2020 Canada’s Volunteer Awards recipients

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National award

Thérèse Casgrain Lifelong Achievement

Dr. Francis Ho (Posthumous)

Dr. Francis Ho worked in Vancouver for 56 years as a family doctor. He came to Canada in the 1950s to study medicine and started volunteering to give back to his adopted country. He was a lifelong volunteer, serving for over 60 years as a:

As a doctor, he loved to share his medical knowledge and served in leadership roles on several boards and committees, such as the:

Dr. Ho volunteered for many years with the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF). After retiring in 2018, he continued to share his medical expertise in leadership roles. With CFL, he:

Dr. Ho was a leading voice in public health education for Asian communities. He volunteered as a radio and TV host to educate the public about many health topics. He planned and hosted free community health sessions for more than 20 years.

Dr. Ho passed away in February 2021. His family will receive the award posthumously on his behalf.

Regional awards

Community Leader

British Columbia and the North: Shelagh Armour-Godbolt

Shelagh Armour-Godbolt started volunteering at the age of 12. For almost 70 years, she has given her time and shared her talents with many people.

Shelagh enjoys helping newcomers to Canada learn English. For the past 10 years, she has volunteered once a week at her local library. She helps lead the English as a Second Language conversation circle program.

For many years, she has raised awareness and funds for local organizations such as the:

As a fundraiser, she has also helped improve the lives of youth in developing nations. For example, she has volunteered with the:

Shelagh’s leadership and fundraising skills have helped many people and organizations. She has shown how a lifetime of volunteering can make a positive impact in Canada and abroad.

Prairies: Gurmit Kaur Sarpal

Gurmit Kaur Sarpal has helped newcomers to Canada for more than 40 years. As an immigrant herself, she understands the problems many newcomers face, such as:

Gurmit Kaur is the founder and president of the Royal Women's Cultural Association (RWCA). She started the RWCA in 2006 to give immigrant women in Calgary hope for a better future in Canada.

The RWCA provides women with support and a social network. The group has helped to reduce loneliness and depression among its members. Gurmit Kaur offers counseling and support to women who are victims of domestic violence.

She has been volunteering with the Alberta Health Services since 2007. She gives workshops in Punjabi to help people lead a healthy lifestyle.

Since 2020, Gurmit Kaur has offered free online meditation classes to help people deal with the stress of the COVID-19 crisis. Gurmit Kaur is a leader who serves as a role model to many immigrant woman.

Ontario: Dr. Karl Stobbe

Dr. Karl Stobbe practiced family medicine in Beamsville, Ontario, for the past 20 years. He believes that no one should go untreated and the same level of healthcare should be available to all.

In 2018, he created Regional Essential Access to Connected Healthcare (REACH) to address the gap in healthcare in the Niagara region. Dr. Stobbe and his team of volunteers offer free primary care medical clinics for people living on the streets. REACH connects at risk people with local healthcare services by working with more than 15 community groups.

REACH offers a large number of free services. For example:

REACH volunteers also provide:

The main problem for Dr. Stobbe when he started REACH was the lack of funds. He reached out to colleagues and friends to raise money to set up the first medical clinic. Doctors donated used medical equipment and Dr. Stobbe gave his own medical tools to the clinic.

Quebec: Jean-Pierre Langevin

Jean-Pierre Langevin has volunteered at La Boussole since 1998. Its mission is to offer support to the family members of people with mental health issues. La Boussole offers its clients many services to help and equip them to improve their quality of life.

When Jean-Pierre joined La Boussole, he created a 24/7 telephone support service. Since 1998, the help line has helped over 3,000 people. Jean-Pierre’s leadership and dedication helped to maintain the help line during the COVID-19 crisis.

He served as the Chair of the board of directors from 2000 to 2003. Under his leadership, La Boussole started a program to support youth living with a family member with a mental illness. More than 1,500 youth have benefited from this program.

Jean-Pierre is a spokesperson for La Boussole and for Bell Let’s Talk. He raises awareness about mental health and helps to break down the stigma of mental illness. He is a retired police officer and visits the police units in Quebec City and Montreal. He speaks with police officers to help them better understand mental illness.

Jean-Pierre’s work with La Boussole has helped many people dealing with a family member’s mental illness. He encourages people to seek the help they need for their loved one, as well as help for themselves.

Atlantic: Esther (Joy) Saunders

Joy Saunders is a lifelong volunteer. She volunteered with the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) for more than 30 years, working in the foot clinic. She also volunteered with the Lunenburg Hospital, serving in the gift shop for over 20 years.

In May 2020, Joy decided to raise money for VON, Nova Scotia. She wanted to honour 2 former VON staff members, Kristen Beaton and Heather O’Brien, who died during the mass shooting in Portapique, Nova Scotia, in April 2020.

