July 1, 2013
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – Real and Blandine Demers have given freely of their time to Catholic Social Services' Christmas Hamper Program for the past 35 years.

"They have donated thousands of hours to this program and have been directly and indirectly involved in the service of more than 50,000 families," said CSS spokesperson Marc Barylo.

The Demers were two of the five people CSS honoured for their volunteer efforts in the agency at its June 20 annual meeting.

"Real and Blandine are the consummate ambassadors of the high ideals and values of Catholic Social Services," said Barylo. "They put flesh to love, solidarity and support to persons in need."

BEFRIENDING NEWCOMERS

Also honoured was Paddi Sprecher, who has volunteered with CSS' Cultural Links Program since 2009. This program helps new immigrants and refugees feel at home in Canada.

To date, Sprecher has helped five newcomer families from Afghanistan, Congo and Iraq. "All of them have become part of Paddi's extended family," noted award presenter Amira Zoric.

Marie Payne was honoured for volunteering several hundred hours at the Red Deer regional office as an administrative aide and special projects volunteer since 2011.

"Marie is always willing to help out where she can," said award presenter Diane Bishop.

LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE

Liushien Goon was honoured for her volunteer work as ESL conversation tutor with the Learning and Community Enrichment Program (LACE) since 2007.

In collaboration with public libraries, LACE offers free ESL conversation practice circles for immigrants and refugees who want to practise and improve their English-speaking skills.

"Liushien has contributed over 750 hours helping newcomers improve their English skills and knowledge resources," noted award presenter Uliana Roskina.

"Liushien's warm and genuine approach puts newcomers at ease as they overcome the challenges of settling in a new country."