When they announced her name as the Rotarian of the Year last month in Prince George, Sheri Davies almost felt discomfort. She knew it was a big honour, but the thought of accepting the award in front of everyone was embarrassing.
"I don't feel comfortable being in front of the crowds. It just feels strange to be singled out," she said.
Davies was selected out of 1,800 members in a Rotary district that's spread over Western British Columbia and all the way up to the Yukon. It's the first time someone from Squamish has ever won this honour. But helping each other was a natural part of her upbringing and there were no rewards except for the pleasure of having helped someone.
"I've always volunteered. It's the way I was raised. You always put yourself in others' shoes and you always helped out others. That's what I was taught," Davies said.
Humility is not a calculated virtue with Davies; it's something she's got from her family. Davies grew up in a farm between Aldergrove and Langley and learned early that life depended on helping each other out. Her extended family lived a tightly knit life within a mile of each other on the farm. Being there for each other came naturally to everyone.
Her grandpa, Harvey Bowler, tutored her in empathy, asking her to reflect on the suffering of others and help those who need it.
"If we saw poverty on TV, he would ask us, 'how do you think that person feels?'"
That informal but strong education remains deeply ingrained and became almost an intuitive response. At school, Davies was helping teachers and younger kids. That continued at the University of the Fraser Valley where she did an undergraduate degree in teaching English as a second language. There, she volunteered to teach English to new immigrants, even going with them to their appointments with doctors and lawyers.
Impressed with her dedication and her ability to help others, she was offered a full time job at the university. She taught there for nine years before moving in 1999 to Squamish with her husband, Ian Davies, who introduced her to the Rotary Club and its various activities.
Even before joining Rotary Davies had started volunteering in Squamish schools. But when she learned about the scope and resources available through Rotary she marshaled her energy and time towards working for the club.
"If you have the time and energy, then Rotary Club has the reputation and the energy to help you in volunteering in the community," she said.
Since Davies had volunteered all her life in schools, one of her first steps as a Rotarian was to approach Howe Sound Secondary School and Don Ross Secondary School and convince them to start Rotaract clubs, which involve the students in social activities.
Some of those initiatives are unique and well-known in Squamish, especially the trick or treat during Halloween when the students collect food cans for the homeless centre.
She was also instrumental in starting an international exchange program, where Squamish students are sent abroad to study and international students from all over the world come to Squamish.
Davies is the Rotary assistant governor for the Sea to Sky region and is in the process of starting an Interact Club in Pemberton schools. Despite having five kids to take care of, she has always found the time to help the community.
"It just gives me great pleasure. It makes you feel good to help others," she said.