Joy decided to walk a 0.8-kilometre route 102 times before her 102nd birthday on October 31, 2020. Her fundraising campaign was dubbed Walking for Joy. Before one of her daily walks, she fell and needed to rest for a month to heal. Despite this setback, she was able to finish her 102nd walk on September 7.

Joy raised almost $80,000 for the VON with her Walking for Joy campaign. With this money, the VON Nova Scotia branch will be able to:

During the dark and difficult days of the COVID-19 crisis, Joy brought light and joy to many with her Walking for Joy campaign. She is a role model for all ages.

Emerging Leader

British Columbia and the North: Navjit Kaur Moore

Navjit Kaur Moore has volunteered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada since 2015. She joined after learning that she had Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Navjit wanted to help others living with the disease. As a member and volunteer with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, she has served as:

In 2017, she started a new chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in her community. As the president of the chapter, Navjit leads the support group and monthly meetings. She also created a social media campaign called Stool Talk. The campaign raised awareness of gut health.

Navjit has been volunteering at the Burnaby General Hospital since 2013. During the COVID-19 crisis, she screened hospital patients and visitors for symptoms. She also helped to support people with mental health issues through a help line. During the pandemic, Navjit provided BC seniors with visits through Skype.

Prairies: Robyn Ham

Robyn Ham created a social enterprise called SaskMasks in April 2020. She wanted to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The group makes and sells reusable cloth facemasks and donates the net proceeds to local charities.

As the business grew, Robyn and her team were able to hire 36 local tailors. Many of them had lost their jobs because of COVID-19. When it became hard to find fabric and elastics, the group gave a call-out on social media for used fabrics. SaskMasks was able to reuse fabric that would have gone to a landfill.

Starting out as a small university student project, SaskMasks turned into a good news story. In 6 months, the group made and sold reusable facemasks to more than 7,500 people.

The success of the project enabled Robyn and her team to give over $50,000 to local charities. The group chose thirteen charities to give the money to, based on their impact in the community.

During the difficult days of the pandemic, Robyn’s initiative encouraged many Canadians. She donated both her time and money and volunteered more than 600 hours.

Ontario: Tommy Han and Lewis Han

In 2018, twin brothers Tommy and Lewis Han co-founded Camps for Children. Their mission was to offer free leisure programs for youth from low-income families.

Tommy and Lewis held fundraising events to raise money to make sure the activities were free for the kids. They also asked university students to volunteer to run the programs to keep the costs down.

This small group of volunteers worked with local groups to help provide free access to recreational activities that might otherwise be too costly. In 2017, Camps for Children teamed up with the Nepean Housing Corporation to provide free summer day camp programs. They also worked with Camp Fortune, a local ski hill, giving many kids a chance to learn how to ski.

Most leisure programs for youth stopped in 2020 because of the COVID-19 virus. Tommy and Lewis put together wellness kits to give to the youth to support their mental health. The kits had art supplies and board games, as well as contact information for mental health resources.

Through Camps for Children, Tommy and Lewis created a leadership program for youth aged 13 to 17. Many of the youth went on to become role models and leaders in their communities.

With lessons learned from their own experiences, Tommy and Lewis mentored university students. They helped students to apply for grants and create business models.

Quebec: Sandrine Dupuis

Sandrine Dupuis stared volunteering with La Tablée des Chefs in May 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis. She joined Les Cuisines Solidaires, a project created by La Tablée des Chefs due to the growing needs of food banks in Quebec.

When the COVID-19 shutdown forced restaurants to close in Quebec, many employees joined Les Cuisines Solidaires. Wanting to help those in need, they turned the ovens back on in restaurant kitchens to make meals for food banks. In 2020, the group donated over 200,000 meals a week to local food banks.

Sandrine took the time to understand the needs of Cuisines Solidaires. She proposed major changes to their work tools to help them be more efficient.

She helped to automate their systems to reduce the staff’s time and stress levels. She simplified processes and wrote standard operating procedures to ensure the future of Cuisines Solidaires.

Her work had a positive impact on the operations of Cuisines Solidaires. Les Cuisines Solidaires gave more than 2 million meals in 2020 to food banks in 16 regions of Quebec.

Sandrine volunteers with La Tablée des Chefs on other projects, such as Feed and the Kitchen Brigades. She has improved their work tools and processes, which has increased their social impact.

Atlantic: Jimy Andrés Beltrán Caraballo

Jimy came to Canada from Venezuela at the age of 18. In 2017, he started a group called Venezuela180° to raise awareness about the situation in Venezuela. He and his team asked for donations to send to people in need.

Venezuela180° sent more than 12 tons of food and medicine to Venezuela to help families in need. In 2020, Venezuela180° shifted its model away from donations. They teamed up with groups in Venezuela and raise money for local projects.

