Nadene McMenemy is the recipient of the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut’s Volunteer of the Year award, and while she never set out for recognition, it’s an honour she is happy to receive.

“When the phone rang and I got the call a couple of weeks ago that I had won this award, I was overwhelmed,” the long-time Kugluktuk resident said one day before she was presented with the award on Sept. 27. “When you go into volunteerism and philanthropy at the scale that I go at it, you’re not doing it for recognition, you’re doing it for what you’re achieving in the community, and the love of your community. But, you know, for all you do and the reasons you do it, it’s nice to be recognized for your hard work too once in a while.

“I’m happy that it’s bringing attention to my community too, and the work we do here.”

McMenemy, who also operates the Enokhok Inn with her husband Johnny Tootoo, has been volunteering in Kugluktuk since she arrived in the community roughly 11 years ago. That includes work with the Nattiq Frolics Committee, the Coppermine Racing Committee, the Radio Committee and the Hamlet of Kugluktuk. However, her most notable volunteer efforts revolve around her role as the head of the community’s Christmas Committee.

Each year — with the exception of those interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic — committee members spend hundreds of hours fundraising for a range of free community events and generous donations during the holiday season. One of the committee’s primary fundraising initiatives is an annual telethon that has raised north of $10,000 in previous years.

McMenemy admits her volunteering and fundraising eats up a lot of her time, but she sees it as as sacrifice worth making.

“It’s easy to get lost in it,” she acknowledged. “I mean, the last few months, my regular work keeps me very busy and all my free time I devote to this.

“Sometimes I’m in over my head, but, at the end of the day, we pull it off and it happens.”

McMenemy recognizes that it will become more difficult for her to juggle her many volunteer responsibilities as she gets older, and that retirement could be a just few years away.

However, the veteran volunteer hopes her efforts will inspire other people to donate their time to helping their communities.

She has seen first-hand the difference a concerted and coordinated volunteer effort can make.

“It’ll benefit every single organization in your community if you have a strong base [of volunteers],” she said.

In addition to McMenemy’s Volunteer of the Year award, the Recreation and Parks Association of Nunavut named Baker Lake’s Nathan Annanaut the 2023 Recreation Leader of the Year, while Kugluktuk’s Tanisha Metuituk and Maggie Bolt both received Youth Leader of the Year awards.

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