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Longtime Airdrie Festival of Lights board member named volunteer of the year

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 06, 2014 11:23 am

Airdrie Festival of Lights Society (AFOLS) President Rob Pirzek presents former AFOLS president and current board member Robert (Bob) Abbott with the Sofely Award, the society's version of a volunteer of the year award, Feb. 3, at the Volunteer Wrap Up Party. Abbott was taken off guard when he went to announce the winner and discover it was himself.
Airdrie Festival of Lights Society (AFOLS) President Rob Pirzek presents former AFOLS president and current board member Robert (Bob) Abbott with the Sofely Award, the society's version of a volunteer of the year award, Feb. 3, at the Volunteer Wrap Up Party. Abbott was taken off guard when he went to announce the winner and discover it was himself.
Allison Chorney/Rocky View Publishing

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When Robert (Bob) Abbott announced the winner of the Softley Award during the Airdrie Festival of Lights Society’s (AFOLS) Volunteer Wrap Up Party on Feb. 3, he was not prepared to open the envelope and see his own name.

“It’s a great honour to receive this,” Abbott said, once he regained his composure at the event hosted at the Nose Creek Valley Museum.

Abbott has been a volunteer with the festival for 14 years and began as a board member helping mainly with media relations and advertising for the festival. He was society president from 2010 to 2013, and remained a board member for this past season.

“It’s always been an enjoyable event for me. I enjoyed the challenge of surviving the cold,” he said with a chuckle.

The Softley Award, named after festival’s founder Stan Softley, recognizes a special volunteer who went above and beyond for the betterment of the society and festival.

The award is based on nominations from fellow volunteers and board members.

“Bob is always there… with a calm head and soft voice,” said AFOLS Coordinator Michelle Pirzek.

Since Abbott stepped down as president at the end of last season he is still a go-to board member when Pirzek needs guidance, she said.

“Bob for years has given us countless, countless hours and guidance,” she said.

The award comes at a special time for Abbott as he is stepping down from his role on the AFOLS board of directors to pursue an opportunity as an author after he published the first in a series of books this January called Big Macs & Our Pensions: Who Gets McDonald’s Profits.

Pirzek said the timing of the award was serendipitous as the decision to name Abbott as Softley Award winner was made months before he informed the board he was leaving.

“It’s huge,” Abbott said of winning an award his fellow volunteers nominated him for. “It’s a great honour. These are people that have served on the front line as well.”

This year volunteers with the AFOLS put in almost 2,700 hours of volunteer time to make the festival a success. Pirzek said despite the cold weather and massive amounts of snow Airdrie received in December, the AFOLS received more than $30,000 in donations this year.

“Overall the cold weather certainly affected us,” Pirzek said. “We were up in some areas and down in others.”

The AFOLS fundraising groups also did well this year, with the society presenting more that $4,800 Feb. 3, to groups including the 1st Airdrie Scouts, the 2nd Airdrie Scouts, The George McDougall High School Band Program and the Airdrie Lions Club.


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