By Greg Price
With Doug Emek’s community involvement, it’s all about the quality of life in Taber.
That focus has earned Emek Outstanding Citizen for 2015, in which he will recognized at the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Award Night on Jan. 15 at the Heritage Inn.
General health, cultural exchanges and culture itself, have been passions of Emek, where, on the grandest scale of things, Emek has served as the chairperson for the Taber and District Health Foundation, which has been able to raise millions of dollars over the years with its telethon to improve the quality of health care in Taber and surrounding rural communities.
“I think it’s important because of my role with our company (general manager of Lantic Inc), it’s important that we have access to good health care for our employees that live in the town and even people who work here in the event of an emergency,” said Emek. “I felt the work the foundation did before I got there was very important in enhancing health care, to make sure we have the best quality here. When I asked to join, I was happy to get involved.”
Emek has seen huge strides in health care in Taber in recent years thanks to the money the Taber and District Health Foundation has been able to raise.
“With what the hospital is capable of doing now, it’s amazing. We tried to enhance the care there, everything from being able to do colonoscopies in town which the foundation was able to buy the equipment. It’s made a big difference in people’s lives, catching the cancer at an earlier stage.”
Emek has also strengthened multicultural bonds in Taber by serving on the Taber Notogawa Friendship Society where Taber signed a twinning agreement between Taber and the Town of Notogawa in Shiga Prefecture, originally signed in 1980, shortly after Alberta began its relationship with Hokkaido. A number of exchanges between the two towns took place between 1980 and 1999, mostly with adult groups.
In 1999, a non-profit society was formed to facilitate cross-cultural friendship and goodwill between the citizens of Taber and Notogawa, including student exchanges. The Taber Notogawa Friendship Society was essentially given the responsibility for maintaining the twinning relationship with Notogawa. At the same time, the Town of Taber agreed to provide $2,500 to assist with the cost of hosting delegations from Japan. In 2005, the Town of Notogawa amalgamated with five other towns in Shiga Prefecture (Yokaichi, Eigenji, Gokasho, Koto, and Gamoto) to form the new community of Higashiomi City. Along with Taber, Higashiomi City is twinned with cities in Korea, China, the U.S., and Sweden.
“I’ve been involved in that since 2001, because our daughter wanted to go to Japan. Many people who have gone to Japan or have hosted people here from Japan, I think many of them maintain contact with different individuals and families in Japan.”
Emek has been to Japan a number of times taking groups of students and adults over, most recently last year.
“We received an e-mail in September from a man who had stayed with us from Higashiomi. He asked if it was OK if one of his daughters came over and stayed with us over Christmas,” said Emek in which the family was happy to oblige, adding as long as she was prepared for the cold winter and possible snow. “The weather is a big shock for them. She will be here for three weeks. And with social media, it’s easier for people to keep in touch with people who have stayed here before.”
Enhancing that culture even closer to home is Emek’s involvement as chairman of the Performing Arts Committee in Taber.
“One of the challenges we have faced as a company is attracting people to work for us, and when we do, they are reluctant to live in Taber because it’s a small community,” said Emek. “For me, one of the things that keeps it vital is a wide range of activities for people to be involved in when they come. For the performing arts there’s certainly things going on, but it would be very helpful if we had a more dedicated facility to enhance that part of life here. It’s not just about sports. The arts is often overlooked and cities and towns invest quite heavily in sports. I get that, Taber is no different, we have fantastic sports facilities and I would not want to see any of them disappear. It’s part of being a well-rounded community. Not everyone is interested in the arts, not everyone is interested in sports. If you have a selection of things to be in, it makes for a more interesting place to be in.”
Emek is humbled by his Outstanding Citizen recognition by his nominator and the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m very honoured, to put it mildly. I am somewhat surprised, I think there are many people in our community that deserve that honour,” said Emek. “I’m very appreciative of the fact I was nominated.”