Sandy Amy is someone who loves finding ways to help people in the community be it through his business or volunteer work. (Patrick Davies - 100 Mile Free Press)

Community events in small towns happen thanks to volunteer spirit

‘We both had the sense there was magic here and I still think so’

Community spirit manifests in many ways but in the case of Alastair Amy, better known as Sandy to his friends, he’s got it in spades and loves sharing it with others.

Sandy, now 68, has lived in the South Cariboo out at Deka Lake for the last 13 years now since he came up from the coast with his wife. During his professional career prior to arriving in 100 Mile House Sandy worked as an analytical chemist remotely for a company in Fort MacMurray managing a crew of “nine 20-something university students” on a cleanup project for Syncrude.

Shortly after arriving and settling in the area as he was putting his utilities in he realized there was no one in the community that could help him with the water quality of his brand new well. Using his old lab connections to check his water quality Sandy eventually went on to found his own small business in the form of Safe Well Water Consulting. Just last year Sandy took on an apprentice named Trevor Schofield whom he’ll one day pass the business on to.

When not helping people determine the quality of their well water, occasionally pro-bono, Sandy can be found on his acreage with his horses, cats and garden. Should real retirement ever come, Sandy said that he looks forward to really devoting himself to his garden, as it’s his favourite hobby.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to come here, we were very fortunate early on here to meet some longstanding residents of the area and for whatever reason, they took us under their wing,” Sandy said. “I think in some cases they just found us amusing and thought we could use a little steering.”

While neither he nor his wife were city folk, Sandy has come to learn that the South Cariboo often will end up deciding your plans for the day, no matter how bulletproof you think they may be. As a youth, in 1974, Sandy had spent some time up at Deka Lake where his aunt and uncle lived and even then was attracted to the Interlakes area.

Sandy loves the clean air the quiet that comes with living in the South Cariboo and the fact that his neighbours care about one another. While he knows not everyone can tolerate the winters of the area, he loves them for the raw beauty they bring, as he doesn’t partake in winter sports.

“It’s the sense of belonging here, the sense of place and my wife feels it too,” Sandy said. “I felt the first inkling of the grip this land was going to have on me was when we were walking our property (for the first time) and we both had the sense there was magic here and I still think so.”

It’s only natural that Sandy gravitated towards volunteering in the community as he’s found that he is one of those people who is at his happiest when helping others. To solve someone’s problems and put them at ease is, in his opinion, it’s own reward and it’s a philosophy he also applies to his business. While it needs to pay for itself for him his first priority is not profit but to help people which is why he does all sorts of little things for people off the books.

“Now (my business) that’s not volunteering but the same mentality goes into the volunteering side. You throw in your little part for an event and it turns out a success and way more people then you get pleasure and enjoyment out of that from your little contribution, so why wouldn’t you?” Sandy said.

His volunteering got started in earnest when he accepted seats on two of the local boards in the Interlakes area. Sandy sits as a director of the Deka Lake and District Ratepayer’s Association and the Interlakes Economic Association serving as the liaison between the two organizations.

The volunteer work the two groups do is diverse from recently upgrading all the lake access points on all four of the lakes in the Interlake area to supporting a wide range of community events. These include a weekly Saturday farmer’s market in the Interlakes area, the Saturday Night Free Music at the Interlakes Complex during the summer, the Outhouse Races in February and the Interlakes Show and Shine August.

“The idea, initially, was to get these events started and then spin them off into their own so if anything hadn’t got cancelled this year I would have been the guy for the Seventh Annual Interlakes (Show and Shine) this year, of course, we’re not having one now,” Sandy said.

Recently he also got involved with the 100 Mile Cruzers Car Club which he said are wonderful people to hang around who also volunteer in the community. He observed with a chuckle that if you hang around with people like that you inevitably get involved in more activities.

It’s because of how involved he’s become that, despite only living here for a little over a decade, he feels so many people have come to know him in the community and what he stands for. The involvement has made him feel more like a part of the community, Sandy said, especially when people come up to him and ask him for help, something he’s wanted his whole life.

While the events he usually helps run or volunteer with are all now cancelled, Sandy said he’d already done a lot of the groundwork for them and with it out of the way he feels it will be easy to pick back up in 2021 and get them all happening again. The increased demand from people for these community events should also help ensure they end up being successful, Sandy added with a chuckle.

“Especially in a rural community or a small town community like ours, an awful lot of stuff just doesn’t happen without volunteers, we need them it’s a community requirement, it’s what greases the wheels of the community,” Sandy said.

To those looking to volunteer, Sandy advises an “eyes open mouth shut” approach for the first year of being in a community.

“Definitely keep the eyes and ears open and you will see then some of the not so visible undercurrents within the community and some of those opportunities will be attractive to you,” Sandy said. “So when you see this person doing this thing and they could use a hand, maybe that’s the place for you and you’ll make a difference.”

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