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Four St. Albertans recognized by Rotary

Integrity Awards celebrate selflessness and generosity
COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS — Edmonton-area Rotary clubs gave 14 individuals Integrity Awards on May 15, 2024, at the the Chateau Louis Conference Centre. Shown here are the winners along with Alberta Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani (front, in green). SANDRA FENTON/Photo

Four St. Albert residents received awards from Rotary last week in recognition for their selfless contributions to the Edmonton region.

Dignitaries from across the Edmonton region, including Alberta Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, were at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre May 15 for the 30th annual Rotary Integrity Awards. Organized by 12 Edmonton-area Rotary clubs, including the one in St. Albert, the awards recognize unsung heroes who are not Rotarians and demonstrate lives that are brave, considerate, generous, representative, and selfless.

“We’re looking for people who embody the Rotary values and are doing good things in the community but maybe haven’t been necessarily recognized,” explained Darel Baker, a St. Albert Rotarian familiar with the awards.

The Gazette confirmed that at least four of this year’s 14 winners lived in St. Albert: sports talk radio host Jason Gregor, Edmonton Hosts Ukrainians founder Cherilyn Michaels, teacher Michelle Sabourin, and Outloud St. Albert co-founder Terry Soetaert.

Radio and newcomers

Gregor was recognized for his efforts to raise millions of dollars for Edmonton-area causes.

“The sports community is very generous,” he said, and he’s used his platform as a radio host to tap into that generosity.

In December 2011, Gregor started a “Month of Giving” campaign on his radio show (The Jason Gregor Show) where he would auction items to listeners to raise money for Edmonton-area charities.

“This year we raised over $160,000 in 16 days,” Gregor said, bringing the campaign’s grand total to roughly $1.7 million.

In 2014, Gregor started the Gregor’s Grads program after hearing about Cinderella’s Closet — an Edmonton-based group that helps young girls in financial need get elaborate dresses for graduation. Gregor’s Grads became the equivalent program for young boys (although it is open to all genders). Some 202 students received custom-fitted suits through the program this year, Gregor said.

Gregor also funds the Jason Gregor Radio and Television Bursary at NAIT and has helped raise $30,000 for hot meals at Edmonton’s Brightview Elementary, his citation reads.

Gregor said he was surprised when he learned of his nomination for this award, and said he was inspired by hearing about the good deeds done by the other recipients.

“It was one of the most inspiring evenings I’ve been a part of for a long time.”

Michaels was recognized for her efforts to help Ukrainians newcomers in the Edmonton region.

Michaels said she started Edmonton Hosts Ukrainians soon after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine to act as a place where people fleeing that country to Edmonton could find support and information.

“It was completely nuts. People were arriving with nothing and no money,” she said, and at the time governments and non-profits were still gearing up to support them.

The group soon became a major hub for people seeking and offering help for Ukrainian newcomers in and around Edmonton, said Janet Bertsch, who formed St. Albert Hosts Ukrainians at about the same time as Edmonton Hosts Ukrainians started. Michaels became a pivotal force when it came to matching newcomers with host families throughout the Edmonton region.

“She was able to do what none of the governments or not-for-profit agencies were able to do,” Bertsch said of Michaels.

Michaels said Edmonton Hosts Ukrainians soon became more than a full-time job, with calls for help coming in every two minutes. It’s only now that the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program has closed that the pace has slackened at all. The group itself now has some 30,000 members and is still extremely active.

Michaels said she wasn’t sure where the group would go next, but she had no intention of slowing down her efforts to support newcomers.

“I’m happy to keep doing what I do.”

Teacher, advocate

Sabourin was recognized for her work as a teacher at Edmonton’s M.E. LaZerte School, where she works with the school’s Interact Club and Leadership program. (Interact is the student version of Rotary.)

“The kids do most of the work,” she said, whether that be supporting local youths through Adopt-a-Teen and Helping Hamper drives or organizing a community winter carnival.

Sabourin said she does this work to show teenagers that they can be a force for good in society.

“They just need someone to believe in them and give them a voice.”

Soetaert was recognized for his work to support thousands of 2SLGBTQ+ youths and families through Outloud, which ceased operations earlier this month. The Rotary Club of St. Albert honoured him for that work earlier this year with a Paul Harris Fellow recognition.

“Through Terry’s vision and dedication, St. Albert has become a safer and more inclusive place for all,” his citation reads.

Soetaert said he was thankful for this recognition of his 10 years of work with Outloud.

Details on the Integrity Awards can be found at

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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