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Ste. Agathe Leader Recognized for Volunteerism and Leadership

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MLA Ron Schuler with Jeannot Robert and his wife Yvonne. Ron Schuler

Jeannot Robert has been championing his hometown for as long as most Ste. Agathe residents will remember. He’s spent years on countless committees, stood at the forefront of community growth, and has been quick to get his hands dirty any time a job needed doing.

So it comes as no surprise that he was selected by the province for the MB150 medal of volunteerism.

This fall, local MLA Ron Schuler made a personal appearance at Robert’s Ste. Agathe residence to make the presentation.

“Jeannot is one of 150 people being recognized as outstanding Manitobans for their role in making Manitoba such an amazing province,” says Schuler.

This year, Manitoba reached the important milestone of 150 years since becoming a province. It was the fifth province to do so.

“Manitobans are known for their generosity and community spirit,” says the MB150 website. “In fact, our province has the second highest rate of volunteerism in Canada. In commemoration of Manitoba’s 150th anniversary, it is fitting to celebrate Manitobans who are committed to giving back to and enriching the place we live, work, and play.”

Without aspirations of recognition, Robert has epitomized just that, averaging 70-hour workweeks for much of his life to help bring positive change to his community.

“I don’t sit on committees for the pleasure of attending meetings,” Robert says of his volunteer ethic. “I find a project and get it done.”

In 1994, under Robert’s guidance, the Ste. Agathe Community Development Inc. was formed. The committee’s goal was to encourage economic and residential development in the once-tiny francophone village.

Ste. Agathe has since tripled in size, becoming home to a burgeoning business park and sprawling new housing developments filled with young families looking for a rural yet inclusive setting to call home.

Robert saw the value in a young, vibrant demographic, realizing they would bring the energy needed for continued growth and programming into the future.

Over the years, Robert also provided leadership as school trustee and municipal councillor. His tenure on council came to a satisfying close after the Ste. Agathe fire hall was finally built.

But probably one of Robert’s most memorable volunteer opportunities arose in 1997 when the small riverside community came face to face with the unforgettable flood of the century. Robert was instrumental in the fight to keep floodwaters from inundating his town, organizing hundreds of volunteers, assigning tasks, and instructing in the construction of long sandbag dikes.

While the bulk of the community was evacuated to higher ground, Robert stayed on along with a handful of others to operate pumps, repair breaches in the dike, and wait out the inevitable.

“Instead of accepting defeat by the floodwaters, Ste. Agathe experienced a boost of energy and we weren’t giving up,” says Robert of the experience. “We are small, but we turned that into a positive.”

Today, there’s probably not a square inch of Ste. Agathe land that hasn’t seen Robert’s footprints, full of optimism and community spirit. As cheers fill Cartier Park or families gather at the annual Cheyenne Summer Festival, they do so because community-minded volunteers such as Robert helped paved the way.

On November 23, Minister Schuler also recognized Jeannot Robert in a Private Members Statement in front of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. Along with the volunteerism award, Robert received the Association of Manitoba Municipalities’s leadership award.

“I am very grateful and honoured to have been chosen,” Robert says. “I loved volunteering, seeing our village improve, the comments from residents, and the sense of accomplishment. Bringing people together for common goals is my largest reward.”

Now in retirement, he continues to encourage the younger generations to pick up the baton and keep the momentum going.

“I promise you rewards and a great feeling of belonging where you can work, relax, and celebrate together as a caring community.”

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