When Ken and Merle Shaw first moved to Shaunavon in the 1970s, they never imagined what kind of impact their new community would have on their lives.
But the same could be said for the residents of Shaunavon, who quietly welcomed the newcomers without fully realizing what kind of positive influence the couple would have on the community over the next four decades. “The community welcomed us with open arms and we’ve made many great friends over the years,” said Ken. “It’s been a great place to live and to raise a family.” While the community has been good to the Shaws, Ken and Merle have been great for Shaunavon. Almost from the first day they arrived in town in 1976, the couple have been active members of the community. Their history of volunteerism and involvement – not to mention their friendly and outgoing disposition – have made them popular and well-known figures in the community. That impressive resume of community involvement, and their selfless concern for others, is being recognized by the Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce, who have named Ken and Merle Citizens of the Year for 2014. Like every other recipient of the award, the Shaws were shocked to learn that they had been singled out for the honour. “Ken and Merle had the same reaction that every other Citizen of the Year has had,” laughed Chamber of Commerce president Joanne Gregoire, who delivered the news to the unsuspecting couple. “The first inclination is always to say “not us” and suggest there are other people more deserving of the award. But that sort of reaction sort of sums up what great citizens like Ken and Merle are all about. The sole intent of their volunteer work is always unselfish and with the betterment of others and their community in mind. They never get involved in anything hoping they might be recognized for their effort.” “Yeah, it was a big surprise to say the least,” smiled Ken. “It’s definitely not something we ever expected.” The Shaws arrived in Shaunavon from Morse in 1976 after Ken accepted a transfer to become the community’s Imperial Oil agent. Merle also took a job in the office. “Ken and Merle moved from the Esso Agency in Morse and took possession of the Esso Agency in Shaunavon providing us with one of the hardest working, most community-minded, caring families in the southwest,” stated Grant Selvig and Mike Elmgren, who nominated Ken and Merle for the Citizen of the Year Award. “I worked with the Shaws for 15 years and I never saw them have a bad day,” said Selvig. “At work, they treated every customer the same, whether they did $10 or $10,000 in business.” Their children were aged 2, 4 and 8 at the time the Shaws first moved to Shaunavon and the entire family quickly got involved in a variety of local programs and activities. Their list of service clubs and involvement is long and ranges from figure skating, minor hockey, curling and ball to the courtesy van, Meals on Wheels, the senior’s association and the Shaunavon Hospital Auxiliary. “Taking the extra step to make sure someone was taken care of or had a ride to the doctor or a child received an award for an accomplishment was how things were always done at the Shaws,” wrote Selvig and Elmgren. “Ken and Merle are always ready to give back to their community . . . happy to do anything when asked and always paying it forward.” “They are great people, great citizens, great friends.” Ken sold his business in 1999. Merle stayed working in the office for the first year during the transition and Ken stayed on until 2001 when he retired. Still, even after “retirement”, the Shaws have remained active volunteers. “Their lengthy and varied resume of volunteerism in our community is impressive and makes them an ideal choice for this year’s award,” said Gregoire. The Shaws will be honoured at a Gala Banquet which is tentatively set for April 26. The Citizen of the Year Award is presented annually by the Shaunavon Chamber of Commerce to recognize the importance of volunteers in our community. The Citizen of the Year selection committee (consisting of anonymous volunteers) take many factors – such as longevity and diversity of the volunteers’ contributions to the community – into account when making the selection. Once again all nominations submitted this year were for very worthy candidates and the decision was difficult as always. The Chamber encourage all nominators to continue to submit their nominations in future so that in time all of these worthy citizens will be honoured.