Gruff. Terse. To the point.
These are words that describe Shuswap Search and Rescue’s retiring senior search manager Don Reed.
Last Wednesday night a group of government reps, police and SAR members heard words that paint a more complete picture of a man who has spent the past 22 years in service to the group and the community.
Accolades abounded as Reed received plaques of appreciation from the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP), RCMP and Columbia Shuswap Regional District at SAR’s large home base in the industrial park.
Calling Reed “the face of SAR,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane described how the group has consistently increased capacity in membership, the tools used to get the job done and the skills they need through training.
“A lot of people want to help, as long as it doesn’t cost them anything,” he said, noting SAR members sacrifice so much and get little in return other than friendships. “Don has made continuous sacrifices over the past 22 years for the betterment of the Shuswap. What he’s grown that group into is just fantastic and a true asset to the community.”
PEP Regional Manager Mike Knauff brought tokens of appreciation from Kamloops. He declared Reed’s dedication to the community through SAR to be “beyond value to the citizens of B.C.”
As close as they could determine, Reed and former mayor Alf Ames got the group off the ground in early 1988 and formed the Shuswap Search and Rescue Society in 1990 with a group of between six to 10 volunteers.
Ames, who was on-hand for the tribute to Reed, said he could see there was a need for an organization like SAR because so many people lived outside of Salmon Arm and didn’t have access to search and rescue services.
In the beginning, it was an emergency measures organization involved primarily in responding to fires, floods and winter conditions.
“I can’t believe it,” he said, surveying the rescue equipment available to current SAR members, who are now trained in ground search and rescue, rope, ice and swift-water rescue, first aid, tracking and avalanche response. “Don was one of the key people to take SAR where it is today.”
SAR member Roger Meunier agrees. He describes Reed as having strong, effective leadership skills, and credits him with being the face of SAR in the community and the fundraising guru responsible for the acquisition of much of the sophisticated equipment.
“We currently have 35 members and suitable equipment to handle a full range of critical incidents,” Meunier says, noting Reed always emphasized that SAR was a valuable and needed resource with a mandate to look for lost or injured people, to quickly find them, free them from harm and danger and provide them with first aid care while transporting them to safety. “We have happily earned the support and respect of the community we serve, from the public, local, regional and federal governments and from emergency partners.”
Meunier also offered thanks to Gail, Reed’s wife of many years for being “a rock of support, wise, sensible, caring, loving and insightful.”
Loathe to speak about himself, Reed sent SAR members an email in which he offered his own accolades.
“I have always considered it a privilege to be a member of the team and to be counted among you… and, more often than not, any credit or recognition I received on behalf of the team, was the result of the efforts others of you expended,” he wrote, expanding on his pride in the group members. “You have my respect, my admiration and sometimes as you trudge the SAR path, you’ll even have my sympathy.”
Reed won’t have to search far to find other things to occupy his days. He has agreed to help the group occasionally and will invest time in one of his hobbies, which is to find solutions to practical problems, such as developing a backpack that would better serve the needs of SAR members and backcountry users.
But there is glue to hold the group together. Rob Udy joined the group in 1989 at the age of 20.
Now a seasoned senior search manager, Udy says he has always believed citizens should give back to their communities. As a forest technician with mapping skills and a love of the outdoors, he saw SAR as a perfect fit.
He says that having a suitable space in which to meet and train has moved the group to a new level.
“People are happy to come here, happy to train,” he says, noting his SAR wishlist includes getting proper classroom space.