2022 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards
On March 31, 2023, these outstanding recipients were recognized through a formal ceremony officiated by the Minister of Culture, the Honourable Jason Luan and Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.
Andreea (Alex) Duica, Edmonton
Nominated by: Carie Stock, Helping Families Handle Cancer
It may have been a 9th-grade class project in philanthropy that first inspired Alex Duica’s interest in volunteerism, but 8 years later she could teach a course in caring.
In 2014, Alex along with a team of classmates from Samuel W. Shaw middle school in Calgary, was challenged to develop a “pitch” to secure funding for a local charity through an annual competition hosted by the Youth Philanthropy Initiative. The team chose Helping Families Handle Cancer (HFHC), a non-profit dedicated to supporting families of children with cancer dealing with the added burden of financial stress.
Backed with solid information from careful research of the charity, and fueled by passion, Alex’s team impressed the panel of judges and HFHC received $5,000 to help the organization and their deserving family clients.
The successful completion of the class project, as it turns out, was just the beginning of Alex’s commitment to HFHC and she became a familiar face at fundraising events including the Annual Art Exhibit and Run for the Gold. The leadership shown in managing the organization’s social media channels revealed Alex’s talent for communications and engagement – talents that have helped to drive efforts like the Honouring Evelyn Campaign. The initiative has provided more than 750 monthly parking passes for families spending long days at the hospital.
Her ability to convey the stories of the strength and courage of young people and their families in the face of cancer has touched hearts and created awareness. Fitting that as one who has grown with the organization, learning more about the illness and the people who battle it, should Alex step forward to lead HFHC’s new Bursary for Pediatric Oncology Patients. The initiative’s goal is to support the educational journeys of parents with children diagnosed with a form of childhood cancer.
The same determination and talents behind a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy (with honours!), and that she now employs in her law studies at the University of Alberta, Alex brings to the leadership of HFHC as board chair. Furthermore, she lends her time to Student Legal Services providing low-income community members with access to legal resources and also takes notes for family lawyers at the Edmonton Community Legal Centre. All this achieved before her 23rd birthday.
From a 9th-grader completing an assignment to leader of an organization changing lives, Alex Duica is not just a volunteer Star on the rise, she is a comet blazing a trail of compassionate service.
Geneva White, Calgary
Nominated by: Nowell Fine, University of Calgary
Author Joel A. Barker once said that, “when you drop any new idea in the pond of the world, you get a ripple effect. You have to be aware that you will be creating a cascade of change.”
Geneva White, a 12th-grader from Rundle College High School in Calgary, is already making waves, taking on numerous volunteer projects and emerging as a mentor, role model, advocate, and global change initiator. Geneva’s impact is being felt at home and in distant communities in need of caring and compassion.
Locally, Geneva has stepped up to support her junior volleyball team and expanded her volunteerism to include contributions to Calgary’s recreational volleyball league. Her musical talents have been shared through participation in choir and solo voice concerts and performances on both piano and guitar within the community, and to delighted audiences in many of the city’s senior citizen residences.
From youth mental health to the Calgary Marathon, and numerous school events such as student mentoring, book fairs, and used book and shoe drives, Geneva’s involvement is as varied as it is vital.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic side-lined thousands of volunteers across the province even as the demand for services, particularly by those most vulnerable, began to rise. Recognizing that many of the volunteers of the Calgary Food Bank were among those most at risk from the virus, Geneva motivated her entire family to step up to help fill the gap. Putting her craft skills to use, Geneva cheered seniors in the community isolated during lock-downs in seniors’ facilities with hand-made inspirational cards and sewed slippers and blankets for Ronald McDonald House. She also found time to pack children’s kits for youngsters admitted to hospital, collected hard-to-find toiletries for the Calgary Drop-In Centre, and participated in the first drive-through Christmas toy distribution by the Salvation Army.
With a passion for public health, health education and research, as a 14-year-old, Geneva volunteered with the University Of Calgary Cummings School Of Medicine, contributing to research efforts through the Cardiovascular Imaging Program – a program that typically provides research internships to university level undergraduate students and medical students who work alongside University of Calgary masters and doctoral level students. The 10th-grader set to work preparing for her new volunteer assignment, learning cardiac anatomy, physiology and researching the disease process of cardiac amyloidosis. That knowledge she was soon applying to the analysis of cardiac images which has led to several published abstracts and that were presented at major international medical conferences.
Geneva has also put research into action, researching and liaising with a medical clinic in Costa Rica for Nicaragua refugees to identify public health needs and create an education program for preventable cancers. Geneva used her skills in Spanish to make that information useable and even took the next step to fundraise for medical and hygiene supplies, personally delivering them to the clinic and staying on during an international internship to work with the clinic in educating patients.
