Larry Off says being a volunteer is something he feels a good citizen should do if they are able.
“I like to put something back into the community,” he said.
Off added that helping out was also a way to forge contacts.
“When I was in business it was a way of making contacts,” he said.
Of course when you are working your time is more limited as a volunteer.
In Off’s case he started out his work career in the agriculture sector.
“I started life as a livestock auctioneer,” he said, adding it was in 1973 that he took his training at the Western Canada School of Auctioneering in Lacombe, AB.
Off said his father “was kind of an auction kind of guy,” always taking his son with him to the livestock sales.
“I was a yard ape. It’s what they used to call us,” he said with a grin.
Back in Yorkton he worked with the then Sask. Wheat Pool stockyards for seven years, but when the company suggested a move to Lloydminster, Off said he balked at the idea, as he and his wife wanted to remain in the city.
“We (with his late wife Eunice), made the decision we were going to stay here, that it was the place to make our home,” he said.
So for Off it was time for a career change, a rather dramatic one, going from livestock auctioneer to insurance sales, although he noted an outgoing personality and the ability to talk to people were key elements of both.
Off joined Independent Agencies and remained there until his retirement, when his focus went back to helping out more as a volunteer.
Off, 67, said over the years he has volunteered for a variety of good organizations and events in the community.
“I sort of spread it out a bit,” he said with a smile.
As a result of the spreading his volunteer time around Off has helped the Health Foundation with both Rhythm ‘n Ribs, and their annual road race, coached his children over the years in minor baseball (sons Travis and Tyson and daughter Alanna), spent time riding around the city looking for signs of trouble with Citizens On Patrol, and put on more miles driving the shuttle service for the Yorkton Film Festival.
Off said he has perhaps most enjoyed his efforts with the film festival.
“It was 2011, and I was newly semi-retired so this gave me some extra volunteer time and I was asked by my sister in law Randy Goulden if I would be interested in helping out with transportation for the festival,” he recalled, adding “transportation entailed picking up people at the Regina airport, bringing them to Yorkton and then returning them to Regina when their duties at the festival were complete.
“I said yes and haven’t regretted the decision.”
Again his natural ability to meet someone new and to strike up a conversation helped as Off sat behind the steering wheel of the shuttle van.
Off said it is meeting interesting people that makes driving the shuttle fun.
“In a word the ‘people’,” he said. “I’ve met quite a few filmmakers all who are very passionate about what they do. Any of them that are new to Saskatchewan have a lot of questions about the history, geography, economy, politics etc. and I enjoy providing them with some of the knowledge I have acquired over the years.”
The element of being an ambassador of sorts for the province is a role Off said he relishes.
“I love history, and when people ask questions ... I like to impart a little bit of the knowledge that I have,” he reiterated.
Since Off drives people associated with film, who are some of the people he recalled best?
“David Rabinovitch director of the series ‘The Sultans Women’ and Charlotte Engel a documentary producer from Toronto who attends every year and Daniel Cross director and co-producer of ‘I Am The Blues’ which is a wonderful history of some of the old Blues musicians,” offered Off.
Off said Rabinovitch might have been his most interesting traveller in terms of a story to share,
“He (Rabinovitch), was riding ‘shotgun’ as we had a fully loaded vehicle that day and once we got out of Regina he indicated that he hadn’t been to Yorkton since the late 1960s,” recalled Off. “He was currently living in Oregon, had been born and raised at Morden, MB educated in Winnipeg and then got into the film business. He had last been in Yorkton for the opening of the Anne Portnuff Theatre. Mrs. Portnuff was his aunt. He then went on to ask if I could drive him up to Canora on the Saturday as he wanted to check out one of the hotels. Turns out his grandfather and grand uncle had built the hotel and were the original owners.”
Off said it is a role he plans to continue, adding he missed that the festival was a virtual one because of COVID-19, meaning no one in need of shuttle service.
“It’s fun,” he said, adding it is a way to help the community over a few days each year.