By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – When Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust walked into Wednesday night’s Rotary meeting in Morinville, he fully expected to deliver a speech on this year’s St. Jean Baptiste Festival and how groups like Rotary can attract and retain volunteers. But Cust was brought to Rotary on false pretences – the real reason for his being summoned was to receive the club’s Integrity Award, the third the Morinville service club has given out in its 15-year history.
Rotarian and Deputy Mayor Gordon Boddez said the Integrity Award is given to those who meet four criteria: the recipient must show care and concern for the community over a period of years. They must show truthfulness and fairness in all their dealings within the community. They must make exemplary efforts to build good will and friendships within the community. The award recipient must be self-motivated to affect positive change within the community.
Boddez said when Rotary started looking at people in the community who they felt might be worthy of the award, they settled on Cust and were confident he exemplified the four factors of the award’s criteria.
“Ron is one of those people you would call an unsung hero of the community,” Boddez said. “He has given and given and given to this community over many, many years and has never really received recognition for it.”
Boddez recounted Cust’s many contributions to the community from his role as a teen guide at St. Jean Baptiste Church when he was 18 to his more recent role of helping to revitalize the annual St. Jean Baptiste Festival.
“Ron is a bit of an entrepreneur; he’s a bit of a government guy,” Boddez said. He’s done many, many things in his life, and even when he first started working, he started cabinet making. Right out of high school he started being an entrepreneur.”
Over the years Cust worked as an assessor for Sturgeon County and St. Albert before working for the provincial government. Cust is currently employed with Municipal Affairs and drafts legislation for the province.
But on the local front, Boddez said Cust just helps wherever he is needed. That begins next door. Boddez said Cust has been assisting a senior neighbour for the past 20 years.
Best know as Morinville’s fire chief, Cust began with the department in 1976 and has been chief since 2001. “It’s a volunteer fire department and they do a lot of volunteer work in this community under his astute leadership,” Boddez said, adding the department recently donated two of its old trucks to South America. “This community received recognition around Canada for that.”
“The community created an environment for me to grow up in and enjoy, and I want to make sure that the kids and the others who come behind us can enjoy that even if the population increases to 10,000,” he said. “The small town feel is still there, the community feel is still there, and you can still walk down the street and if you don’t know the person you can shake their hand and greet them. And they feel comfortable and friendly. They feel like they are friends in the community.”
Cust recounted working the St. Jean Baptiste booth at this year’s trade show and hearing from three people that they had moved to Morinville after having attended the festival. “That to me was the reward from last year,” Cust said of the work he and Joel Chevalier did in reinvigorating the festival. “They made a choice to come here not because our [housing] prices are cheaper but because there is an experience they would get in this community with their children.”
The chief said he was thankful to all the people in Morinville who listened to his stories over the years about wanting to offer something different and who have worked with him to make it happen.
In addition to the award and a certificate from Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Ken Kowalski, Cust was presented with a cheque for $500 for the charity of his choice. Cust said he would add the money to a $2,000 donation the fire department is giving to its Burn Camp charity.