By Joanne McQuarrie

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She has travelled around the world climbing, hiking and skiing; she loves showing people sustainable ways of living; she has worked tirelessly in her job and as a volunteer supporting the planet: these qualities and many more led to Deborah Griffith being chosen as the 2022 Rotary Club of Invermere’s Citizen of the Year.

“I was surprised that it actually happened; I’m humbled…by it all,” Griffith said. She said she doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, but the countless hours she has worked are hard to miss.

Yvonne Redeker, president of the Rotary Club of Invermere, said in an email, “Rotary is a service organization.  Members are dedicated to offering their time and talents to best serve community and world needs as best they can.  So, it is fitting and appropriate that Rotary recognizes and celebrates this ideal as it is practiced by citizens among us.  

“Each year, the Rotary Club of Invermere asks for nominations from the public, to identify someone they feel has selflessly contributed to the overall development and betterment of the valley and the world.  Deborah Griffith has been a shining example of such a citizen – nominated by someone that was proud to explain her shining history of leadership, mentorship, and volunteerism.  

“It is the Rotary Club of Invermere’s pleasure to acknowledge the Citizen of the Year 2022, Deborah Griffith, and would like to thank her family for their support of her dedication to the community.”

When she was presented with the award on March 15, Griffith told folks about the experiences that led her to what she does today. As a child, she worked alongside her grandmother in her garden. She and her husband Dan climbed, hiked and skied in Field, where they lived for 19 years. There, she “helped start an arts festival and kick-started a playground as some of my first volunteering work”. The Griffith family moved to Invermere.

Griffith transferred to Kootenay National Park and worked in the information centre in the summer months. Her job morphed into another position in Education working with her new mentors, Bill Swan and Larry Halverson. 

“This was a pivotal moment in my career and life deciding to work on health of the planet,” Griffith said. “Though my work with parks was varied I mostly was involved in marketing, education and outreach. So I worked most of my career outside of the park connecting more people to national parks and nature.”

Halverson invited her to a meeting about “creating a bird festival” and Griffith devoted more than 500 hours a year for five years being the event coordinator and marketing it, along with working full time for Parks Canada and raising three kids. The Wings Over the Rockies festival took off after that and is a major event today in the valley.

Griffiths  did multitudes of work including starting ‘Wild Voices for Kids’ (WVFK), eventually taking the program outside Parks Canada under the care of Wings Over the Rockies. She worked on the board for the Columbia Basic Environmental Education Network (CBEEN), which took on the WVFK. 

A few years ago Griffith was invited to a strategic planning meeting with the Groundswell board and in 2019 joined the board. She wrote grants, volunteered in the garden, helped with events and chef trining students courses, worked on marketing and communications and keeps busy to this day at the site.

“My joy comes from the creative work of helping others and making positive changes,” Griffith said during the presentation. “It it has been a pleasure and so much fun working and playing with all of you, my family and friends over the years to achieve many worthy goals!  Thank you for your support and for coming today to celebrate our journey of making the world a better place!”