O'Leary woman a recipient of Governor General's award

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 17, 2014
Jim Day/TC Media

Empress McDowell has tallied plenty of recognition for 70-plus years of volunteer work.
All of the awards meant a good deal to her. Her most recent, though, takes top honour.
After all, how often does a 94-year-old woman from O'Leary get led to the stage on the arm of the Governor General of Canada?
"Oh, it's pretty good,'' says McDowell.

Sporting a cast on her right arm resulting from a fall two weeks ago, the tireless volunteer was one of 10 Islanders to receive the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award during a ceremony Monday in Charlottetown.

Gov. Gen. David Johnston did not let McDowell get far from her chair before darting forth to provide a helping hand to the stage.

For more than 70 decades, though, McDowell has been more accustomed to coming to the aid of others.

She is a life member of the Knutsford Women's Institute and she remains actively involved in her church. For the past 16 years, she has driven herself every day to the Margaret Stewart Ellis nursing home where she helps to prepare meals, tidies up, socializes and plays cards with the residents.

However, she made the decision earlier this spring to stop driving. She now relies on family and friends to get to her volunteering destinations.

The broken arm has also slowed her down of late, but she has no plans to stop volunteering.

"I always like helping people and they love having me there,'' she says of her many hours spent at the long-term care facility in O'Leary.

The Governor General's Caring Canadian Award proudly embraced Monday by McDowell was created in 1995. The award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made significant, sustained, unpaid contributions to their community, in Canada, or abroad.

The governor general also recognized younger volunteers Monday.

Johnston awarded 22 Island youth with The Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award in recognition of their dedication and personal accomplishments within their communities.

Katelyn Marion Handren, 20, was approved for the award more than two years ago, but like others, waited for an award ceremony a bit closer to home before stepping forward to receive the honour.

"Oh, it's awesome,'' says Handren, who was joined by four fellow Bluefield High School students in receiving the award at the Rodd Charlottetown Monday.

The latest Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award Achievers are, along with Handren: KariLyn Celeste Blacquiere, Ellen Marie Chapman, Bradley Cooper, Carolyn Hunter Crane, Heather MacKenzie Crane, Kyla Elizabeth DeHann, Morgan Dehmel, Carlie Layne Jay, √Člie Kassouf, Jodi Lambie, Kate MacDonald, Grace Marshall, Adrian Scott Monthony, Schurman Peters, Ashley Sara Praught, Kiersten Shea Richards, Emily Eden Ross, Julia Ross, Katherine Mary Sonier and Catherine Jane Williams.