‘A spe­cial woman’

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY RICHARD MA­HONEY News Staff

While most peo­ple are plan­ning their week­end sched­ules, Mar­ion Smith is pre­par­ing to don her uni­form and go to work, for free.

For al­most four decades, the Ap­ple Hill res­i­dent has been a St. John Am­bu­lance vol­un­teer, keep­ing an eye out for po­ten­tial med­i­cal emer­gen­cies at sporting events, fairs and auc­tions.

“She is a spe­cial woman,” notes Mar­ian Hem­ing­way who sug­gested The News con­tact Mrs. Smith in or­der to rec­og­nize her mile­stone achieve­ment.

This year Mrs. Smith com­pleted no less than 37 years and more than 20,000 hours of vol­un­teer com­mu­nity ser­vice.

“Most peo­ple don’t know what the St. John Am­bu­lance is,” ob­serves Mrs. Smith who is Deputy Unit Chief re­spon­si­ble for mem­ber ser­vice co­or­di­na­tion with the Corn­wall-based divi­sion 103.

The emer­gency re­spon­ders are not paid; the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­lies on dona­tions to cover op­er­at­ing costs.

“We do re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate any dona­tions we re­ceive from com­mu­nity groups,” she says.

At one time, her pub­lic du­ties would take her to six events on one week­end. “I am slow­ing down now. I am pick­ing and choos­ing my du­ties more care­fully now,” she says. For ex­am­ple, last Satur­day she had a “short duty,” about five hours at an auc­tion.

St. John Am­bu­lance vol­un­teers are usu­ally not no­ticed, un­til they are needed to deal with in­juries, heart at­tacks or heat strokes. They are also trained to ex­tri­cate vic­tims from wrecked ve­hi­cles, re­sus­ci­tate an­i­mals, and res­cue peo­ple from roof tops.

‘A pi­o­neer’

She, her hus­band, Win­ston, and their two daugh­ters have all served as vol­un­teers. The fam­ily’s in­volve­ment goes back to 1976 when they moved to Alma, New Brunswick. At that time am­bu­lance ser­vices for ru­ral ar­eas of New Brunswick were pro­vided un­der con­tract with St. John Am­bu­lance. “I was a stay-at-home mother, look­ing for some­thing to do. We did not have a lot of money so I thought vol­un­teer­ing would be a good idea.”

Years ago, Mrs. Smith demon­strated she pos­sessed the nec­es­sary sang froid to keep her head while oth­ers are los­ing theirs. “I had been called into the bush where a per­son had col­lapsed while pick­ing wild gar­lic. I could tell the per­son was al­ready dead.” As the de­ceased’s com­pan­ion be­came in­creas­ingly dis­tressed, Mrs. Smith re­al­ized she had to re­main com­posed. “I knew that if I did not calm down the other per­son, I would soon have an­other ca­su­alty to deal with.”

Born in Saskatchewan, Mrs. Smith re­calls that be­cause of her hus­band’s job with the fed­eral govern­ment, the Smiths moved often, ar­riv­ing in Ap­ple Hill in 1982.

She joined the Corn­wall St. John Am­bu­lance divi­sion in 1985, when there were six mem­bers. Af­ter she served as Su­per­in­ten­dent for six years, the num­ber of mem­bers had increased to 20.

A train­ing of­fi­cer, she was cer­ti­fied as a first aid and home health care in­struc­tor in 1984 and as a first aid and CPR in­struc­tor in 1992.

“I did a lot of pi­o­neer work,” she re­marks.

She as­sem­bled the equip­ment for and taught the first baby-sit­ting course for the Corn­wall branch.

She also taught the first pet first aid course for the branch. There were no train­ing aids at that time so she and her hus­band in­no­vated. They had to show stu­dents that if they blew too hard to re­vive a small an­i­mal, they could dam­age its lungs. So the Smiths mod­i­fied a toy kit­ten with tubes and “lungs” so that when proper ven­ti­la­tion was ap­plied to the cat’s nose, its chest re­sponded ap­pro­pri­ately. “Lots of fun!”

Mrs. Smith has also found time to be an ac­tive mem­ber of the con- gre­ga­tion at the Mart­in­town Pres­by­te­rian Church.

She has been pre­sented ac­co­lades by some very high-pro­file Cana­di­ans for her ser­vice as a first re­spon­der.

She re­ceived the Pri­ory Vote of Thanks in 1987, was ad­mit­ted to the Or­der of St. John as a Serv­ing Sis­ter by then-Gov­er­nor General Raymond Hnatyshyn in 1990, and was pro­moted to Of­fi­cer in the Or­der of St. John by Adri­enne Clark­son, when she was Gov­er­nor General in 2000.

At the time, she won­dered, “What am I get­ting this for?”

In ret­ro­spect, she has an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the sheer num­ber of hours she has de­voted to the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. She jokes that the time zone may have not played in her favour. “When we moved from New Brunswick, we lost a few hours.”


DED­I­CA­TION: Mar­ion Smith, of Ap­ple Hill, with a cer­tifi­cate rec­og­niz­ing her 20,000 hours of vol­un­teer work with the St. John Am­bu­lance.

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