The community gathered to celebrate Sandy Zeznik as Cranbrook’s Citizen of the Year, recognizing her extensive service and volunteerism with an afternoon gala on Friday (Feb. 3).
The event featured tributes (and friendly roasting) from community and business leaders, as well as from peers involved with the numerous causes Zeznik supports — all of whom praised her kindness, relentless volunteer spirit and ability to get things done.
“I say to you all, I accept this award on behalf of all of the volunteers and all of the people who help the volunteers and in particular, our senior volunteers, who make this community the great community it is,” Zeznik said.
In her speech, Zeznik walked through the various stages of volunteerism, starting as children helping parents with various causes, before growing up and helping with their own children’s’ fundraising needs for school, sports or musical endeavours.
She also acknowledged how local businesses step up to support local causes.
“The businesses and organizations, I say to you..shop local,” Zeznik said. “If you can, shop local, because these are the people that support this community. These are the people that give us wheels and keep it going, so do that.”
Even while up at the podium accepting the award, Zeznik pulled out a booklet of raffle tickets — a fundraiser for the Cranbrook Kimberley Hospice Society — to solicit any interested takers, while also plugging the upcoming tour of Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s seniors advocate who will be in Cranbrook to hear from the community on Feb. 15, at the Senior Citizens Hall starting at 9:30 a.m.
Zeznik’s volunteerism is vast, covering a huge range of community needs and services, including (but certainly not limited to) Cranbrook Public Library; CARP East Kootenay; Seniors in Partnership; Age Friendly Committee; Cranbrook Visitor’s Centre; Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary; Cranbrook Seniors Hall; Cranbrook Rotary; Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies.
When approached by Zeznik for various causes, Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Price noted he learned very quickly not to say that the city couldn’t do something.
“I think that’s one of the reasons Sandy is so driven and so inspiring, is because she always finds a way to get things done,” Price said. “She has a way of giving of herself in a manner that creates a personal connection, and that’s one thing I’ve really noticed about her.”
Chuck Downie, the president of the Cranbrook Rotary Club, lauded Zeznik’s involvement within the organization, specifically highlighting her advocacy with the committee that manages the J. Fred Scott Rotary Villa, a 12-unit seniors housing complex, calling it the jewel in the Rotary crown, with Zeznik as the queen.
“Where she really shines is with her connections to the tenants,” Downie said. “Every person there has a story and Sandy has taken the time to learn them all. Many people living there may not have close family connections, but I think to many of them, Sandy is their family.”
Zeznik, who spent a career as an educator in the public school system, was also feted by Shelley Balfour, a former colleague, as well as Graham Knipfel, a fellow Rotary Club peer who was a Grade 4 student under her tutelage in the early 1990s, while representatives from other organizations also paid tribute.
Zeznik is an active Dragon Boat paddler and administrator, and also served as a co-chair of the 55+ Games, which was hosted by Cranbrook and Kimberley in 2018.