By Katherine Thompson Nelson
Ray Mantha's contributions to the community are considerable. Mantha is the recipient of the 2001 Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario Citizenship Award. Since 1947 the association has presented the award to recognize professional engineers' contributions to public service.
Mantha grew up in North Bay, graduated from the University of Ottawa in 1978, and since then has held a variety of positions with the Ministry of Transportation. Mantha is currently the MTO's manager of engineering, northern region. He has also worked from the MTO's head office in Toronto and in Ontario's central region, acting as team leader on large highway infrastructure planning studies for projects such as Highway 406 and the Burlington Bay Skyway.
Mantha's contributions of 12 years of service to the YMCA in addition to numerous other volunteer positions earned him recognition by the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario.
During his career with the MTO Mantha says he has witnessed many changes.
"Probably the most significant change that I witnessed occurred in the mid to late 1990s when the fundamental role for MTO staff in the delivery of services was redefined in the engineering, construction and operations areas," Mantha says. "Much of the work that had previously been done by MTO staff was now being completed by the private sector. I think that the public/private partnership has achieved its objective very effectively."
He has served as president and vice-president of the North Bay and District Family YMCA, and in 1995 became a member of the organization's national board. Mantha was elected to a three-year term as national board chair in 1999. He will begin a four-year term as Canada's representative to the Executive Committee of the World Alliance of YMCAs in July of 2002.
Mantha has found that volunteering has its challenges, some unique to the north.
"The biggest challenge of course is one of distance. The role I play as chair of YMCA Canada necessitates much travel to the far reaches of the country on a regular basis."
He is the first chair of the national board of the YMCA to come from a community other than a large urban centre, he says, and he credits the establishment of the electronic superhighway, which has helped him fulfill that role.
"It has allowed me the greatest flexibility, in that I am only an e-mail, phone call or teleconference away from the issue. Distances can be overcome."
Mantha has also been involved with North Bay's Engineer's Day for many years. Held annually in late January, the event celebrates the achievements of the engineering profession and draws public attention to the impact engineers have on the community, he explains.
The civil engineer has given time and expertise to many other organizations, including the North Bay Rotary Club and the North Bay Canoe Club.
His wife and children have been "incredibly supportive" of his "passionate involvement in the Y movement," he says. He makes the trips a positive family experience whenever he can.
"To compensate for my being away, I try on a regular basis to take one of our three children with me. This provides them with an adventure to a part of Canada they have not experienced. It also allows me to focus my attention on them and we can have some very interesting conversations about their dreams."
He also credits the MTO senior management team for their encouragement of his volunteer commitments.
Colleagues have always been "very supportive of my involvement and have recognized the tremendous personal growth and leadership development I was gaining from the experience," Mantha says. "I would honestly say that I have developed more of the leadership competencies such as communications, strategic thinking, and political acuity in fulfilling my YCanada duties then I would have in many formal learning settings."
Mantha sees volunteering not as a duty, but a privilege.
"I have received so much more from the volunteer experience than I will ever be able to give back."