Eric Vanderkruk, shown here with wife Liz, was named Citizen of the Year by the Rotary Club of Invermere earlier this week. Photo by Nikki Fredrikson

I think you got the wrong guy, was what Eric Vanderkruk, co-owner of A&W, said when he received a call from Eric Redeker from the Rotary Club of Invermere, saying he was selected as the Rotarys Citizen of the Year.

It was quite interesting because we were in Durango, Colorado. We just arrived and we were looking for a parking spot to park our trailer and Eric phoned. It was shocking, said Mr. Vanderkruk.

According to his wife Liz Vanderkruk, the call wasnt a surprise as she knew that Krysta Helmer, who has worked with Mr. Vanderkruk on many boards, had nominated her husband for the award.

I loved it though because I kinda knew it was out there, but I didnt know he had got it. I enjoyed watching his expression, said Mrs. Vanderkruk.

This wasnt the first time she nominated him; she put his name forward last year as well to recognize him for his continued dedication and service to the community.

As co-owner of A&W Mr. Vanderkruk said he feels compelled to give back to the community thats supported him so well.

I think it just comes back to weve had so much support ourselves from the community and in my view, how can you not step up and help too, said Mr. Vanderkruk.

Through his business, Mr. Vanderkruk donates meals to events throughout the Valley, whether its a cycling society trail maintenance day or a race at Nipika. Mr. Vanderkruks volunteer work is extensive, with him spending the majority of his free time at meetings, participating in phone conferences, stuffing envelopes and more.

For the past year and a half, he has been the representative for the interior and northern B.C. for the A&W standards board.

We meet twice a year, then we have numerous phone conferences. Essentially the standards board gets together with some of the key executives and we look at operational changes and make recommendations, said Mr. Vanderkruk.

Hes been volunteering his time at his church for the past 10 years according to Mrs. Vanderkruk, acting as the treasurer and a member of the board of elders. Both Mr. and Mrs. Vanderkruk are outdoor enthusiasts and Mr.Vanderkruk spends a great deal of his time involved in recreational groups.

We look to support healthy activities in the community that promote getting outside and enjoying the environment that were blessed with here, said Mr. Vanderkruk.

Hes an active volunteer with the cycling society as a member of the board, is in charge of the membership portfolio, and represents the society on the board of directors for the Greenways Trail Alliance. Being a board member for a variety of groups in the Valley is time-consuming but the Vanderkruks have a system to balance all his responsibilities with family life.

I work three or four days a week in Cranbrook, so Im gone. He tries to get most of his meetings and volunteer stuff done Monday to Thursday while Im away. So I dont know how much work he does, but I know when I get home a lot of times Im going to bed and hes still up past midnight on the computer, stuffing envelopes, writing stuff, following up stuff. Yeah he doesnt need a lot of sleep, said Mrs. Vanderkruk.

The key to his dedication to the community has been getting involved in things hes passionate about, which he suggests for anyone wanting to get more involved. He also recommended starting out with small volunteer roles to see where you fit within an organization.

If youre passionate about something in my view I would encourage to get involved, but I think the key is to be passionate about something and then taking it to the next level where you step up, said Mr. Vanderkruk.