If you live in Carseland or the surrounding area, there's a good chance you've seen Gerry Cool. Incredibly passionate and dedicated to the community, Cool has been volunteering since grade seven to help Carseland thrive and grow into the community it is today. On March 31, Cool's efforts and contributions will be recognized, as she is one of six people to receive a 2022 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award.
One of Cool's contributions was playing a key role in getting a playground built in Carseland for children that are younger than five years old, as the playground at Carseland School was deemed not age appropriate for preschool children. Cool explained getting the playground built involved connecting with a grant-writing company, which helped Carseland get the money needed to build an age-appropriate playground for preschool children. From there, she and the committee connected with companies who could help design and build the playground.
She said none of this would have been possible without the help of the Government of Canada Enabling Accessibility Funding for Early Learning and Child Care, KJ Street Consulting for assistance in securing the grant, and BDI Play Design and Blue Imp for playground design and construction.
While the playground is definitely a huge contribution Cool was a big part of, it certainly wasn't her only one, as she also spearheaded monthly movie nights at the school.
"We thought that would be a fun thing for families to do. It's low-cost family entertainment, something for kids to do outside of school, it brings the community together."
Organizing a monthly movie night takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work, including getting a license to show movies to the public. Through the help of the Luke Loftus Memorial Fund Cool explained they were able to pay for a license, so they now show monthly movies to 60-75 people. For only $20.00 a family can get in with bottled water and a piece of pizza, and it's $5 for individuals.
"It's just a nice thing to do, brings the community together. Plus it's affordable, you don't have to load the kids up and haul them to Strathmore or haul them to Calgary, and the kids come and then you have a bit of supper and watch a nice movie, it's great."
This is just a small sample of many projects and events Cool has been a part of. Her willingness to donate her time and effort to all of these causes is a huge benefit to the community, but it also takes a lot of effort for her to do so much. It's not easy, but Cool said it's worth it to see the positive impact.
"I live in the community, my grandkids go to school in the community, so I just think anything you can do to help and have a few added attractions or a few amenities for families... I'm a Carseland booster, so anything I can do to help out, I'm happy to do that."
She added rural communities like Carseland have a great reputation for volunteering, and she enjoys being part of the community with her fellow volunteers.
"You just see things that need to be done and you just step forward and help. I certainly don't do it alone. It's just a matter of pitching in and helping and doing what needs to be done. And I have a variety of interests, so it keeps me involved and keeps me going. I quite enjoy it."
She was also the president of both the College of Registered Dental Hygienists and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, which were both focused on advocating for oral health and ensuring dental hygienists have the proper education to practice safely and earn recognition as oral health professionals.
There's no doubt this lifetime of volunteering takes a lot of commitment and effort, but at the end of the day Cool said she loves what she does, and encourages others to volunteer wherever they can.
"It's fun. I think that's why I do it, it's just fun. It's just so important for people to step forward, you don't have to do huge things, but if everybody just does one thing towards the goal, it's going to happen."
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