Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards – Recipients

These extraordinary volunteers have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members.

Award recipients

2023 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards

On December 8, 2023, these outstanding recipients were recognized through a formal ceremony officiated by the Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Women, the Honourable Tanya Fir and Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.

Youth category

  • Deep Braich

    Deep Braich, Calgary

    Nominated by: Inderjeet Sidhu

    With a passion for service and a relentless determination to effect meaningful change, Deep Braich has proven that age is no barrier to a young person with a desire to make a positive impact in their community.

    It was in junior and senior high that volunteerism first took hold of Deep where she stepped up to lend her time and talents to the school’s student council, Mental Health, Environment and Yearbook clubs and supported the activities of the school as event volunteer and fundraiser. Her commitment to community service eventually led her to volunteer at the Hillhurst Community Association Fresh Food Market and she became a passionate advocate for food security. Now a university student, Deep lends her support to the University of Calgary (U of C) Students' Union Food Bank, where she volunteers her time to support students facing food insecurity.

    The U of C has opened new doors of volunteer opportunities and Deep has enthusiastically stepped through. As the Vice President of Marketing for the U of C UNICEF Club, she tirelessly works to raise awareness and funds for critical causes both locally and globally; her leadership abilities extend into her role as the VP Events for the campus Red Cross Club and her active involvement with the Leadership Engagement Office.

    Off-campus, Deep brings her commitment to social change to Action Dignity, which works to bring together Calgary’s ethnocultural, racialized and equity-seeking groups to create transformational changes within the community and society. Deep actively participates in various community trainings and workshops addressing critical issues such as mental health, leadership, domestic violence and more.

    It seems inevitable that Deep would one day start her own non-profit, a challenge that she embraced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with the launch of Youth Helping Youth YYC in 2020, providing feminine hygiene kits to Calgary’s women and girls in need. Partnering with Action Dignity, the non-profit has distributed feminine hygiene kits to over 3,075 women across the city.

    From advocating on youth social issues, to conducting mental health workshops and raising awareness of the role of Gender and Sexuality Alliances, Deep brings her unique perspective as a youth to often difficult conversations. In doing so, she is inspiring a new generation of youth volunteers to pick up the mantle of community service.

    For this and so much more, Deep Braich takes centre stage as one of Alberta’s Volunteer Stars.

  • Marigold Mioc

    Marigold Mioc, Calgary

    Nominated by: Syed Hassan, Love with Humanity Association

    Anyone who has suggested that “youth is wasted on the young” has yet to be introduced to Marigold Mioc. The positive impact that this 14-year-old Calgarian has had on her community and those in need of support would amaze even the most seasoned volunteer—and Marigold is just getting started.

    Her creative and entrepreneurial skills along with a passion for social justice is a potent mix and a formula for action. In 2015, Marigold signed on for a Group 5 Sponsorship, a federal program to help Canadians who wish to support refugees to come to Canada. Marigold used the proceeds of her headband making business to help a family fleeing the horrors of war in Syria to make their way to a new life. Her social enterprise, Marigold’s Heart Garden, continues to generate revenues, which Marigold uses to support her charitable activities.

    Marigold also lends her support to many of the most vulnerable in her community by volunteering with Love with Humanity Association since its inception in 2018, supporting the non-profit’s network of outdoor community libraries, food banks and clothing kiosks. Marigold is also a Youth Ambassador for the non-profit Gems for Gems, which provides educational programming and support to survivors of domestic abuse.

    Her interest in education has led to her involvement with Engineers Without Borders, where she advocates for career opportunities for women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related industries and with HundrED, a global initiative to provide quality educational opportunities to children around the world.

    Marigold has further demonstrated that there are no borders on compassion. As Youth Ambassador for the United Way of Calgary and Area, she co-hosted the launch of Planet Youth Calgary, an innovative program originating in Iceland, focusing on youth substance abuse prevention. Her work with the United Way has also impacted her own community as she has contributed to the success of fundraising events while supporting the agency’s efforts to encourage others to donate.

    From delivering food hampers during the COVID-19 pandemic to being a voice for young people at international conferences in Europe, Africa and across Canada, Marigold’s volunteerism is driven by a desire to make a difference and to encourage other young people to step up in support of the causes they believe in.

