Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award launches for 2012

Calgary, Alberta (January 16, 2012) – Direct Energy and the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) invite Albertans to help recognize our province’s tremendous volunteer spirit with the eighth annual Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award. Nominations are now being accepted and will close Friday, March 16, 2012.

According to Volunteer Canada, there are 12.5 million volunteers making a difference in others’ lives across the country. In Alberta alone, 1 in 3 people volunteer. The Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award program is designed to recognize some of the most outstanding work of those individuals whose contributions make their communities a better place to live.

“It is no secret that Albertans take great pride in their remarkable volunteerism, and the volunteers we’ve met and recognized over the years through this program are a true inspiration,” says Tanis Kozak, Vice-President and General Manager, Canada, Direct Energy. “We all know someone whose work makes their community a better place to live, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize some of those amazing contributions.”

The Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award is an extension of Direct Energy’s Community Investment philosophy that encourages employees to volunteer their time and energy to causes or organizations in their local communities.

The award itself consists of:

  • $1,000 cash prize to the winner;
  • $5,000 cash grant to the winner’s organization/cause of choice in their respective community;
  • recognition of the winner’s achievement through a commemorative award, article and photo to be published in AWNA newspapers across Alberta;
  • $1,000 cash grant to four semi-finalists’ organization/cause of choice in their respective communities; and
  • special recognition of the four semi-finalists.

Last years’ winner, Irma “Granny” Gray chose Tennille’s Hope Kommunity Kitchen, as the beneficiary of a $5,000 donation in her name. Gray is the mother of seven children, eighteen grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. She was recognized for her work with Tenille’s Hope and a long list of other community organizations.

“We’re looking forward to once again recognizing individuals who work hard to make our communities great places to live,” said AWNA President Ossie Sheddy. “The selfless actions of past winners like Irma “Granny” Gray often go unrewarded. This program is designed to showcase appreciation for their efforts. I invite AWNA member newspaper publishers and editors and community leaders to nominate their outstanding volunteers. The direct in the community – Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award is a great opportunity to recognize invaluable volunteers and to benefit your community.”

The Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award is open to residents who reside within a community served by an AWNA member newspaper. Applicants can either self-nominate or be nominated by another individual or group. Nominations should be no longer than 750 words in length and detail the specific contribution the individual or group has made to the local community through improving the quality of life for fellow citizens. The nominations also need to profile the designated organization and how that organization would use the $5,000 donation.

Nominations must be submitted to the AWNA by March 16, 2012. A selection committee, formed of two representatives from the AWNA and two appointed by Direct Energy, will review award applications and select the finalists and winning individual or group.

Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award rules and details can be found online at or, or can be picked up at AWNA member newspaper offices.

About Direct Energy

Direct Energy is one of North America’s largest energy and energy-related services providers with over 6 million residential and commercial customer relationships. Direct Energy provides customers with choice and support in managing their energy costs through a portfolio of innovative products and services. A subsidiary of Centrica plc (LSE: CNA), one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, Direct Energy operates in 46 states plus DC and 10 provinces in Canada. To learn more about Direct Energy, please visit

About the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association
Alberta’s community newspapers reflect the images, thoughts and everyday happenings of the communities they serve. While these communities may vary in size; from tiny, isolated locations to bustling suburban centres, they share one important feature – a strong weekly newspaper. Today there are 118 member newspapers throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories. They boast a combined circulation of 900,460. The smallest newspaper circulates 443 copies each week; the largest – 127,593. We are part of a Canada-wide network of community newspapers through the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA). Together with six other provincial associations, we represent nearly 650 newspapers.

