Mary Fredlund and Kathleen Irwin of Rankin Inlet were among 46 dedicated Canadians to receive the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers from Gov. Gen. David Johnston during a gala ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ont, on Monday, April 24.Editor’s note: Kathleen Irwin was still travelling for most of the past week and could not be reached for comment by Kivalliq News.
The prestigious award recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of people from across the country in a number of wide-ranging fields.
The medal is an official Canadian honour and, as such, it pays tribute to the dedication and exemplary commitment of volunteers.
In receiving her award Fredlund was cited as a dedicated volunteer with the Ikurraq Food Bank (Deacon’s Cupboard) in Rankin, where she operates the thrift store and distributes food to hundreds of families.
Her efforts have raised awareness about poverty in the North, and have stimulated an influx in donations and relief from throughout the country.
Fredlund said receiving the medal marked a truly great day for her.
She said she knew she was going to receive the medal about a year ago.
“They don’t have the ceremony every year, as I understand it,” said Fredlund.
“In my case, recipients for the past two years came together for the April 24 ceremony to receive their awards.
“Somebody nominated Kathleen (Irwin) and I for the award, and I’m not even sure how that works.
“I received a little note from the Governor General’s office saying I had been nominated for the award and then confirmation that Kathleen and I were to be among this year’s recipients of the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers”
Fredlund said she’s been volunteering since her days in high school.
She said her mother, Audrey, strongly believed in volunteering, and was very involved with elders and buying groceries for people within her church.
“As her daughter I got dragged around a lot doing that too, so I’ve always been very active as a volunteer.
“Certainly, during the past 20 years, I’ve been heavily involved with the food bank in Rankin which opened in 1994-95.
“Kathleen and I were both there at the beginning, and she took over when I decided to take a bit of a break.
“She had been doing everything while I was away and she was, sort of, burned out a bit by the time I came back, so I stepped back into it.”
Fredlund said she’s always maintained that giving back to your community is very, very important, and she taught her children that.
She said as much as she enjoyed receiving the medal, she’s more proud of the fact her kids have stepped up to become steady volunteers in their community.
“I’ve had kids coach hockey and soccer and be involved in all kinds of different types of activities in the community including the food bank, so it’s been quite rewarding for me to see what’s happened with the kids in that respect.
“Everyone in the family is expected to help out at the food bank, including my grand kids and daughter-in-laws.
“But, again, I really believe giving back to the community and not expecting anything in return, be that money or glorification, is something we should all be doing.
“It follows my value system and what I believe in.”
Fredlund said she has a lot of people in Rankin who help out at the food bank and the second-hand store.
She said when she puts a call out for someone to step forward and help out, somebody almost always answers.
“I was looking through my list and I’ve had about 25 people during the past 10 years who have been really faithful in helping out at the food bank until, you know, they moved away or got involved with other activities in their lives.
“Rankin, I think, is luckier than many communities in that it does have a number of people who are willing to volunteer or to step up and help out from time to time.
“Would more step forward if they got some kind of official recognition for it? Probably, because everyone likes recognition, but, to me, it’s all about doing your part to help your community.”
Fredlund said the awards ceremony at Rideau Hall was absolutely beautiful.
She said she received her medal, as well as a little award pin that came with it.
“Canadian medals are reserved for ceremonial types of occasions, so you can only wear it at certain times, but I can wear the pin anytime I like.
“I thought they did the ceremony with a lot of elegance and class, but they didn’t go overboard.
“I was looking around and thinking wow, if we could put all the money that this cost towards the food bank, we’d have quite a bit of money to spend.
“We didn’t get what you’d call the royal treatment, but we certainly stayed at a nice hotel, they gave us a nice reception with good food and they paid for the travel, two nights at the hotel and 1.5 days of government per diems for our meals.”
Fredlund said she has no plans to start slowing down anytime soon.
In fact, she said, the more volunteers she can get, the more she can branch out to doing different things.
“There’s so much we can still do at the second-hand store and the food bank, and, no matter how far you get along with it, there’s always something more that can be done.
“Right now I have some of the folks from the adult group home helping us out, and they are really taking a big burden of the work off of my shoulders.
“So now I can get to do a little more of things like writing people thank you cards and stuff like that, which I really like doing, as well as co-ordinating more to make sure there’s always someone there to open the store every Saturday and somebody there for the food bank stuff all the time.
“I just enjoy helping out so much, so I won’t be stepping away from things anytime soon in Rankin Inlet.”