Jimy served as a mentor with Imagine New Brunswick, connecting with others and bonding over shared experiences as newcomers to Canada. As a role model and mentor, he inspires youth to volunteer and give back.

Jimy is a board member of Global Brigades Canada. He started a local chapter at his university and led a group of students on a short-term trip to Panama. They helped pro-bono lawyers to give legal services to families in need.

Business Leader

British Columbia and the North: Odlum Brown Limited

Odlum Brown Limited’s leadership promotes a culture of philanthropy. The investment firm chooses to invest in the communities where its employees live and work. The interests and values of its staff have influenced many of the company’s decisions on where to donate.

Odlum Brown supports more than 150 organizations across British Columbia, covering a wide range of causes. Its sponsorships and donations total more than $1.3 million each year.

Since 2002, Odlum Brown has supported the Bob and Kay Ackles YMCA Nanook House. Every December, staff donate their time and money to buying food baskets and gifts for families in need.

Odlum Brown addresses social issues in the community in many ways, for example:

Each year, the staff raise more than $450,000 by running various events. The initiatives led by the staff is more than 51 percent of Odlum Brown’s community involvement. The culture of employee giving and volunteering at Odlum Brown is the direct result of the teamwork of its staff.

Prairies: Canpotex

Canpotex is one of the world’s largest suppliers of potash. Potash is a fertilizer nutrient mined in Saskatchewan and shipped to more than 40 countries. The company aims to help global food security by helping farmers around the world to grow more food.

Canpotex helps fighting against child hunger in Canada. To help address poverty, Canpotex teamed up with the Saskatoon Food Bank and Learning Centre (SFBLC) in 2017. The SFBLC serves over 20,000 people monthly, nearly half of whom are children.

Since 2017, Canpotex has donated $50,000 a year to SFBLC’s Milk for Children program. This stable financial support makes an impact by:

The leadership of Canpotex encourages the staff to volunteer. The Saskatoon branch wants each of its employees to volunteer at the SFBLC at least one day a year. Staff have collected donations for the SFBLC by doing food drives and baby formula drives.

Canpotex supports many local groups in Canada, such as the:

Canpotex’s employees are helping the community by giving their time and their finances. Canpotex has set an example for other companies to follow.

Ontario: Siemens Canada Limited

Siemens Canada Limited is an engineering firm with over 2,500 employees across Canada. The company is committed to making an impact on the environment through its tree planting program. Every year the firm gives the staff paid time off work to plant trees.

Since 2012, Siemens has been working with Tree Canada to plant trees and help restore natural urban spaces. The tree planting events take place in:

Between 200 and 400 staff take part in the tree planting events each year. The events offer the chance to have fun with peers, while making a difference.

The firm has donated over $444,000 to Tree Canada and more than 2,100 employees have:

The annual tree planting events take place in late April to celebrate Earth Day. In 2020, the April events changed to September because of the COVID-19 virus. More than 200 volunteers planted over 1,000 trees in 9 cities across Canada.

Quebec: StimuleArts

StimuleArts offers day programs to adults living with an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder, with or without a physical disability. Stimulation programs and art activities help to improve their social skills and self-esteem.

In 2016, StimuleArts created a project to highlight their clients’ artistic talents. With help from volunteers, clients make Christmas decorations throughout the year. The clients sell their crafts at the annual Christmas market held at the Nature Centre in Laval, Quebec.

StimuleArts reached out to its business partners and invited the employees to art workshops. The volunteers worked 1:1 with the clients to create crafts and decorations. The pairing of volunteers with participants helped to:

StimuleArts also invited the clients’ parents to art workshops. Parents were able to chat with other parents and to see their children through a different lens.

The Christmas craft project gives the clients of StimuleArts the chance to:

The presence of StimuleArts’ clients at the Christmas market helps to raise awareness about people with severe disabilities. Shoppers at the Christmas market are able to see their artistic potential.

Atlantic: Assumption Life

Assumption Life is a Canadian life insurance and asset management company based in Moncton, New Brunswick. Since its founding in 1903, the company has remained true to its purpose of making a difference in its local communities.

Through its social responsibility program, Assumption Life redistributes 6% of its net income to non-profit organizations. In 2019 alone, 111 organizations and initiatives received a contribution including:

The Assumption Life Foundation has given more than $4 million in scholarships to students and schools, including 21 scholarships in 2019 alone.

Senior management members share their business expertise by serving on boards and committees. Staff members organize fundraising activities for United Way and Tree of Hope. In 2019, staff members accumulated over 400 volunteer hours during work hours.

