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96-year-old volunteer among those celebrated by Calgary Public Library


The Calgary Public Library is celebrating three special volunteers who have been lending a helping hand for more than 50 years.

Carolyn Arrell, 83, Norma High, 91, and Nellie Befus, 96, all started volunteering in the organization's Homebound Reader program in 1974, bringing books to people unable to visit the library themselves because of their health.

Befus says she was the very first one to sign up to help deliver books.

"I don't drive, so I walked, took transit, rode my bike," she said. "You've got a basket or something and stick (the books) in there.

"I was very proud that I could do this, and when I started, never thinking I'd be doing it for 50 years. I enjoyed every bit, I never had one nasty person or mad (person) or anything. It was all really good."

In 1998, the library started tracking how many hours people were volunteering and calculated that the three women have tallied more than 5,700 hours of service.

"When Nellie started, she was one of the original five," said Chelsea Murray, the library's manager of program and volunteer planning.

"She was really invested in this program and in volunteering."

On Tuesday, the Calgary Public Library celebrated the women by gifting them with 50-year anniversary awards.

"We came out to see each of them in their homes, we brought them flowers," Murray said.

"We're putting up some stories in our library news of them, on our Instagram stories, and really trying to (share) their stories and hear what they have experienced in volunteering with the library."

Befus lives at the Aspen Lodge in northeast Calgary and now runs the Library in Residence program there. Every few months, library staff drop off books and she makes sure residents get what they're looking for.

"I sit over here, open up the doors and people come up and get library books and I sign them out," Befus said. "I got cards for each person that wants a book."

Befus has been running the Aspen Lodge library for 12 years and admits that there's not as many people signing out books as there used be, because many read on their tablets, including her.

She says now it's time to let someone else take over.

"That's it, I'm sorry, but I will help the new lady that's coming and get her started," she said. "I'm not all that well anymore and I get so tired."

The Calgary Public Library is always looking for people to volunteer.

"If anybody wants to volunteer, we would love for them to apply," said Murray.

"We have so many programs that people can volunteer for, there is something for everyone, something to fit skills, interest, location… and we really we welcome anyone to please apply."

In 2023, the Calgary Public Library saw more than 2,400 volunteers who gave over 48,000 of their time to support its various programs.

To learn more you can visit the Calgary Public Library website. Top Stories

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