Celebrating community spirit and volunteer awards

Lieutenant Governor Arthur J. LeBlanc and Pam Mood, president of the Federation of Nova Scotia Municipalities, unveil the Community Spirit brass plaque.

HALIFAX: On Monday, the annual Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award and the Provincial Volunteer Awards combined into one virtual ceremony, Celebrating Community Spirit and Volunteers Awards.

“Nova Scotians have experienced some difficult times and disruptions to their lives since March, but I have been immensely impressed at how resilient they have been in adapting to the significant changes in their lives,” said Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc. “Our many communities have demonstrated their amazing spirit and resourcefulness in helping their residents cope and it proved to me that no matter the circumstances, you cannot dampen or stifle Nova Scotians’ wonderful generosity and their innate desire to volunteer and help those in need.”

The 13 Mi’kmaw communities, and all municipalities, towns and villages across the province received the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Recognition Plaque. Sixty-nine Provincial Volunteer Awards were given which included 67 Representative Awards, one Youth Volunteer Award and one Family Volunteer Award.

Irene Johnson was named the Volunteer of the Year for Potlotek First Nation. Johnson has been volunteering her time in her community throughout her life with heartfelt dedication, always going above and beyond. A mother of 14 children, she always makes time to give back to her community. She extends her care to others as a foster mother within her community and mentors’ youth. A member of the Potlotek Board of Education, Johnson opened the first Head Start school and continued to be involved as a kindergarten teacher. Always open to being challenged in new ways, Irene was also instrumental in helping to renovate the community hall and church.

The Town of Port Hawkesbury’s Volunteer of the Year is Francis Lamey. He has been the president of the Strait Area Evergreen Seniors Club for the past six years. In that time, he has gone above and beyond to take on more than his share of work to fulfill any task, from procuring quotes, to purchasing supplies, or assisting others. He regularly volunteers for the club’s monthly breakfasts and assists with the elementary school breakfast program.

Lamey was also a member of the Port of Welcome Syrian Refugee Association Committee, a member of the Strait Richmond Seniors Take Action Coalition, chairman of St. Joseph Parish Cemetery Committee, and a former member of St. Joseph Parish Pastoral Council.

The Municipality of the County of Inverness named Wally Power as their Volunteer of the Year. He has been a member of the Strait Area Evergreen Seniors Club for several years as a member of the club’s executive and chairperson of outside maintenance. The beautiful flower garden in front of the club is just one example of Power’s many talents.

Fortunately for others, he has not limited his volunteer efforts to the senior’s club. Power has been a member of St. Joseph Parish Choir, past director of the Port Hawkesbury Credit Union, served as chair of his Union Local’s Workers Compensation Committee for more than 30 years. He is former chair of the Compensation Committee for the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, a member of the board of directors for the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia and a member of the executive committee of the Nova Scotia Federation of Union Retirees.

For the past seven years, he has been involved with the National Threads of Life – an organization that helps families affected by a workplace fatality, life altering injury or occupational disease.

Tessie Pyke is the Volunteer of the Year for the Municipality of the County of Richmond. Pyke has contributed thousands of hours over many years, giving back to her community since 1977. She has influenced the lives of countless boys and girls through her involvement with Boys Scouts and Girl Guides of Canada, for 32 years, doing program work and demonstrating that volunteering makes a difference.

She encourages people who live alone to come to meals at We Care Days where she spends hours helping prepare meals. As a CWL convener, she also arranges visits to nursing homes, providing entertainment to residents. She has organized many anniversary meals for couples in the community and helps out annually for the bazaar and Baraco Days meals.

The Rodney Youth Eagle Program in We’koqma’q First Nation was instituted to promote the adoption of 10 core values among the community’s youth population: alcohol and drug free, Mikmaw language, cultural values, respect, academics, leadership, integrity, commitment and participation, volunteerism, and having fun

Shirley DeCoste is the Municipality of the County of Antigonish’s Volunteer of the Year. She has dedicated countless hours to the rejuvenation of the Monsignor Donnelly Hall for more than six years. She has been involved in fundraising, grant writing, event planning, food preparations, and serving. DeCoste plays an important role in helping individuals and families plan events for major life moments, including wakes, funerals, weddings, and parties.

For more than 40 years, she has helped students, seniors, and youth complete student loan forms, access funding, writing grant applications for housing, school and health. She is known as the go-to resource person in our community, for so many who need help navigating and searching for resources.

Donna Lewis is the Volunteer of the Year in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. Since her retirement in 2001, she has been providing childcare for families in need. To date, she has been actively involved with 28 families and entrusted with the care of 40 children of all different ages, more than 19 years. Volunteering has always been a priority for Lewis. She lends her time and expertise to the Canso Library/Resource Centre as chairperson, lector and property and finance committee member for Star of the Sea Parish, and a volunteer for the Digby community garden.

The Volunteer of the Year in the Town of Antigonish is Brenda MacDonald. To the town, she is a shining star. She truly believes the way to strengthen, improve and grow a community, is to become a vital part of it. MacDonald has volunteered with TOPS NS 2948 for more than 24 years. She has volunteered for the Special Olympics, the Antigonish Junior Bulldogs, Walmart IWK Car Show, the Heart and Stroke Foundation Big Bike, and the 2019 Nova Scotia 55+ Games. She believes in leading by example and spends much of her volunteer time improving the health and well-being of the people of Antigonish.

Robert O’Brien is the Town of Mulgrave Volunteer of the Year. He became a member of the Mulgrave Volunteer Fire Department when he moved to Mulgrave more than eight years ago. Since then, he trained as a medical first responder and has been the training officer for the last three years. He has offered his expertise in many areas of firefighting including hoses, ladders, and knot tying for rescues. O’Brien was also a member of the Strait Area Mutual Aid Ground Search and Recue for eight years and a volunteer member of the Archery club for 10 years, where he provided instruction to youth members.

“These past few months have been some of the most challenging in our province’s history,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “But they have also been some of the most inspiring, as we have seen individual Nova Scotians and communities come together to support and take care of each other. We celebrate that enduring spirit of kindness and strength here today.”

During the ceremony, a new Provincial Volunteer Award entitled the Nova Scotia Strong Award was announced and will be given each year to recognize the deep level of caring that Nova Scotians demonstrate towards each other. The award was presented to the six individuals who organized the Nova Scotia Remembers Online Tribute to commemorate the 22 Nova Scotians lost in the April 18 and 19 tragedy in the province.

The ceremony can be watched on the Communities, Culture and Heritage Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NOVASCOTIACULTURE.

“It is our communities who gathered together to support each other especially during times of doubt. It is encouraging to know that in this province, we are surrounded by people who act with compassion towards others,” said Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leo Glavine.

Recipients of the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Awards are chosen by a selection committee based on community applications that best fit the award’s criteria.

Recipients of the Provincial Volunteer Awards are chosen by a community selection committee made of up volunteers from across Nova Scotia.

Non-profits in Nova Scotia directly contribute $1 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the economy.

For a list of the award recipients, go to: https://novascotia.ca/NonProfitSector/ProvincialVolunteerAwards. For more information on the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award, check out: https://cch.novascotia.ca/investing-in-our-future/community-spirit-award and for the Provincial Volunteer Awards go to: https://novascotia.ca/NonProfitSector/ProvincialVolunteerAwards.