She has also designed and implemented a health education, social media awareness campaign and illness/injury prevention initiative in Ghana to combat high rates of preventable injury and illness; and researched and proposed a strategy focus on Group B Strep maternal and neonatal infections in Rwanda.
Did we mention she volunteers as a writer, editor and graphic designer for the Rundle College school newspaper? As Chief Editor, Geneva has collaborated with numerous other clubs to write advocacy pieces which educate her peers on mental health, volunteerism, and diversity, equity and inclusion. This year, she is also volunteering with the Graduation Committee, Peer Support Mental Health Committee, as well as the Make-up and Props and Set crew for this year’s high school production.
Her volunteerism across the board has not gone unnoticed, as she recently received the Gold Level Duke of Edinburgh Award for volunteerism, skill, recreation and adventure.
Already an accomplished volunteer Star, Geneva White shines brightly as a galaxy of giving.
Francis Aranha, Calgary
Nominated by: Danny Castelino
Looking at the long list of Calgary organizations that have benefited from his extensive volunteer contributions, it becomes clear that Francis Arahna is an equal-opportunity giver.
From youth to seniors, from newcomers to Canada to the nation’s First Peoples and an array of community non-profits in-between, Francis brings the same dedication and commitment to supporting initiatives which build a stronger Calgary – a stronger Alberta.
Francis has worked to actively engage youth and for more than 5 years, has offered his services in support of the Alberta Army Cadet League, helping young people to develop valuable leadership skills, build confidence and participate in a variety of sport and recreational opportunities. Francis also works to share with young people his own sense of community, encouraging youth to join him in weekend city clean-up events, a mainstay of his volunteer service for the past 7 years. A mental health advocate, Francis has partnered with city agencies for over 8 years to host free webinars targeting students in university and other educational programs in hopes of creating greater awareness.
Seniors also figure prominently in Francis’ volunteerism and he is a familiar face at local seniors’ residences, playing guitar, leading yoga classes, and organizing birthday parties. Recognizing the impact of isolation on seniors during the COVID-pandemic, Francis enlisted local youth and neighbours to send cards and notes of encouragement to those shut-in by the virus.
For newcomers to Canada and Alberta, Francis is often their first point of contact at Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, a role he has played for over a decade. Francis has assisted more than 200 individuals as well as numerous students to settle in to their new lives far from home, even opening his own home to students who experienced – perhaps for the first time ever – the familiar winter challenge of frozen water pipes.
For Francis, creating awareness of Canada’s First People among Canada’s newest peoples is a more recent undertaking. In 2021, working with the Catholic Archdiocese of Calgary, Francis presented 6 on-line educational sessions, introducing newcomers to the rich history and heritage of Alberta’s Indigenous communities.
From supporting local food security as a volunteer at the Calgary Food Bank to organizing various drives to collect much-needed essentials the Calgary Drop-In Centre to creating a jobs program through his church, Francis is quick to respond to Calgarians in need. This includes making sure blood supplies at local hospitals are there when needed. Francis has championed the work of Canadian Blood Services, creating awareness, helping to organize blood drives and being a regular blood donor himself.
Dedicated and determined, Francis Arahna is one of Calgary’s true volunteer Stars.
Nominated by: Yvonne McCallum, Conklin Resource Development Advisory Committee
If there is a community event or initiative underway or a community need identified in Conklin, there is a good chance that Valerie Quintal is involved.
Serving on 9 volunteer boards in either the president, vice-president, or director’s role, Valerie has her finger on the pulse of the community helping to ensure the needs and concerns of residents of the northeastern Alberta hamlet are addressed.
Valerie has contributed her knowledge and experience in helping to provide recreational and social programming with a focus on educational activities and community events as vice-president of the Conklin Community Association and to advancing socio-economic priorities and ensuring the cultural well-being of Conklin’s Métis peoples as president of Conklin Métis Local 193. As director, Valerie has also contributed her leadership talents and management skills to the boards of the Conklin Community Enhancement Society, the Conklin Housing Advisory Committee, the Conklin Resource Advisory Committee, the Conklin Community School Council and Talent show committee (keeping traditional music and dance alive) and the Conklin Advisory Panel. It should be noted that Valerie’s involvement with the Conklin Housing Advisory Committee is helping to address homelessness in the community by making key policy recommendations and providing value-added contributions to support how the housing project will be implemented.
