While living the life you’ve planned, has someone or something ever thrown a wrench into the works that sent you off in another direction?
Leaside is full of people whose lives have been transformed by a new role, relationship, hobby or academic interest. George Hurst is just such a person. He arrived in Leaside with his wife, Alice, 50 years ago. Originally from Northern Ireland, George and Alice met in Canada and married in 1959. They still reside in their first home on McRae Drive, where they raised their three children. George laughingly revealed that they could have bought on Bessborough for another $5,000, but the price was too steep for his budget.
Like many early Leasiders, the Hursts stumbled upon Leaside without really knowing anything about the community. It just seemed like a good place to raise a young family, in part because of the schools and park nearby. Plus, a 10-minute drive to work for George and a five-minute stroll to the church, where Alice worked for 29 years, cinched the deal.
Once he settled in Leaside, George dove wholeheartedly into community service. The list of organizations, positions and years he has served is mindboggling. Many organizations like the Rotary Club, Leaside United Church, badminton and tennis clubs have benefited from his generosity, diverse talents and indefatigable energy.
Asked how he found himself so immersed in community service, George confesses with customary humour and modesty that his penchant for chatting regularly resulted in his getting involved, staying involved and usually taking on a leadership role. On a more serious note, he adds that building community and connecting with neighbours, who become lifelong friends and complete important projects together, is its own reward.
He appreciates the awards he’s received (like the Agnes Macphail Award, named after Canada’s first female elected to the House of Commons and a former Leasider), but it’s the smiles and the feeling of making a difference that really mean something to him. “It doesn’t hurt that I receive more praise and thanks in a single day of volunteering than I did during my whole accounting career,” he laughs.
George is concerned that lives are so busy today, schedules so tight, and with so many digital distractions that it’s difficult for potential volunteers to find time to contribute. Yet he draws encouragement from the increasing number of youth volunteering in Leaside even if their main motivation is the 40-hour community service requirement for high school graduation.
He’s hoping more people will step up and make a contribution. “You’ll receive more than you give and be welcomed whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned volunteer,” he advises. “Be generous and welcoming to a fault. You’ll make someone’s day and boost your own enjoyment. They may even pay you a compliment. Fiercely protect your boundaries so you can give your best wherever that matters to you – at home, in the community, at work or with friends. Stop and chat. You’ll strengthen the community, maybe find a new friend or even learn something valuable.