Mark Bulman became hooked on volunteering after witnessing the whole community come together to renovate the Watch Lake Community Hall.
The hall, which had been built from logs in the forties had to be closed as the structure had become dangerous. He recalls the entire community coming out to help peel logs for the renovations.
Bulman says the memory stays near and dear to his heart because it’s one of the first times he felt the cohesiveness of his new community, brought about through volunteer labour.
Bulman bought a house with his wife the same year and started “turning up just about every day with other people in the neighbourhood to peel logs.” Through his work, he joined the communities association, later becoming secretary treasure for the Boys and Girls Club due to his bookkeeping experience.
When the couple moved to Watch Lake in 1999, Bulman said he was looking to meet new people. His wife suggested he join the fire department.
“So I did, and I have been there ever since,” said Bulman.
Bulman was born in Vancouver and spent the first part of his life in North Delta. Since moving to Watch Lake, he has become heavily involved with the community.
Beyond volunteering as a firefighter with the Watch Lake North Green Lake Volunteer Fire Department for 27 years, he has acted as Chief, helped train new Emergency Support Services staff, and volunteered as a Safety Officer.
He has given time to the Watch Lake Fishing Derby, became heavily involved in the community’s unofficial ambulance department that provides lift assistance for people, volunteered as a first aid attendant for the North Delta Junior League and numerous other roles he says “are too many for him to remember.”
For all his efforts and years of dedication to ‘unglorified work,’ he was declared Citizen of the Year.
“There’s no glory. They just do the work. Most of us don’t want recognition,” says Bulman.
Bulman said he is honoured but his work doesn’t stop here. He doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“As long as I am physically capable of performing the necessary duties, I’m going to keep doing what I do,” said Bulman. “I enjoy helping train new people, which is one of my jobs as a safety officer… I’m like an old fire dog. I’ll be there.”
He says he owes some of his volunteering careers to his son and best friend, who, through both their interests, inspired him to reach out to people in the community for support when he was the new kid on the block. After that, volunteering became as simple as putting his hand up. As long as he had the time, he was there daily, finding out what the community needed and how he could assist.
Married for over 50 years to his partner Eleanor, he said he has recently become one of her main caregivers. That kind of assistance is something that comes naturally to him. He says he thrives the most when his job is to put people at ease and finds winter the hardest because there isn’t “as much to get done around the neighbourhood.”
He said he does what he does because he genuinely enjoys being an integral cog in the community, no matter how big or small the job.
“In a small community like this, there is camaraderie. Everybody helps everybody if someone needs something. That is what we do here.”
Bulman added that he appreciates the closeness of smaller communities, given how modern-day technology allows us to be less engaged. He noted that some people in bigger cities like to keep to themselves and while he sees it more and more with the younger generation, he’s confident that through community engagement and volunteer work, younger people will be more inclined to build longstanding relationships with the community just as he did.
“The way I was brought up, it doesn’t matter who you are, what race you are, what your background is, as long as somebody treats me the way I treat them, everybody can be happy.
That’s all I want.”