    The spark that was first ignited in the heart of a five-year-old looking for ways to make a difference now shines brighter through the works of Volunteer Star, Marigold Mioc, its warmth reaching out to touch lives across her community and around the world.

Adult category

  • Sayed Hassan

    Syed Hassan, Calgary

    Nominated by: Linda Zachri, Love with Humanity

    It is more than just the name of the community-based non-profit that he founded—it is the approach that Syed Hassan has taken as he makes his place as a newcomer to Canada.

    Having already experienced many of the same challenges, Syed shares an understanding and empathy towards the needs of immigrants newly arrived to Calgary, as well as native-born Albertans who are struggling to make ends meet. Meeting those needs is the mission of the Love with Humanity Association (Love with Humanity) and the many projects initiated by Syed.

    To date, Syed has overseen the building and launch of twelve community outdoor food pantries in low-income neighbourhoods along with the distribution of fresh produce and food hampers to low-income and immigrant families. Area residents who use the food banks are invited to avail themselves of foodstuffs and are also encouraged to contribute items when they are able. Syed employs a similar approach in distributing new and gently used clothing to those in need by launching two clothing banks.

    Every day, more than 100 Calgarians make a stop at one of the 35 Love with Humanity outdoor multicultural libraries located across the city. The libraries offer a generous selection of books and other reading materials, again with the stipulation that donations of materials are always welcome and items received are meant to be shared.

    Seniors are a focus for Syed’s work with regular visits to those in lodges and care facilities. Seniors’ Coffee Time is an opportunity for residents to come together to celebrate birthdays and holidays, connect with friends and share their music stylings during sing-a-longs. Syed has also initiated a seniors care campaign to provide basic hygienic supplies, seminars for new immigrants and delivered more than 3000 food hampers during covid to those in isolation.

    From offering free income tax filing services to newcomers and those facing financial hardships to organizing holiday events for Calgary’s homeless and initiating community clean-ups with the Calgary Green and Clean program, Syed is quick to act when the need arises. His efforts have not gone unnoticed either by those who have benefited from his generosity and by community leaders who have given formal recognition to his public service. Syed recently received in the Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Empowerment award, Alberta Newcomer Champion award and Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee medal.

    He aim's to strengthen the community and make Alberta a better place for everyone.

    For his service to the community and his own love for humanity, Syed Hassan is a 2023 Volunteer Star.

  • Tammy Farkes

    Tammy Farkes, Edmonton

    Nominated by: Barb Matwie

    Tammy Farkes may have a more than 50-year association with the Girl Guides of Canada as a member and a leader, but when it comes to doing good deeds, she is definitely one Good Scout.

    It would be nearly impossible to list all the examples of volunteerism that Tammy has engaged in, in the more than 2,000 hours she has contributed over the last year, let alone her long and accomplished volunteer journey. It is safe to say, however, that there are few areas of life in the community that have not benefited from Tammy’s overwhelming generosity of spirit.

    Tammy’s 25 years of volunteerism in support of the Grey Nuns Hospital was recognized by Covenant Health earlier this year. Her love of the arts has led to her most recent role at the hospital as she has taken on the duties of Art Exhibit Coordinator working with artists and coordinating the display of artworks around the Grey Nuns complex. She has also stepped up to lend her voice to the "Mistletones Choir."

    Her love of music is seen through her participation in numerous choirs. With a song in her heart and a smile on her lips, Tammy’s musical talents and volunteerism have supported numerous community events, and she has also been recognized by the Richard Eaton Singers, an organization that has honoured Tammy for 25 years of service

    Tammy has demonstrated her service to youth and the community in her long association with the Alberta School Council Association (ASCA). Since 2010 she has served as school liaison with the Edmonton Southwood Community League (ESCL) and mentor to the ESCL representative from the Crawford Plains Elementary School. Tammy was recognized by the ASCA as Parent of Distinction for her voluminous volunteering at Crawford Plains.

    Community organizations can always count on Tammy’s helping hands. As a member of the Collective Community Initiatives group, Tammy has been involved in several of the Initiative’s projects supporting donation drives for WIN House, Hope Mission, Water Warriors, Bear Clan, Little Warriors and the Edmonton Food Bank, an organization that recognized her with Volunteer of the Year honours.

