A long-time resident of Meadow Lake, Don Marsh is well known in the community for his volunteer work, most recently with the Meadow Lake Hospital Foundation. Recently, Don spoke with Northern Pride about the Festival of Trees fundraiser, Home Hardware Building Centre and his family.

Q: Tell me about the Festival of Trees event held last weekend?
A: It’s the Meadow Lake Hospital Foundation’s major fundraiser for the year. On Friday (Nov. 25), there was a tea and a viewing where people were able to make donations. There isn’t a set cost, people give us what they can. Then, on Saturday, we had a breakfast and the kids were able to get their picture taken with Santa. Our banquet was held later in the evening where we have sponsors who have donated money to assist the event. We also raised money from everyone who bought a ticket for the dinner, had a silent auction, a live auction and we received other miscellaneous donations.

Q: Why are you involved in this particular fundraiser?
A: It’s all about raising money to help support our local health facilities and everyone knows, sooner or later, we’re going to need those things and the better prepared we are the more likely we’ll have a successful outcome. It’s a charity I find easy to support because every dollar goes to work in Meadow Lake. There’s no overhead and everything is volunteer. Every dollar stays in this community and it’s very tangible. People can see the equipment we bought.

Q: How much money does the festival raise?
A: On average, we raise about $65,000 from it. The money comes from businesses, individuals and organizations. To make it happen, though, we have a lot of volunteers. I’ve never counted them up, but many people get involved in major or minor ways. It’s exciting to see so many people working to make it happen. This is our 11th year and there’s more excitement about this one that the first one. It’s gratifying.

Q: Why do you think it’s so successful?
A: It’s just been a popular evening a lot of people have fun at. People enjoy raising money for an important local cause. We’ve raised more than half-a-million dollars since the beginning. We have purchased a lot of equipment over the years such as a chair lift for a bathtub, an infant incubator, a medication dispenser and a vital signs monitor. Those items are helping to improve health care in Meadow Lake. People support the foundation in many different ways like attending our events such as the Festival of Trees and the Happy Carlson/Meadow Lake Hospital Foundation golf tournament. Businesses and individuals also sponsor our events, which helps pay for the expenses. They donate auction items or give us a gift in memory of a loved one. Aside from volunteering their time, some people also name the foundation in their will. These things have all happened and we hope they continue to happen. Some people even asked about having a little bit of money deducted from their pay cheque, which is then donated at the end of the year.

Q: Who else sits on the board?
A: Our current board of directors consists of vice-chairperson Sally Carlson, secretary Jane Pike, treasurer Bill Hart, Debbie Demmans, Sheri Roger, Alicen Hubbard, Bob Steeg, Merv Johnson and Tony Vandenberg. We’ve got a larger board with older and younger members. The board members really worked hard planning for the festival and I’m thankful for all their work because it makes my job easy. I have confidence the foundation is in good hands.

Q: Have you always lived in Meadow Lake?
A: No, but I’ve been here for the past 46 years. I was raised northeast of North Battleford. My wife, Lois, and I moved here in 1969 to farm. We had cattle and grain and I did that for more than 20 years. It was a great industry and we had quite a bit of cattle. But, we don’t do that anymore, we’re in the lumber and hardware business now. We bought the Meadow Lake Home Hardware Building Centre 25 years ago and it’s grown over the years.

Q: What were the early days like?
A: We had 2,500 square-feet of floor space and five people, including us, who worked there. Now, we have a much bigger store and more people. We built the new store because we needed more space out in the yard and needed more space inside the store. We were also landlocked.

Q: What’s it like working with family?
A: It’s been great. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but as long as you make sure to separate family and business and keep a close eye on it, it’s great. You know those people really well and you get to work with people you like.

Q: How do you manage such a large staff?
A: We hire good people and it makes it easy. Right now, we have 56 people employed, but it ranges between 54-62 depending on the season. Everyone is divided into departments and everyone does his or her part. We’ve got two long-term staff who were here 25 years ago when we bought the store. The staff has been good to us and, when you’ve got good people, it makes it easy.

Q: What’s the busiest time of year for you?
A: The busy season is in the summer because of all the building. We sell quite a bit of lumber – it’s sold to people around here and some of it heads up North. We get large orders and also $10 orders.

Q: What’s it like being a member of the business community?
A: Very good. Meadow Lake has always had slow, steady growth. We’ve never had a boom and never had a bust. That’s far more advantageous than a roller coaster cycle of too busy and too slow – boom or bust. There’s been slower years than others, but growth has been slow and steady.

Q: What do you like to do with your time away from work?
A: We like to travel, go camping and fishing. Fishing is something I find enjoyable. It’s something you can do in a relaxed atmosphere with friends and family. We go to a lot of different places to find the fish.

Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My wife and I have been married for 45 years. She’s from Cadillac, SK which is south of Swift Current. We met in Saskatoon one evening when I had gone to visit a cousin who lived there. Lois happened to be there also and that’s how we met. We have four children – Kim (Lennea), Connie (Rowland), Grant Marsh and Wayne Marsh. All of our children and grandchildren live in the Meadow Lake area and we enjoy having so much family around. Having all your grandchildren that close makes life pretty great.

Q: What are your plans for the holidays?
A: We like to get all the family together either on Christmas Day or Boxing Day and make a big day out of it. We have a traditional Christmas with a turkey and all the trimmings – the whole works. Even Santa seems to still make it down the chimney.

Q: Why did you chose to live here in Meadow Lake?
A: It’s the best place in the world. There are great people here and it’s a very safe place. We don’t have floods, tsunamis, earthquakes or hurricanes. It’s a beautiful part of the province and there’s a lot of good places to go nearby.