The B.C. government has recognized four Vancouver Island residents for their exceptional service to community life.
Ron Rice and Karen Hira of Victoria, Andrei Marti of Brentwood Bay and Chantal Stefan of Cumberland have all been selected to receive the 2022 Medal of Good Citizenship.
Rice has been the executive director of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre for the past five years, after serving for 14 years as the volunteer board chair. The centre was in debt before Rice was chair, but it now has an operating budget of $8 million with three buildings for affordable housing.
Rice organizes the annual Back to School Picnic, which gave school supplies to approximately 3,500 Indigenous children in 11 B.C. communities before the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is also on the board of Island Health and has served on the board of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, the Raven Indigenous Impact Foundation and at Camosun College.
Hira has been the executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society since 2021. She has doubled its organizational revenue and increased staff by 35 per cent.
She helped secure over $4 million in provincial and federal support for the society’s newcomers’ programs and funding to open the first trauma-informed daycare in Canada.
Hira has also been the executive director of the Oasis Society for three years. She has obtained a record amount of funding for the non-profit organization, which serves Indigenous adults experiencing multi-generational trauma.
Marti, 13, is passionate about raising awareness about Type 1 diabetes, which he has been living with since he was five years old.
He has raised over $50,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Help Fill A Dream by doing handstands, selling lemonade and during other various fundraisers including bottle drives.
“I was very shocked when my parents told me about the medal,” Marti said. “I had no idea. It was a big surprise. When I realized that it was significant, I was very honoured.”
There is even a scholarship in Marti’s name at Camosun College, which is awarded to a student who demonstrates community involvement and leadership.
A man who was searching for food in a garbage bin on a freezing night 19 years ago in Edmonton had a profound effect on Chantal Stefan.
He inspired her and a few friends to fill handmade bags with treats, mitts and socks, which they placed in alleyways as gifts for people on the street. Their gesture morphed into the Everybody Deserves a Smile (EDAS) project that, for years, has been assisting vulnerable and homeless individuals in the Comox Valley and other communities.
“I wish I could meet that man,” said Stefan, a teacher at Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary in Courtenay whose efforts have been recognized by the provincial government. “He changed my life.”
To date, students and other EDAS volunteers have handed out 23,000 holiday care packages to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, support agencies and to individuals on streets in the Comox Valley and other communities. By the end of this season, the program will have reached 26,000 people.
“Something like that doesn’t happen without incredible people working hard behind the scenes,” said Stefan, who is accepting the medal on behalf of students, teachers, parents, service club members and everyone else helping to brighten the holiday season for the less fortunate. “It’s truly remarkable. I’m so proud of everybody. I feel so much love for our community.”
The quartet were among 15 British Columbians who will be receiving the 2022 medal.
“It’s an honour to award these individuals with the Medal of Good Citizenship,” said Premier David Eby in a statement. “Each one of them embodies the traits of generosity, kindness and sacrifice for the benefit of others. Their actions touch so many lives, creating better communities throughout B.C. I commend each one of them. They are an example to all.”
The medals will be given out at various ceremonies throughout the province in 2023.
—with a file from Scott Stanfield
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