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For more information, please contact:

Lisa Frizzell                                                                              Maurizia Hinse

Public Relations                                                                       Professional Development and

Direct Energy                                                                           Communication

713-877-3733                                                                          780.434.8746 Ext 225

Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award recipients:


Irma “Granny” Gray of Whitecourt, Alberta was recognized for her work with a multitude of community organizations, including founding a soup kitchen called Tennille’s Hope Kommunity Kitchen and serving as its head chef for more than four years. When she heard the news that a soup kitchen might be opening, she said, “if a soup kitchen opens, as long as I’m alive, you will never have to worry about cooking the soup.” More than four years later, she still plans the meals, does the shopping, fundraises to purchase supplies and equipment and personally cooks and serves the food to the many people who count on the meals each week. She also dedicates time to the Youth Justice Committee, Lorne’s Blanket, Girl Guides of Canada, her local church, the Whitecourt Legion, various seniors groups, the Boys and Girls Club, the local homeless shelter, and the Lac St. Anne or affordable housing foundation.


Tammy Sather of Hughenden was honoured for her dedication to a long list of community organizations and using her expertise as a trained Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to donate her time to medical and rescue calls with the local fire, rescue and ambulance services. Ms. Sather is deeply involved with the Hughenden Firefighters Association and is responsible for raising much of the funds for keeping the organization alive, including supplies, equipment, and rescue units, since she joined 13 years ago. After taking a fellow volunteer firefighter’s blood pressure to ease a patient’s anxiety at a rescue call, she discovered his blood pressure was abnormally high. She wondered how many others in her community had undetected medical conditions and single-handedly spearheaded the launch and operation of a blood pressure and diabetes screening clinic in her community.


Robbie Knight of Consort, Alberta was awarded for her more than 55 years of dedicated service with the community’s Hospital Auxiliary Society and participation with a number of other community organizations. Robbie’s other volunteer activities span a long list including 10 years as a vicar’s warden and bookkeeper; 18 years as a Sunday School teacher; a piano player at the hospital and seniors’ lodge; over 20 years promoting and managing donations for the Terry Fox Run; daily supervision of seniors’ walks at the local sportplex in the winter; and initiating the creation of the community’s 10-year running Bethany Lifelines service, among other community engagement initiatives. At 80 years old, Robbie exemplifies the cliché that “retirement is a full-time job.”


Vic Sadlowski serves many associations in Bonnyville including the Health Foundation, FCSS Volunteer Income Tax program, Victims Services, St. Joseph’s Parish Baptism Committee, Education Committee, 2010 Alberta Winter Games Committee, Volunteer Recognition Services and Junior A Pontiacs hockey team. He acts as Master of Ceremonies at various events throughout the year, tutors students in math and is on-call 24 hours a day to assist victims of accidents or tragedy. He has served as Alberta Centennial Ambassador, was on the Bonnyville Health Foundation Gala Fundraising Committee and prepares tax returns for local residents. If Vic is ever offered compensation for his assistance, he asks that a donation be made to a local charity instead.


Dorothy Towns was a founding member of the Central Alberta Refuge Effort (C.A.R.E.) Committee. During her 27 plus years with C.A.R.E., she has helped hundreds of refugees and immigrants gain their footing in the Red Deer community. Dorothy does everything she can to ensure newcomers feel comfortable in their new community, from refugee and immigrant family outreach, to grocery shopping and organizing supplies of food and clothing.


At only 18 years old, Chelsey Dawes was selected because of the significant hours she devotes to community groups in Airdrie and Calgary, and the difference that volunteer commitment makes to the groups she supports. In addition to helping at the Calgary Drop-in Centre, working with Habitat for Humanity, and organizing a large scale head-shaving event to raise money for cancer research, Chelsey spends significant time helping the Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids Society. The Society delivers programs designed to ensure kids in Calgary, in schools and on the street, have access to healthy food.


Blanche Coultis, a long-time resident of Brooks, served as the original volunteer librarian when the Brooks Library opened in 1949. As a volunteer with the Brooks Home and School Association for 15 years in 1967, Blanche became one of the original volunteer board members of the Brooks and District Museum and Historical Society. The retired teacher continues to support the Museum as its resident historian. Blanche created a photographic library for the museum in Brooks, has catalogued donated items and trains summer students for the museum each year.