The Volunteer Recognition Committee is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 Individual awards, who were honoured at the Volunteer Recognition Dinner on June 22 in Gatineau, Québec.
The Fred Whitehouse Founder’s Award
The Fred Whitehouse Founder’s award was established ten years ago. This award is presented to an Association’s volunteer who has made a significant positive impact on the Association and Canadians in general and is recognized both inside and outside of the Association’s community at the national level as a leader and community builder. For the first time in the Volunteer Recognition Awards Program’s history, we have a recipient for this most prestigious award, Jean-Guy Soulière.
Jean-Guy represents the gold standard in volunteering and has worked for the Association for a total of twenty-four hears, thirteen of those as Executive Director and two more three-year terms as President of the Association. He also served two terms as National Vice President.
Employing his considerable talents in diplomacy and negotiation, he was won several victories on behalf of not just federal retirees, but also Canadian seniors. For example, he fought hard – and won – when our defined pensions plans were threatened by Bill C27. He also helped wage one of the most significant legal battles in the Association’s history – a court challenge and subsequent appear opposing the federal government’s decision to increase the premium split paid by pensioners for the Public Services Health Care Plan.
Since 2016, Jean-Guy has also served as the pensioner representative on the Public Service Health Care Plan.
When Jean-Guy accepted the five-year appointment as first chair of the National Seniors Council, he did so by phone while on holiday. Even when Jean-Guy is vacationing, he is clearly never fully “off duty” in his fight for seniors’ rights.
The Claude Edwards Leadership award
Micheline LeFrancois — First vice-president, Quebec Branch
Since Micheline’s arrival at the Quebec Branch in 2018, she has encouraged commitment and improved the branch’s performance. Through her approach and organizational knowledge, Micheline has become an important link between the strategic direction of the branch and keeping volunteers engaged.
The pandemic has forced many interactions to take place via the Zoom video conferencing platform, and Micheline was the first to familiarize herself with the technology.
As first vice-president, Micheline provides strong leadership and a versatile skill set. She has acted in the role of president at national meetings, including the last annual meeting of members (AMM) and special meeting of members (SMM). She participated in the in-person district meeting in the fall of 2021, where she was able to put the Association’s policies and regulations into context and seek the right compromises while respecting the expectations and needs of her colleagues in the Quebec district.
During the last election campaigns, Micheline engaged her advocacy team to promote the Association’s priorities among the candidates. With her insight and guiding skills, she ensured that there was a coherent discourse, where issues were outlined in a local context that, when meeting with MPs, helped put a face to the testimony and add a human dimension to our Association’s priorities. This led to a meeting with the Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, minister of national revenue, 9 as well as four influential MPs in her region. This also led to the Association and its national president testify before the Standing Committee of Veterans Affairs, to the benefit of the Association and its members.
The collaboration award
Maggie Smith — Director, social media, Calgary & District Branch
Maggie was elected to the board in April of 2020. She has been the lead on veterans issues, recruitment and retention, and has developed the branch’s communications plan. Working with Roloin Vetsch and Stacey Squires (Canada Energy Regulator), a formal communications plan was developed in 2021.
Maggie collaborated with Allan Reid, president of the Calgary Veterans Services Society (CVSS) and Rick Wright, national president of the Canadian Association of Veterans of United Nations Peacekeeping, to apply for a grant from Veterans Affairs Canada. The grant focussed on project development of Hoggin Alberta Veterans Ranch as well as project delivery and enhancement of existing services. Maggie was instrumental in researching the grant process and assisted the CVSS in developing their grant application. In January 2022, the society was advised that their grant application was successful ($300,000).
Maggie has collaborated with Homes for Heroes and continues to publish information about their program on the Calgary & District Branch’s website and Facebook page.
All the initiatives Maggie is involved with for veterans demonstrate the Association’s support for veterans’ well-being. Branch awards recipients have also been selected and will be announced at the volunteer recognition awards dinner on June 22. Please join us in congratulating the 2022 volunteer recognition awards recipients and nominees! Thank you for all that you do for our fellow volunteers, our branches, our Association, our communities and our members.
Membership Recruitment and Engagement award
The Ottawa Branch is the recipient of the Membership Recruitment and Engagement award. Recognizing that webinar programming was one of the only channels open to the branch for proactive recruiting during the pandemic, the Ottawa Branch pivoted from in-person information sessions to webinars.
Since the pandemic began, Ottawa Branch volunteers and staff have honed their Zoom skills and delivered 80 webinars to almost 5,000 members and guests. In 2021 alone, the Branch held 55 webinars attending by over 3,500 members and their guests. And these sessions have been very well received, earning very high evaluations scores from participants.
In addition to their webinar programming, the Ottawa Branch implemented an invite-a-guest recruitment strategy and promoted the Mega Recruitment Campaign and gift of membership. And there is evident that these efforts have been paying off. Membership losses, which were 3% in 2020, dropped to 2% in 2021, a trend the branch expects to continue.
Branch Excellence, Large Branch Award
There was a tie this year for the Branch Excellence, Large Branch Award: the Central Okanagan Branch and the Charlottetown Branch. Faced with restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the Central Okanagan Branch undertook a series of initiatives using every available opportunity to stay in contact with and support their members, especially those who did not have email addresses. Initiatives included membership recruitment telephone calls, newsletters mailed to every branch household and the development of additional publications and newspaper ads.
The Branch also participated in a Volunteer Fair to increase awareness of the Association and recruit volunteers. On the advocacy front, the Branch President and Vice President participated in meetings with three local MLAs to not only highlight the branch but also to encourage their support for the Association’s four advocacy priorities.
The Charlottetown Branch conducted five events that provided their members with opportunities to get together to network and support the Association’s priorities. During Covid restrictions, when in person events could not be held, Zoom meetings were well received and online registration numbers were impressive. Members appreciated the Branch’s efforts to keep them engaged and informed on current topics relevant to them, which lead to sustained high branch membership numbers.
In 2021, ongoing advocacy efforts ensured that every politician, federal and provincial, in the branch’s territory were provided the Branch’s One Pager highlighting the Association, our background and our advocacy priorities.
The branch ensured volunteers were well-supported during the pandemic, by conducting regular meetings via Zoom and providing training from board members and the branch president.