In 2020, when flooding at the Fort McMurray Food Bank and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the food security of Conklin’s most vulnerable, Valerie moved from the board table to the front lines, helping to initiate the Conklin Hamper Committee and supporting the coordination and distribution of hampers to hamlet residents.
Ensuring the well-being of her neighbours is a focus of Valerie’s community service, as evidenced by the fact that Valerie has served over 20 years on the local Conklin Volunteer Fire Department. Most recently, she became a Board Member of the Traditional Environmental Knowledge Association that focuses its attention on the cumulative environmental effects of regional development on air, land, water and safeguarding Indigenous culture and knowledge.
With a passion for service, Valerie Quintal, is a shining example of the volunteer spirit that is so much part of the fabric of the tightknit communities of northern Alberta and Conklin’s own volunteer Star.
Reg Radke, Brooks
Nominated by: Sasha Loewen, Brooks Housing Society
Reg Radke’s volunteer contributions are as diverse as the community he serves and the citizens of Brooks are mighty happy that Reg is as willing as he is to share his time and talents.
For the past 6 years, Reg has served as a volunteer member of the Palliser Triangle Health Advisory Committee, serving as chair for the past 3 years. Ensuring access to safe, affordable housing is also among Reg's passions and after serving as director, moved into the role of chair with the Brooks Housing Society to assist in the development of an affordable housing strategy for the community.
After serving on the Affordable Housing Steering Committee, Reg has now stepped up to help implement the strategy. Thanks to Reg's tireless advocacy, the City of Brooks has stepped up with a donation of land that will be the site of up to 14 affordable housing units.
An active member of the Brooks Rotary Club for 16 years, Reg has contributed to the development of such community service projects as the gazebo at Brooks Hospital Extended Care, Everyone Plays park in the Duke of Sutherland Park, Brooks Music Festival, and the Veteran's Centennial Park gazebo.
Interest and leadership in business and economic development of the community, saw Reg as a Director and President of the Brooks & District Chamber of Commerce from 2006 to 2011. He was a member of the Brooks Economic Development Committee from 2007 to 2011 and a Board Member from 2011 to 2014 and Chair from 2013 to 2014 of the Newell Regional Economic Development Initiative.
His support of local youth is also seen in his volunteer commitment to the John Ware Youth Empowerment Hub which offers mentorship and scholarship to youth in Brooks' minority community. The program is one of several initiatives of Global Village, another Brooks organization that counts Reg among its most dedicated volunteers.
While Reg has been lauded by all the many organizations and initiatives he has served, it was the cumulative impact of his volunteerism and overwhelming community spirit that led to his selection as the City of Brooks 2022 Citizen of the Year.
As a leader and as one ready to serve on the front lines of community service, Reg Radke is a worthy representative of the city's volunteer community as Brooks' volunteer Star in 2022.
Geraldine Cool, Carseland
Nominated by: LaToya Bartlett, Carseland School
Rarely has a person’s volunteer activities been a more accurate reflection of the volunteer themselves as in the case of Carseland’s Geraldine (Gerry) Cool.
As a volunteer “busy bee” Gerry plays a pivotal role at the Carseland Busy Bee Preschool, helping to provide access to quality preschool instruction for the community’s youngest learners. As a volunteer-run organization Busy Bee Preschool can rely on Gerry to not only oversee the preschool’s finances and licensing but as one of the first to step forward to contribute her time and talents in organizing and hosting the school’s fundraising efforts.
After identifying a lack of after school care as a reason for declining enrollment in Carseland School Gerry joined the effort to launch the Carseland Before and After School program, ensuring not only quality care for young people but reassuring parents that their kids have a safe place to go until mom or dad are home from work.
Children are clearly a focus of Gerry’s volunteer efforts as she has also stepped up to support the development of a new playground for preschool children. The success of accessing funds means the kids have age appropriate equipment and a place to call their own.
Gerry has shared her years of experience with a wide array of local boards and committees, helping to guide policy development for the Wheatland and Area Hospice Society and serving as president of both the Alberta College of Dental Hygienists and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association.
Her love of the community is evident in the time and talent she has contributed as a member of the Carseland History Book Committee and in helping make the Samuel Crowther High School Class of ’72 reunion a success.
Gerry likes to promote the community to newcomers who want to get involved in the community. Her enthusiasm and energy have inspired the next generation of Carseland volunteers. Having Gerry involved in a local organization or community event is a sure-fired way to recruit more volunteers to the initiative.
As a leader and as an advocate for her community Geraldine Cool is a shining example of community spirit and Carseland’s volunteer Star for 2022.
Past Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards Recipients (PDF, 126 KB)
For detailed information on past award recipients, contact the program office.
Connect with the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards program:
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