Sheila Thompson

Sheila Thompson

July 7, 2014

Volunteers with Catholic Social Services who help the agency's clients by performing humble tasks with dedication and perseverance were honoured June 26.

There was a woman who helps immigrants adjust to life in Canada, another who prepares meals for those suffering from HIV/AIDS, a man who helps immigrant refugee youth with their homework and a woman who has befriended an emotionally and behaviourally disturbed child.

Those four out of the 2,187 people who volunteered their time with CSS in 2013 received outstanding achievement awards at the annual CSS meeting at the Hotel MacDonald from Michelle Christie, vice-president of disability service.

As well, Oblate Father Brian Jayawardhana was honoured with the Msgr. Bill Irwin Award of Excellence. (See earlier story, WCR May 12).

Marlene Freinbichler

Marlene Freinbichler

However, due to serious illness, the beloved priest could not attend. Diagnosed with cancer three years ago, Jayawardhana is currently in palliative care. Oblate Father Mark Blom accepted the award on his behalf.


Marlene Freinbichler, a settlement mentor volunteer with the cultural links program, was honoured because of her outstanding work with new immigrants and refugees from Thailand, Nepal, Somalia, South Korea and Colombia.

"Marlene's genuine loving gift lies in her dedication to her newcomer friends," Christie said. "Marlene always goes the extra mile for them.

"Whether the newcomer needs help learning the transit system, understanding banking, looking for employment, seeking community resources, practice speaking English or help with homework, Marlene journeys with them."


Sheila Thompson, a meal preparation volunteer at Kairos House since March 2013, has so far contributed more than 315 hours to this ministry. Kairos House is a home for men and women living with HIV/AIDS, who require care and support.

Teresa Gibeau

Teresa Gibeau

"During and after her meal preparation duties, Sheila spends time visiting the residents and has developed deeply supportive and accepting relationships with them," noted Christie.

"Sheila is an innovative and talented cook. She is able to tempt the residents to eat healthy, nutritious food even when they have poor appetites due to their illness."

For 15 months, Gary Marcellus has been a volunteer mentor with the cultural links youth program, which hosts homework clubs to provide academic, social and enculturation supports for immigrant and refugee youth ages eight to 18.

A retired teacher, Marcellus' knowledge and experience provides quality academic supports, especially in math and science.

"When you combine his teaching skills along with his friendly, approachable, and patient demeanour, Gary has the kids lined up and vying for his attention and assistance," said Christie.


"Gary is a positive role model to the youth and he is also a very humble person. When staff asks him, 'What can we do to show you how much we value your contribution?' Gary always replies, 'The smiles on the student's faces, and seeing their success is all I need for appreciation.'"

Fr. Brian Jayawardhana

Fr. Brian Jayawardhana

Teresa Gibeau, a youth mentor with children's group care for the last three years, volunteers in a group home for children that have emotional and behavioural challenges.

She is in a one-to-one match with a 10-year-old girl who was removed from her family and placed under CSS care.

"Teresa's journey with this young girl has been challenging at times, but she has persevered because of the strong bond she has developed with this child," Christie noted.

"Teresa spends time swimming, tobogganing and bike riding, going to movies and shopping with her young friend." Gibeau has also involved her match friend in her own family by taking her to her son's hockey games, to Mass and to visit her father in a seniors' home.


Gibeau's long-term and caring commitment to her match friend has brought a source of stability and belonging to her life, said Christie.

Gary Marcellus

Gary Marcellus

Jayawardhana, 76, has served with the agency since arriving in Canada from his native Sri Lanka in 1976.

Father Mike McCaffery, who presented the award to Blom, said Jayawardhana was chosen for the Msgr. Irwin Award because of his academic contributions to the study of people with developmental disabilities and for his exceptional service to CSS and the community as a whole.

The award is named after the founder of CSS who established the agency in 1961.

Until recently, Jayawardhana was the agency's chaplain. Over the years he served in a number of roles with CSS, including psychologist and family therapist, volunteer coordinator, religious education coordinator and coordinator of a residence for intellectually challenged adults.

Jayawardhana is "a wise and compassionate person who truly embodies humble and selfless service to others," said McCaffery.