    From bike tune-ups to spearheading the redevelopment of a local playground and taking on shifts at the casino to raise funds for local community service organizations, Tammy is quick to enlist to meet the needs of her friends and neighbours.

    And yes, Girl Guides make terrific Scouts as Tammy is a volunteer with more than five years of service with Scouts Canada.

    As a volunteer, as a leader, as an inspiration to those seeking to make a difference, Tammy has crafted a life of service and has earned a well-deserved place among the galaxy of Volunteer Stars.

Seniors category

  • Barry Watts

    Barry Watts, Calgary

    Nominated by: David Hartwick, Dreams Take Flight Calgary

    Barry Watts has certainly lived up to his name, for there could be no better measure to gauge how brilliantly this volunteer Star shines.

    For more than a decade, Barry has been a driving force behind the children’s charity Dreams Take Flight. In the past year, Barry has logged more than 1,500 hours, wearing multiple hats as he works to ensure that special needs children have the chance to share the joy of Disneyland or Universal Studios with their peers. This year, 120 disadvantaged children will make the trip, and Barry’s meticulous attention to detail means it will be a memory shared for years to come. For Barry, it is a labour of love; if printing a group picture or crafting a button for the children to wear helps to make the trip just a bit more special, Barry is on it!

    From website maintenance to special projects to contributing innovative new ideas as member of the advisory board, Barry has left his mark on all facets of the Dreams Take Flight organization. The passion and enthusiasm he brings to the job is infectious, and it’s hard not to want to be involved in the project after listening to Barry share the story of the kids and the cause. Perhaps it’s the reason that year over year, Barry has been able to deliver on average 450 items to the Dreams Take Flight silent auction.

    And as hard as it is to say no to Barry, Barry has just as hard a time saying no to the numerous other charities and non-profits he supports.

    Barry lends his creativity and tech skills to the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation in support of the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Scotty’s Legacy Charity Golf Tournament, and serves on the events advisory board. His focus on helping kids extends to education as every year, Barry can be counted upon to run the Educational Partnership Foundation’s silent auction.

    From the Order of Saint Lazarus, which provides home and palliative care and other services, to the GRIT Calgary Society, which helps to support the education and therapy needs of children with disabilities, Barry’s contributions of time and talent are making an impact in the lives of children and seniors across the city. And we would be remiss if we didn’t include Jammies from Grammies, which provides pajamas and other personal care items to youth in need, among the long list of non-profits benefiting from Barry’s involvement.

    To those working alongside him, Barry is a volunteer-aholic, working quietly behind the scenes with dedication and commitment. For that dedication and commitment, it is time for Barry to take centre stage as a 2023 Alberta Volunteer Star.

  • Oryssia Lennie

    Oryssia Lennie, Edmonton

    Nominated by: Annemarie Leenhouts-Petrov, Francis Winspear Centre for Music; Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

    When Oryssia Lennie stepped forward to offer her volunteer services, it was music to the ears of her fellow members on the board of the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO).

    Since her appointment to the board in 2016, Oryssia has been an important voice for the arts, taking a hands-on role through attendance at concerts, fundraisers and events. As board chair from 2019 to 2022, Oryssia guided the organization though the tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the board chair’s backing, the ESO continued to play live when provincial health restrictions permitted and ensured the gift of music remained accessible to housebound fans by embracing technology and moving to online performances.

    An outspoken advocate for the arts, Oryssia has long held that no major city is complete without an orchestra, and in her personal support of the ESO, Winspear and the Youth Orchestra of Northern Alberta, Oryssia has demonstrated a commitment to its future.

    With a long and accomplished career with both the provincial and federal governments, Oryssia has used her leadership, relationship-building abilities and so many other skills in support of the ESO and Winspear, as well as the many non-profits to which she lends her support.

    The long-time Edmontonian has dedicated her time and talents. in support of building a stronger community, with a focus on health care, education and the arts. Throughout her volunteer career Oryssia has served as the board chair for United Way Alberta Capital Region, United Way Centraide Canada, Habitat for Humanity Edmonton, and the Canada West Foundation, and is currently serving as board chair for Genome Alberta.  The boards of the University of Alberta, Grant MacEwan University and Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital have also benefited from Oryssia’s leadership and creativity and, since 2017, she has helped promote and preserve Ukrainian culture and heritage as a member of the Taras Shevchenko Foundation Board of Directors.

