Jonathan Smyth, 61, is awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers by Lt.-Gov. Gen. of B.C. Janet Austin on Sept. 5, 2019 at Government House in Victoria. (John Yanyshyn/Special to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News)

Maple Ridge man, 61, awarded high honours in Victoria

Jonathan Smyth was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

A Maple Ridge man was awarded high honours for his decades-long commitment to volunteering in his community.

Jonathan Smyth, 61, received a phone call last year from the governor general’s office notifying him that he was nominated by his colleagues for the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

“When you get a call from the governor general’s office you take a second – is this for real,” said Smyth. “They informed me that I had been nominated and the selection committee had approved the nomination, so that was really quite a surprise.”

The honour recognizes Canadians from across the country for their “exceptional volunteer achievements” in a range of fields.

“I have always had a strong connection with the community growing up… as a kid I use to go out and go out into the local bush and make my own trails… look at the trees and learn about them, that’s been part of my life.,” said Smyth. “It’s been great having the ability to pass that on to the youth and also the community.”

READ MORE: Environment champions want voters to make climate their main priority this fall

A former scout himself, Smyth was awarded the medal for his “passion for youth development [which] led to increased enrollment in local Scouts Canada units.”

“I think its become part of who I am,” said Smyth, when asked what motivates him. “I must also acknowledge that family is a big driver in that as well. If it wasn’t for family and those other people I am able to volunteer with it would make it more difficult, but because I have got such a strong group of fellow volunteers it maintains that interest, it maintains that desire to continue.”

The award also recognized his role with the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, which supports youth environmental education; and the British Columbia Institution of Technology (BCIT) Forest Society.

Smyth, an instructor at his alma mater BCIT, teaches in the fish, wildlife and recreation program; and the forest and natural areas management program; said the forest society was founded in the early 90s after a group of staff wanted an outdoor space where students could learn and practice their training.

“It is a [285-hectare] piece of crown land… so we have a responsibly to manage it under the direction of government,” he explained.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge Scout group plants hundreds of trees at Whonnock Lake

On Sept. 5, Smyth and 43 other British Columbians were invited to the Government House in Victoria where they were presented a medal on behalf of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.

“It always impresses me the amount of volunteer work that people do…it also shows the diversity of the different types of things that people can volunteer for,” said Smyth. “It’s incredible.”

Although Smyth is nearing the age of retirement, he said he doesn’t have plans to step back from his volunteer work.

“I’ll probably still continue to be involved in one way or another,” he said.

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