams Lake. Despite working and raising three children, the Smiths never slowed down their volunteer efforts in the 100 Mile community.
Gordon worked on the administration team for Cariboo Christian Life Fellowship, coached soccer and softball when their kids were young, coached junior curling, and has directed two plays for the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society. He is now president of the 100 Mile Curling Club, and is cautiously optimistic about a return to the ice this winter, but is awaiting direction from BC Curling and Canlan Sports before plans are made.
READ MORE: 100 Mile Curling Club ends season
Karen has helped out with the 100 Mile Festival of the Arts, coached the 100 Mile Nordics, volunteered for the cross-country marathon races and was treasurer of the 100 Mile Figure Skating Club. She was also involved in creating a running club, volunteered for Emergency Support Services during the Barriere wildfires in 2003, helped out with the BC Northern Winter Games in 2006 and is the current treasurer of the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society and the 100 Mile and District Arts Council.
For Karen, her involvement in performing arts has been nothing short of life-changing.
“I was really, really shy when I was in school and when we were first married,” she said, noting that speech arts and acting helped to bring her out of her shell.
“Being in performing arts is what really changed things for me. You just have to work your way up – you can start in a large group, in a chorus and get more comfortable with it.”
In their spare time – if they ever have any – the couple enjoys walking, biking and backpacking. Karen is an avid scrapbooker and is learning to play guitar and Gordon is a self-published writer, currently working on a sequel to his debut novel, Eight Days in July.
They both agree that keeping busy with volunteering is the best way for new people in the community to get to know others with common interests, and it has helped them to feel a part of the town they so dearly love.
“There’s lots of organizations that do a lot of good work, and a lot of great volunteers in those clubs right now,” Gordon said. “I think 100 Mile is really blessed that way. It doesn’t seem to matter what group you join, there’s a lot of willing people in those groups that are willing to share the work.”