Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Remembering a volunteer's volunteer

By Sharan Sandhu

 Bernie Karcher
A cheerful average height man with military-cut hair walks-in vigilantly across the South East Police Station, bringing smiles on everyone’s face. Left and right, he tosses good-natured greetings with a mysterious smile, acknowledging volunteers and police officers by their names. His  memory borders on uncanny. He heads for yet another volunteer opportunity: his thoughts are focused improving the overall quality of life of fellow Albertans, and the community as a whole.

He moves quickly — so fast that people have come to think of him as a blur: the vague outline of a loose black jacket, accented by a splash of small hair showing few grey streaks. His jacket is draped loosely across his shoulder as if he’s daring the world to grab hold and try to slow him down. 

This was Bernie Karcher.
….Bernie on the right

Bernie had the ability to make people crave to do volunteer work with him. The enthusiasm and support he gave to every volunteer made them find the work fun. As President of Mill Woods Community Patrol Bernie communicated with all  volunteers and treated them with respect, and encouraged them when needed. Bernie tried to get the best out of his team of volunteers by being understanding them and inspiring them.

He made you feel as if you were involved in a very important enterprise, where discipline was the priority and things are going well. He was a great volunteer leader. If you ever patrolled with him, you saw some of the finest traits of him, like his observations, his enthusiasm, his confidence and his witty comments. Bernie Karcher was quick but not hasty, committed but not rigid, analytical but did not over-analyze and he was thoughtful, but is not obsessive. The people who knew him from many years say that he could smell the problems in the community when he was patrolling, and that was the reason that he spent good time attending courts.

Among all the action, Bernie sat with his Blackberry/laptop or iPad with his small glasses sitting on his nose and then went about his work. He updated  the volunteer status, looked at new volunteer applications, studied newly introduced laws and legislations to be introduced and so much more.  He could easily multi-task. But the amazing thing is that Bernie occasionally threw comments into all the conversations that are happening around him. It always amazed me that he could concentrate intently on his volunteer work, professional work and still know what was going on with his family.

Bernie was very well aware of his professional, personal and volunteer responsibilities and amazingly he keep a perfect balance. He was available wherever he was required, and he showed up for everything because he just wanted to be there to show that it mattered. That’s why he was a terrific human being: he understood the importance of being there, of being having a presence, and of showing up.
The best thing about Bernie Karcher was that being the head of Mill Woods Community Patrol, he did not command excellence; he built excellence. In his words, excellence is “being all you can be” within the bounds of doing what is right for the organization.

Bernie was a recipient of many awards, including the 2009 Harry Hole Community Policing and the Good Neighbours Award. On May 10, 2013, another feather was attached to his cap — the 22nd Annual Crime Prevention Award for 2013 for Mill Woods Community Patrol in the category of Police-Community Collaboration.
In my opinion  Bernie  was a true role model for every volunteer to make Alberta an exemplary place to live in.
This is the person that was: the person who died on March 27th.

He touched many people through his volunteer efforts with MWCP, Operation Red Nose, the Edmonton Indy, the MS Bike Tour, Santas Anonymous, the Progress Club, World Triathalon, the Mill Woods Presidents’ Council, Mill Woods Canada Day celebrations. Bernie constantly made the extra effort to reach out and make a difference in somebody’s life. His cool-headed and positive approach to every situation struck a chord with thousands of people he interacted with, along with me. His irreverent sense of humor and love for helping people of any background will ensure that he will never be forgotten. 

Rest in Peace, Bernie Karcher.
…Bernie in the blue shirt

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