They Call the Cariboo Home: Turatus family busy on dry grad front line

Betty, Crystal and Ashlee Turatus are volunteers by nature.

Tara Sprickeroff

Tribune Staff Writer


Betty, Crystal and Ashlee Turatus are volunteers by nature.

If you find one of them out and about volunteering, the others are sure to be not far behind.

This time of year, you’re most likely to find them behind the Williams Lake Dry Grad festivities, where mother, Betty is chair, and daughters Crystal and Ashlee are, respectively, co-activity chair and running baggage check.

This is, of course, on top of the Women’s Contact Society’s Handbags for Hope auction and fundraiser which took place yesterday, of which Ashlee is event co-ordinator with her mother and sister volunteering for her.

“We’re kind of a volunteer family,” Betty says. “If you have one of us you have all of us.”

It’s not just the women of the family either. Husband and father, Peter gets “voluntold” according to Betty, and son, Matt, takes time off of his job in Kamloops just to come back to the lakecity and help volunteer. The girls’ boyfriends also do their share of the work.

“[Peter] says this morning ‘I was thinking of going fishing on Sunday morning. What time do I have to be back? And what do you have me doing this weekend,’” laughs Betty.

Betty works as a grants operation co-ordinator at the local Thompson River University, while Crystal works at Home Hardware, but also teaches WHIMIS from time to time at the university.

Ashlee is the event co-ordinator and office assistant at the Women’s Contact Society.

But these are just the women’s paying jobs.

Betty is a member of the Williams Lake Rotary Club, and she and her family volunteer at events including (but especially not limited to) the Children’s Festival, the Street Party, the TRU Gala, other TRU events, and Women’s Contact Society events. The sisters are both on the executive of the Williams Lake Ladies Soccer Association, which even Betty makes phone calls for when the sisters are unavailable or working.

It’s just a “given” that if one of the women are there, the others are there too, says Betty.

Betty was born in Saskatchewan and came to Williams Lake in the 1970s where she later graduated. “In Saskatchewan you were neighbourly and you helped your neighbours. People nowadays call that volunteering, so I guess that’s what we’ve always done and we’ve raised our kids the same way,” Betty says.

“If you don’t give back then why do you expect people to give to you,” says Crystal.

An event close to Betty’s heart is dry grad. She has been involved in organizing the event since 2002, when parents first took it over.

“A couple years before I graduated, five kids died on grad night and they weren’t the ones that were drinking,” she says. “That affects the community, it affects the kids. It’s hard to do your final exams when you are grieving about your classmates …  I just want to help prevent that.”

Betty considers a dry grad successful when the students “are happy, they’re healthy and they’re safe.”

While her children have long since graduated Betty has stayed to help organize the event.

“None of our family got to see Ashlee graduate because there were very little volunteers that year,” she says. Now the entire family stays to help in order to allow other parents to celebrate their children. “We want the parents to enjoy their kids’s grad,” she says.

“Now the thing is going ‘Okay, I will set everything up while the parade is going so that you can watch the parade. I will do all the background stuff while it’s grad time … I will do this. Go enjoy your time,’” says Crystal.

The community, they say, is amazing. “It’s a very good community to live in because they do give to you. They give to youth, they give to old, they give and they give time,” says Crystal.

But, the family says, “it’s not about us.” They don’t seek recognition for their work, “If you give a volunteer something, than they’re not a good volunteer,” says Crystal.

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