Three local volunteers earn national award

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Three St. Albert volunteers were among those to receive a new national honour for outstanding community service.

Lt-Gov. Lois Mitchell presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers at a ceremony at Government House in Edmonton. The award was bestowed on nearly 50 Albertans. The award, offered on behalf of the Governor-General, recognizes the time, compassion and commitment that these volunteers have given to the community organizations that are close to their hearts.

“There are many aspects of the quality of life that we enjoy as Canadians that depend on the energy, compassion and leadership of community volunteers. This medal is a way for our country to show just how much their efforts are valued and appreciated,” Mitchell said.

The recipients included Gino Ferri, Louise Meier, and Mary O’Neill.

For more than 25 years, Ferri has worked to promote awareness of autism spectrum disorder and fundraise for affiliated local and provincial organizations. He also made efforts to influence legislation as a method to improve support services for Albertans on the autism spectrum.

Meier has been active in St. Albert’s air cadet community for more than two decades. She has worked as a volunteer on the parent committee and has moved up to her current status as commanding officer. The awards committee noted her unmistakable dedication to the squadron from the executive level all the way to fundraising activities.

The name Mary O’Neill is familiar. The former MLA has also served the community in multiple other leadership roles, including as a trustee with the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, a member of both the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Board of Governors and the University of Alberta Senate (where she also offered her talents as the Senate’s Representative on the University’s Board of Governors).

She has also served as past president of the Alberta School Boards’ Association for Bilingual Education, as a former member of the Provincial Government’s Working Group on Francophone Education, as a director of the Newman Theological College Foundation, and as the executive director of the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation.

Her charity work includes devoting her energy to the success of various organizations including the Greater Edmonton Community Foundation, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Alberta Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Special Olympics and the Cancer Society. She is also a past director on the Spruce Grove-Sturgeon-St. Albert PC Association.

The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is part of the National Honours System and was first presented in Ottawa in April 2016. The medal incorporates and replaces the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award.

Senator awards

Around the same time, 14 Albertans were selected to receive the Senate of Canada’s 150th Commemorative Medal in recognition of their significant community work. Among the honorees includes St. Albert’s Ada Curial. Curial, along with her husband Gaston and other families, were instrumental in the formation of the Lo-Se-Ca Foundation, as well as its second-hand thrift shop called I’m Unique. The foundation, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, works tirelessly to improving the quality of life for disabled people and their families.

As a retired teacher, Curial started a tutoring program for disabled people through STAR Literacy in 1993.

Sen. Betty Unger selected the recipients from a long list of noteworthy citizens.

“I was delighted to receive so many excellent nominations,” she said, noting how the medal celebrates the sesquicentennial anniversary of the first sitting of the Senate.

“Canada’s 150th birthday is the perfect time to honour everyday Canadians who don’t always make the headlines, but have made a significant difference in the lives of others.”

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.