Always there, always eager to help, an excellent role model, a model citizen.
That’s how friends describe Forest Grove resident Richard Bergen, who was named the 2015 Citizen of the Year at the South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Annual Business Excellence and Citizen of the Year Awards at the 100 Mile Community Hall on April 11.
“He’s constantly anticipating the help people need,” explains Sheila Hart, a Canim Lake resident and first responder with the Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department, of which Bergen is a longtime dispatcher.
“Anybody who needs help, any organization or person, Richard is the first one they turn to.”
Bergen has been an integral part of the Forest Grove and 100 Mile House communities since he moved to the area 27 years ago. On top of his work with the fire department, he volunteers countless hours at the Forest Grove Elementary School, and with a variety of other local committees and groups.
“His support of the Parent Advisory Council in particular is astounding,” says that group’s president, Corrie Benard.
“Richard is at the school on a daily basis greeting the students and attending to the grounds. He ensures the entrances and exits are safe for students, parents and staff. In the winter, he is at the school before students arrive to ensure the walkways are free of snow, and the emergency exits are clear.”
Garry Baker, president of the Forest Grove Cemetery Committee, says he can’t think of anyone more deserving of the award.
“When there is a work bee at the cemetery, Richard is there, helping in any way possible.”
Wendy Clarke, president of the Forest Grove & District Recreation Society, describes Bergen as honourable, compassionate and one of the best people she knows.
“Richard has given this community so much and he has never expected or asked for anything in return. I am not too sure how this community got so lucky to get Richard as a member, but what I do know is that we are darn lucky that we did.”
Bergen, 50, was struck by a car at the age of seven and suffered debilitating damage to his right arm and leg. Even so, he’s a self-described “workaholic,” and he has never let the injury get in his way. He’s a shot-put coach and volunteers at the elementary school track meet in 100 Mile House every year. Throughout the long South Cariboo winters, he’s always got a shovel in his hands, making life easier for others.
Of winning Citizen of Year, he says the award is an honour, Richard he adds he never does look for a pat on the back for what he does for the community.
“I’ve gotten a few of them, but I never look for them. I just keep working and never look back.”
Fellow Citizen of the Year nominees included Walter Sherry, Al and April Roberts, Josh Dickerson, Larry Rode, Ingrid Meyer and Lori Fleming.