SPRINGDALE, NL — After retirement Don Baker knew his hometown of Springdale was where he wanted to be, and he is now doing his best to give youth there every chance to succeed.
He left the town he was born and raised in at the age of 18 for work. Thirty-two years later he retired from the telephone service industry and came home.
In the 13 years since his return, Baker has been an active volunteer in the community. He has been working with the Bell Pioneers — a network of volunteers who deliver programs unique to the needs of local communities — since 1990. He has served several positions, including president of the provincial chapter and is the current president of the club in Springdale.
“We do a lot of stuff for education and mental health awareness,” he said of the lure of that particular organization. “We help out where we can.”
The club in Springdale is just seven-strong but remains active in delivering programs around literacy and the breakfast club to schools in the area. One of its key programs is the backpacks for kids that provides school supplies to need children. Baker said there have been years where more than 100 backpacks were delivered. Last year, 65 were filled and passed out.
“Some children don’t have the same opportunities as others,” he said. “If you go to school without supplies, it is like not having the tools of a trade. If you go to work without the tools of the trade, you can’t do much work.
“That is a mental illness strategy too. You don’t want a kid going to school thinking they can’t do it.”
Baker is in his second term as a board member with the South and Central Health Foundation, and he also runs the adult softball and floor hockey programs in Springdale.
He has been a coach in the local schools, primarily passing along his knowledge of softball and ball hockey to students at Indian River High.
Although he claims he wasn’t much of an athlete growing up, sport is something he got involved with as a young adult. He believed strongly in what sports can do for the development of youth, and wanted to help provide those opportunities for youth of the area.
“I figure everybody should have a commitment to their community,” he said. “The community got me to where I am today. I learned so much from people as I grew up in the community, so I just like to give back.”
He hopes somewhere along the way, he has been able to make a difference.
The Town of Springdale will have its annual Volunteer Appreciation Night April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Manual Hall. All volunteers are welcome.