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93-year-old Edmontonian receives Canada’s highest honour for outstanding volunteer efforts

At 93, Edmonton resident Pearl Dorey is a 2020 recipient of the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers. Photo: Supplied by Touchmark at Wedgewood

You couldn't find a more surprised resident of Touchmark at Wedgewood--an independent living and long-term care complex in west Edmonton--than 93 year-old Pearl Dorey when she got a phone call from the Governor General's office in late June. The caller assured Dorey she'd won the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers: the nation's highest honour recognizing exceptional volunteer achievements in wide range of fields, but Dorey said she thought someone was pulling her leg.

"It's exciting and a bit embarassing--I had no idea this even existed," said Dorey, whose family and friends helped Touchmark's interim life enrichment director Pat Davidson nominate her for the prestigious award. Key characteristics of those who win the national medal include passion, dedication and commitment to community, traits Davidson said describe the senior very well.

"For 11 years, Dorey has volunteered eight hours a day, five days a week. The world is truly lucky to have people like Dorey in it," said Davidson. "We recognize her and the other 2020 Sovereign's Medal for Volunteer award recipients for their tremendous efforts here at home and across the country."

Dorey isn't a stranger to volunteering. While raising her children Norman, Glynis and Cydna, the stay-at-hom mom would canvas for various charities--MS, Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation--so it was only natural her efforts continued when she and husband Gib retired to Vancouver Island. While Dorey volunteered at a hospital auxiliary gift shop there, Gib's need for open-heart surgery meant an eventual move back to Edmonton and the retirement community of Touchmark at Wedgewood.

"Near the end, when Gib needed long-term care, it was a blessing that I was next door, and could walk over. I got to know the staff and residents of his wing because I was with Gib full-time," said Dorey, who started caring for others at Touchmark's Health Services Neighbourhood (HSN) within just a couple of weeks of Gib's passing. The couple had been married 63 years. "I was lost after my husband died, and after being his caregiver 24/7 for 12 years, having something else to do really helped me adjust to Gib’s passing. All of my years caring for Gib rolled into my work at the HSN.”

“I have so much empathy for the residents in HSN who may not have anyone to spend time with," added Dorey. "Gib was a vibrant person until he needed more help. Now I want to help others."

Petite in stature and describing herself as 'absolutely healthy', Dorey is able to wheel residents around who are twice her size. She said it's great exercise for her, and she enjoys spending time with residents going to restaurants for lunch, to the zoo, IMAX theatre, for picnics, shopping or to see Christmas lights--at least before COVID-19 put activities on hold. "We have a lot of laughs on our visits, and I just love to see the residents smile. It truly makes my day!”

"We've all been in lockdown since mid-March, and I miss everyone. I'm anxious to be back, seeing staff and friends, and helping people get to their hair appointments or out for a walk in the community," said Dorey. “If you make the effort and volunteer, you do get paid fully; not monetarily but in the way that you see just how beautiful the world is and how many good people are in it."

"People here are like family to me. I will continue volunteering as long as they'll have me," she said.

A formal presentation of the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers will be scheduled at a later date.