When Gwen Nelson decided to tag along with a friend to the Pemberton Food Bank several years ago, she had no idea she was on her way to receiving one of the country’s highest honours.
The Mount Currie resident was officially presented with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal last Thursday (Feb. 21) during a dinner at the Ullus Community Complex, earning the honour in recognition of her years of volunteer service to the food bank.
“It was kind of shocking,” Nelson said of being selected for the award. “For me, this is the biggest thing in my life.”
Louise Stacey-Deegan, food bank coordinator for Sea to Sky Community Services, nominated Nelson for the award and said the 47-year-old is a very deserving recipient.
“She’s been volunteering with the food bank ever since we took it over three years ago,” said Stacey-Deegan. “She’s a very caring person, very hard-working and very dedicated.
“Without her, the clients don’t get their food.”
Nelson, who was born with spina bifida, helps bag essential items for food bank users each time it is open, a duty that she said she’s enjoyed immensely.
“I just like to volunteer and I like to help,” said Nelson. “I like to make people happy.”
Nelson said that close friend Marlene Wells is the biggest reason why she received the medal, since it was Wells who convinced her to check out the food bank for the first time.
“I need to thank her for where I am today,” said Nelson. “If I’d have never started at the food bank, I would never have received this medal.”
Three years ago, Wells dropped in to visit Nelson at home on her way to the facility and asked her to come along.
“She’s a very fun person to be around,” said Wells. “She’s got an open mind, an open heart and she helps everybody. She’s a very good friend.”
Stacey-Deegan made the medal presentation at last week’s dinner, and Nelson said she was humbled by the large turnout.
“That was also shocking,” Nelson laughed.
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals are being presented to 60,000 Canadians this year in recognition of her 60 years on the throne. Nelson is among 33 individuals who received their medal through Food Banks Canada, which is one of a select group of non-governmental organizations awarding the medals.
Gimse honoured with medal
Area C director Susie Gimse also received a Diamond Jubilee Medal on Monday (Feb. 25) at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board meeting in Pemberton.
SLRD chair Patricia Heintzman pinned the medal to Gimse’s lapel and spoke about how over the past 20 years she has demonstrated dedication and leadership while holding various political roles.
Heintzman also noted that Gimse’s nomination came from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Gimse has been a FCM board member since 2006 and is one of eight B.C. board members. She has served as chair of the standing committee on community safety and crime prevention since 2011.
“This medal acknowledges the important role local governments — and their elected leaders — play in building community and ensuring a high quality of life,” Heintzman said. “We are honoured to have not one, but three Diamond Jubilee Medal recipients serving on our board.”
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy and Squamish Mayor Rob Kirkham were awarded with Diamond Jubilee medals earlier this month.
Gimse said the medal is not just representative of her contribution, but of the entire SLRD board.
“We all strive to provide services to our community,” she said. “At the end of the day, the goal is shared by all of us and that is to make sure we have the best quality of life and not just for our citizens, but for our families.”
Gimse has represented the constituents living in Electoral Area C on the SLRD board since 1993 as well as serving 10 terms as board chair. She also served one term as a Village of Pemberton councillor from 2008-11 and has served multiple terms on both the Pemberton Library Board and the Winds of Change Board.
In addition to her commitment to community service, Gimse sat on the board of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) from 1997 to 2009, serving as UBCM president from 2007-08 and sitting on the executive from 2008-09.
—with files from Tanya Foubert