Submitted by Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK)

Wilmer residents Sue and Tom Hoyne were recently officially recognized as this year’s Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G volunteers of the year.

The RDEK had named them as such back in July (along with all other RDEK rural area volunteers of the year), and then the pair were formally honoured by RDEK Area G directory Gerry Wilkie at a private event later on in August.

In choosing the Hoynes, the RDEK cited the more than 15 years of service the couple have given the Wilmer Community Club (of which Tom is president and Sue is secretary treasurer) and their involvement with Wilmer’s FireSmart community designation. Pioneer readers with sharp memories will also remember that Tom and fellow Wilmer resident Pat Morrow spent considerable effort one winter to help haul a phenomenal number of old tires out of the Wilmer Wetlands.

When reached by the Pioneer for comment, the Hoynes were humble and said they are simply inspired to volunteer by their chosen home community of Wilmer.

“We looked all over the valley to find the right place to live and we found it in Wilmer,” Sue told the Pioneer. “It’s a full-time community. There are always kids out playing in the streets. We knew right away that it was where we wanted to make our home.”

The couple moved to Wilmer from Invermere in 1996. A few years later they were approached by long time Wilmer local Herman Mauthner to join the community club and said yes.

At that time the former Wilmer elementary school had already been converted into a community hall, but “it was in need of a lot of work” outlined Tom.

Tom was part of the Columbia Valley Cycling Society (he is currently president) and had experience from that with writing grants, so he and Sue put those skills to work for the community club, to fix up the hall.

“We did the renovations to the hall one section at a time,” explained Tom.  “We enjoy volunteering, love the community and wanted to help if we could… the credit really belongs with the many tradespeople and craftspeople who helped out. We are just the ones organizing them.”

One of the efforts Tom and Sue helped lead was the drive to establish a service area to cover the operating cost of the community hall in perpetuity. This was a resounding success, with more than 80 per cent of residents voting in favour of the service area.

“It’s nice, because it means the community hall is now sound financially as well as structurally,” Tom told the Pioneer.

Sue became a member of the local FireSmart coordinating committee three years ago, after being approached by other Wilmer FireSmart volunteers.

“After going to a few meetings, I realized how vulnerable Wilmer is to wildfires,” said Sue. She helped put together info bags for local residents on becoming FireSmart, organized some clean-ups, and helped secure provincial support for prescribed wildfire management around Wilmer last fall and this past spring (with more set for this fall). All this led to Wilmer becoming a designated FireSmart community.

Anybody who has walked in the Wilmer wetlands will have noticed it is home to a few ancient dumped vehicles. But a decade ago it was also home several hundred old tires. Some time around 2012, Hoyne and Morrow led an effort, along with help from local environmental group Wildsight, to haul a couple hundred of the things out of the wetlands.

“It was amazing just how old some of those tires were,” Tom told the Pioneer. “It was just something we did because it needed to be done. It was unsightly and needed to be cleaned up.”

Both Sue and Tom expressed gratitude to their fellow Wilmer residents, saying they can’t imagine living anywhere else.

The warm feeling are reciprocated, with Wilkie saying “Sue and Tom are remarkable assets to the community. Their unwavering support of so many local initiatives in Wilmer and the valley has truly made a difference. We are proud and grateful to have such dedicated residents in our area.”