    The recipient of countless honours, including the Order of Canada, Oryssia has moved gracefully from public service to community service, strengthening the cultural fabric of the city and building a strong foundation for the future of the province.

    For this and more, the spotlight now shines on the 2023 Alberta volunteer Star, Oryssia Lennie.

Breaking Barriers, 2SLGBTQQIA+ inclusion category

  • Jarom Moriyama Bonda

    Jarom Moriyama-Bondar, Calgary

    Nominated by: Boban Stojanovic, Centre for Newcomers

    Building a more welcoming and inclusive Alberta is everybody’s business. For Calgary’s Jarom Moriyama-Bondar, it’s business’s business, too!

    An Entrepreneur and Group Insurance Consultant, Jarom recognized an opportunity to contribute his talents to help bring 2SLGBTQQIA+ entrepreneurs and professionals together and support the growth of their network of businesses.

    Pride in Business was launched in 2011, the non-profit staffed exclusively by volunteers with Jarom taking the lead. Along with initiatives to create greater awareness of Calgary’s 2SLGBTQQIA+ organizations, programs, businesses, networks, professionals and charities, Pride in Business works to create that same awareness and grow commerce within the broader Calgary business community.  The organization strives to spotlight 2SLGBTQQIA+ professionals, businesses, and allies through engaging events throughout the year and their social media content and articles on their website.

    Jarom and the Pride in Business team have organized numerous events to bring the community together. While strengthening the network of organization members, the events also serve as fundraising opportunities, and a way to empower the queer community from an economic standpoint. One such event, the annual Pride in Business Pride Boot Camp, has helped raise awareness and significant funding in support of the End of the Rainbow Foundation, a local organization that supports the settlement of 2SLGBTQQIA+ refugees in escaping the often life-threatening discrimination in their own countries for a better life in Canada and more specifically in the Calgary area.

    With a talent for bringing people together, Jarom has helped develop Pride in Business into a bridge between the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community and the city’s business community with benefits for both. As Jarom noted in a recent interview, "I feel that we have provided a spotlight for businesses and professionals within our community, created a place for others to see role models, mentorship and created avenues for our sponsors to showcase their efforts and even recruit from our community."

    That has led to even greater awareness, with the contributions of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community to strengthening Calgary’s business core being recognized with the first “TD Inclusion and Diversity Award presented by Pride In Business” during the Calgary Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week awards.  From a recent Calgary Chamber Post featuring Jarom, he said “Inclusion is what promotes and drives solutions, innovation, and ideas. Inclusion leads us to belong and be our best selves, resulting in the best outcomes!”

    Jarom has also contributed his time and talents volunteering his support in the annual Pride in Art event. The event showcases the work of queer artists from Calgary and across Alberta and also highlights the importance of diversity and intersectionality within the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community, such as race, gender, cultural background, immigrant status and many other intersecting factors that add to the diversity and richness of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community and environment in Calgary.

    Through his leadership with Pride in Business, his dedicated support of local community, and belief that we are always better together, Jarom Moriyama-Bondar is helping to build a more inclusive Calgary, leading and inspiring by his example as a true Volunteer Star.

Breaking Barriers, anti-racism category

  • Neisau Maria

    Neisau Maria

    Nominated by: Dr. Bukola Salami

    “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

    These words of Coretta Scott King come to mind when one considers the work of Neisau Maria.

    As a clinical social worker of more than 15 years, Neisau has helped scores of clients to overcome challenges and rediscover wellness. But it is what she does after her office hours draw to a close—to build and uplift community—that have endeared Neisau to her colleagues, friends and neighbours.

    Exemplifying the spirit of community service, Neisau has amassed an amazing 1,500 hours of volunteerism over the last year. In those hours, she has worn the hat of community organizer, putting into action the notion that in working together, communities can reaffirm a sense of identity and build the capacity to further strengthen that community. This may have been the catalyst for her efforts in co-creating the Alberta Association of Black Social Workers (AABSW).

    In connecting with others in her professional community, Neisau recognized that many Black social workers were operating in isolation and lacked the support of their colleagues. By engaging in dialogue, Neisau discovered the need for a place where social workers could learn from each other, support each other and obtain system navigation, professional advocacy support and career guidance. And the AABSW was born—just one example of building, strengthening and meeting the needs of community.

