The story of married couple Janice and Larry Ferris didn’t start with their individual histories in the outdoors, nor their volunteer efforts and not even with their raising of children. Their story started when all those elements were already in play.
Janice Ferris, 53, and her husband Larry, 62, are Midland residents and youth committee members for the Georgian Bay Hunters and Anglers Junior Club.
Janice’s introduction into the GBHA was through her father as a member, while Larry was a long-time member of the Simcoe County Hunters & Anglers. She was interested in tournament fishing; his focus was more on conservation.
“I’ve always volunteered my time with youth,” says Janice, “Larry also. While we were dating, we volunteered for various organizations, youth groups included."
“We used to do (sheltering initiative) ‘Out Of The Cold’ on Friday nights,” Larry laughs. “That was our date night out. It was really cheap where she got a dinner and a movie.”
Janice reminisces, “I remember one night, we were going to go out for dinner. [We] received the phone call that they were short on volunteers that night, so instead of going out that evening, we ended up [at St. Margaret’s Church] having a wonderful ham dinner; probably a better meal than if we’d gone out to a restaurant.”
Their evening was an overnight shift that kept them up until morning.
“So we spent the night playing cards," she says. "It was definitely an interesting date night.”
The Georgian Bay Hunters and Anglers Club provides nature-related membership involvement geared toward conservation projects and watershed preservation, with additional activities such as archery, fishing, firearms and range safety, hunting skills and knowledge as well as survival skills.
The GBHA Junior Club, which was originally called the ‘Get Outdoors Club,' provides supervised mentorship of those activities to school-aged youth.
“One of the things that we really try to promote,” says Larry, “is to get the kids off of electronics, get them off of the stuff that they do all day, and give them that opportunity to get outdoors and experience what’s out there. Maybe it’s fishing, maybe it’s shooting a firearm, maybe it’s archery or conservation; just to expose them to that sort of thing.
“Every once in awhile, you plant that seed with a youth and then it takes off. Sometimes their whole family becomes involved and the next thing you know they become club members.”
Annual membership for the Junior Club is $25.
"It’s very affordable,” says Janice. "This year, we were going to build turtle boxes and bat boxes, and they were going to be donated out to the communities. But with COVID hitting, that’s one thing that’s been put on hold.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted activities within the Junior Club, an obstruction to which the Ferrises are keenly aware.
Encouraged, Janice states, “Now we’re starting to get back, and hopefully we’ll build up some momentum; I know parents are nervous about sending youth to clubs now with COVID.”
Janice measures her words carefully regarding the Junior Club's safety requirements.
"I think all groups are going to have to go in the direction with the screening, wearing the masks, and ensuring that all high-touched surfaces are cleaned constantly. I don’t think this is going to go away over the next couple of months, so I think we just have to be able to go with the safest procedures.
“Safety with our youth is always number one,” she continues, “so we would never put our youth at risk. It’s going to be overkill on our part in ensuring that every surface is cleaned between people using them."
Larry adds, “I think the big thing is confidence; I think people are very mistrustful right now with COVID, and a lot of it is to build that confidence back up. We are dealing with people’s children and that’s a big responsibility; we don’t take that lightly. We just know that we have to have the parents become confident again in that what we’re doing is good, and it’s worthwhile.”
And although projects have been put on hiatus depending on the changing health and safety guidelines, Janice outlines one project she’s looking forward to with great enthusiasm.
“We’re going to do a conservation project with monarch butterflies this year; so even if the parents are nervous with sending their youth, we’ll be able to do it with their families.
“Later in the fall when the milkweed pods have dried out, we’re going to have our youth collecting them and we’re going to distribute the milkweed seeds within the community for anybody who wants them so they can grow their own monarch butterfly gardens.”
And they should know. Watching the transformation of youths into mature adults is a metamorphosis to which the Ferrises have proudly been a part of for decades.