You may not think of it while you’re doing the chicken dance, but the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest would not be possible without the hard work of hundreds of volunteers. Among that group, Elmira’s Maureen Phillips is a standout, presented at this 50th anniversary outing with the organization’s Volunteer of the Year Award, an honour she shared with fellow recipient Marjorie Wood.
“It’s quite the surprise, I didn’t know I was getting it,” said Phillips of her reaction to the news. “It’s just an honour; it’s prestigious. I mean, I was shocked.”
Phillips was nominated by the chair of the A Blooming Affair fashion show, Tara Hebblethwaite. Hebblethwaite took measures to ensure that the award came as a complete surprise to her friend.
“I was aware of the award, about how every year they put the winner in a magazine,” said Phillips. “[Hebblethwaite] had kept everything under wraps. She said ‘come to the president’s luncheon’ at the Waterloo Inn about a week ago. She hid a brochure on the table because it had my picture in it, and she wanted to make it a surprise.”
Hebblethwaite was also the recipient of an award herself this year, claiming one of the Woman of the Year achievements. The award ceremony is presented at the presidential luncheon every time, which took place on October 11 for 2018. KW Oktoberfest has continued this tradition for decades.
“Volunteer of the Year for K-W Oktoberfest initially began in 1989 as just a way of supporting our volunteer team,” explained Alfred Lowrick, executive director of KW Oktoberfest. “Usually we select two every year. We can have as little as one or as many as four.”
Selecting the award-winner(s) out of some 500 volunteers is a bit of a process.
“We feature people that have really stood out in terms of volunteering,” explained Lowrick. “They’re nominated initially by their fellow volunteers and the various chairs. Past presidents who are also volunteers make the decision. They look at the nominations that come before them and select a couple of people, and it’s recognized at our presidential luncheon.”
Phillips has been volunteering with the KW Oktoberfest for the past 20 years. She is also known to introduce new volunteers to the organization on a fairly frequent basis.
Working with Hebblethwaite on the fashion show committee was just one of her many efforts. She is also a tireless volunteer with the Kiwanis group for the past 25 years, taking on roles such as bartending, costuming, and collecting door prizes. For example, she volunteered at their Kiwanis fall dance on October 13.
“It’s a very fulfilling thing, to volunteer,” said Phillips. “And there is, and always will be, a need for volunteers.”
Future volunteer efforts from Phillips will be the costuming in the upcoming Elmira Santa Claus Parade in early December.