    But for Neisau, simply helping to create an organization is not enough. She has dedicated countless hours to fundraising and co-facilitating professional social meetings. In her role, Neisau has also been a leading voice for the AABSW, speaking to community-based issues beyond professional matters. She firmly believes in social action and justice and supports social workers in developing their own voices to become leaders in their expertise, whether it be mental health, socio-legal issues, advocacy or others.

    As a Black woman, Neisau has developed an empathy and understanding of the challenges and sense of isolation felt by many women in racialized and often marginalized communities. Using her insight into the nuances of community integration, she launched the WhatsApp group “Women Doing Things.” The platform has become a home for scores of women, creating a nurturing environment where individuals are able to connect with one another through activities and build lasting relationships while offering hope, unity and support—and in the words of one nominator, “helping countless women rekindle their sense of joy and purpose.”

    That same empathy and understanding also led Neisau to help establish a local Edmonton chapter of Black Mom’s Connection, a group connecting a community of more than 400 moms who have experienced and seek to support others in dealing with the unique challenges of raising Black children in the city. Her support also extends to youths themselves as she is an enthusiastic volunteer at the University of Alberta and with initiatives like the Black Youth Leadership and Mentorship Program.

    Neisau has recognized the value of reaching out to build relationships with the Indigenous and other racialized communities that are anchored in mutual respect and cultural appreciation and remains committed to the principles of decolonization and reclaiming spaces.

    By putting compassion and concern into action, Neisau’s impact on her community and beyond is immeasurable. In an attempt to gauge that impact, one nominator said this: “Endorsing Ms. Maria isn't just about recognizing her commendable work; it's about championing a vision of community, authenticity and growth that she embodies so wholly. I wholeheartedly believe that endorsing her is endorsing a brighter, more connected future for our community and beyond.”

    Neisau Maria. Not only a Volunteer Star, but a guiding Star.

Breaking Barriers, fighting gender discrimination category

  • Lavon Fleming

    Lavon Fleming, Lac La Biche

    Nominated by: Scott Kunz

    When Lavon Fleming became the first female of First Nations descent to serve in a combat unit with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), she knew she was in for a challenge, but challenges have only made success that much more rewarding for this volunteer Star from Lac La Biche.

    It was a challenge in taking on the role of helping to manage Fleming Cats, a company with a legacy of more than 50 years in the community and the livelihood for one of the largest workforces in the region. Perhaps it was her success in that role that made Lavon a logical choice to help to rebrand and reinvigorate the community’s marquee festival, Lac La Biche Pow Wow Days and Fish Derby.

    Making changes to an event that has been an annual tradition since 1962 is no small undertaking, but Lavon saw the need to keep the event fresh for residents and the many visitors attending the newly branded Lac La Biche Summer Days. This often meant making tough decisions, but Lavon has worked hard with her fellow board members to create an event that is both exciting and a new attraction that continues to honour the rich history of the regional celebration.

    A military background that stresses the importance of teamwork can be seen in Lavon’s ability to bring many different organizations together in a collaborative effort. While each individual group has the freedom to manage their own contributions and build their own organizations, these individual efforts are targeted towards ensuring the collective success of the larger event.

    Together with her fellow board members and front-line volunteers, Lavon has helped build a solid financial and creative foundation that will help carry Lac La Biche Summer Days long into the future.

    It is this same dedication and determination that has shaped Lavon’s approach to volunteerism. The same confidence that helped her to become the first woman to play on an all male in-house section hockey team, she now shares with members of the Indigenous community. Coaching, mentoring and showcasing the talents of Indigenous women and girls, her efforts are also helping to preserve and honour Indigenous culture.

    Lavon also draws upon her business and leadership abilities in volunteering to support fundraisers for the local Heritage Society and Lac La Biche Boxing Club.

    For Lavon, “it’s all about the community” and finding ways to make the community and the lives of its residents better. As Lac La Biche’s 2023 Volunteer Star, and as one who has made a career out of breaking old barriers for a whole new generation of women, her shining example is helping to light the way.

Past recipients

Past Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards Recipients

For detailed information on past award recipients, contact the program office.


Connect with the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards program:

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