Social Innovator

British Columbia and the North: NWT Disabilities Council

The Northwest Territories (NWT) Disabilities Council has been helping people with disabilities and their families since 1978. The Council works with First Nations, Inuit, Metis and Non-Indigenous people living with disabilities throughout the Northwest Territories. It offers services such as:

The Council runs the Yellowknife day center and sobering center to meet the unique needs of people living on the streets. The day center provides free meals and access to showers and laundry. The sobering center provides a safe place for people dealing with addictions.

The program meets the unique needs of Indigenous people who have different traditions and values. Over 90 percent of the clients face barriers such as stigma and racism.

The Council is a member of the city’s Good Neighbour Committee. They focus on the safety and security of people living on the streets. Council members and business owners work with the RCMP to address ongoing issues downtown.

The 2 centers are open 24/7 and serve over 450 people per year. The staff work with medics, health and social services and the police to provide help to the clients. This teamwork has led to fewer hospital visits and arrests.

Prairies: Resource Assistance for Youth, Incorporated

Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY) Incorporated offers programs and services for youth living on the streets of Winnipeg. Its mission is to provide youth with what they need, on their terms, to better their lives. Over 2,700 young people under 30 access RaY services each year.

RaY operates within an integrated service approach called The Hub Model. This innovative strategy has become a best practice across Canada for organizations working with homeless and marginalized youth. The Hub Model is a one-stop-shop, providing:

RaY’s jobs and training programs provide a supportive and safe place for youth to develop life skills. Graduates have gone on to become youth care workers and social workers who use their own lived experience to help others.

RaY created 2 social enterprises, the RaY Level Up! Thrift store and the RaY Moving Company. The businesses teach the youth valuable customer services skills. They also generate revenue, helping RaY to be self-sustained.

RaY is a leader in the social services sector in Winnipeg, inspiring and challenging others to address youth homelessness. It has worked with stakeholders at the provincial and national levels to address system gaps. This helps to prevent young people from falling through the cracks. RaY has also influenced government policy by bringing a frontline perspective to long-term strategies aimed at youth.

RaY goes beyond providing food and shelter to address basic needs. It gives youth opportunities to learn independence and overcome obstacles. Many turn to volunteering to give back to their communities.

Ontario: Skills for Change

Skills for Change (SfC) has offered learning and training to immigrants and refugees since 1982. Through SfC, newcomers to Canada are able to access and fully participate in the workplace and community. Ten locations in Ontario serves more than 16,000 clients a year.
SFC offers more than 25 programs and services, such as:

It’s mentoring programs are central to SfC’s program delivery. In a circle of giving back, former clients often return to help others find jobs.

Innovation is the key to SfC’s success in helping its clients find jobs. It breaks down barriers to jobs by helping newcomers to settle in Canada. They also help internationally trained people to become licensed and/or a job ready in Canada.

When SfC had to switch to virtual services in 2020 due to COVID-19, it started a laptop-lending program. All of their workshops and programming became virtual, including mental health counselling. With virtual access, participation in mentoring events increased by 30% in 2020.

Quebec: Regroupement pour la Trisomie 21

Regroupement pour la Trisomie 21 (RT21) is based in Montreal and serves families across Quebec. The group works with people living with trisomy 21 and with the families and caregivers who support them.

Since its creation in 1986, RT21 has transformed its services and created new tools to reach a wider audience. For example, it set up the first French-language website on trisomy 21 in Canada.

RT21 reaches out to parents as soon as they learn their child has trisomy 21. An extra chromosome causes this condition, also known as Down’s syndrome.

The group provides information kits for new parents to hospitals and birth centers across Quebec.

RT21 provides opportunities for therapy while parents are waiting to access public services for their children. The group offers a day program for young adults to learn technology to help them become more independent.

It supports parents by offering sports programs and conferences. The group also published a guide on sex education for parents to use.

When the COVID-19 crisis began in March 2020, RT21 adapted and changed to virtual programs. This helped its clients with trisomy 21 keep a regular routine. Parents also had the chance to connect online with other families throughout Quebec.

Atlantic: The Gathering Place

The Gathering Place (TGP) is a community health center located in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The center works with at-risk people living on the streets. The Center strives to give its clients, known as Guests, independence, self-respect and dignity.

This one-stop-shop provides the free following services:

TGP’s volunteer program has more than 900 volunteers who support over 3000 Guests each year. The Center is open 24/7 and serves over 500 meals a day.

Several programs offer opportunities for TGP’s Guests to become volunteers and work alongside other volunteers. It allows the Guests to develop a sense of belonging which builds self-esteem and pride of ownership at TGP.

The needs at TGP have grown 400 percent in the past four years. TGP’s volunteer program has had to find innovative ways to recruit more volunteers. The COVID-19 crisis brought new challenges as the Center struggled to reopen.

Despite the problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis, more and more people are choosing to volunteer at TGP. People want to help make a difference in their community.

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