Six northern British Columbia residents were recognized as Unsung Heroes of Northern B.C. Saturday night.
Picked from 26 nominees, the six winners were feted at a gala hosted by Mayor Lyn Hall at the Coast.
All of the individuals nominated have made a difference in their communities and made northern B.C. proud through their selfless, inspirational and remarkable work making communities better. These are real life heroes. The event was organized by Ravi Saxena to honour these individuals and encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
These six individuals received a certificate of appreciation signed by the judges and a Northern Lights trophy that recognized their humble and selfless work.
Nine judges reviewed submissions and had the difficult task of selecting six award recipients from the 26 nominees. The judges: Bobby Deepak, Prince George Councillor Terri McConnachie, Charles Scott, Ken Solonas, Prince George Councillor Garth Frizzell, Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson, Lisa Redpath, Scott McWalter, and Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen.
The six winners were Earnest Harding from Smithers, Dr. Moustafa Mohamed from Prince George, Guru Nanak’s Free Food Langar in Prince George, Laurie Hooker from Prince George, Jason Gillis from Prince George, and Chris Mushumanski from Vanderhoof.
The following are the submissions from the nominees for the six Unsung Heroes.
EARNEST HARDING – SMITHERS
When I became aware of this opportunity to recognize an unsung hero and an exceptional individuals that make a difference in this world, I had to take this moment to nominate Earnest (Earnie) Harding.
Throughout my close relationship with Earnie, I frequently have been compelled to reflect and ponder of ways to acknowledge the contributions and his effect on our community, and more so for the individuals with developmental disabilities.
No one, and I mean no one (except for his wife, who comes a very very close second) strikes me as more deserving and qualified than Earnie. I have been closely associated with Earnie for the past nine years. Over this time, I have witnessed a level of untiring efforts to improve the standards and quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities within our community.
He spearheaded initiatives that have held the services providers to lengthen their strides to higher standards of care. Earnie has always risen to the challenge as a chief organizer for fund raising, and through his persistent and determined endeavours, we have realized many wonderful and fulfilling opportunities for community growth.
I cannot describe how much volunteer service that Earnie has provided to our organization and the community. He has served on the Board for HIGH ROAD Services Society since its inception. He is both a volunteer coordinator/administrator and Board Member of Smithers and Area Recycling Society, whose mandate is to provide employment opportunities and revenue to support individuals with disabilities with affordable housing.
They also provide the vital fundraising source for our local Special Olympics. He has served as a volunteer to the Special Olympics Committee for Smithers area. He also was one of the founding members and developers of Innovation Foods Program that provides needed affordable groceries for low income individuals and families.
He was the past volunteer President for the Northwest Community Council for CLBC. He has been an active advocate and Board Member of Dik Tiy Housing Society which is well into the plans to creating affordable housing in the Bulkley Valley. Again, one can’t even estimate the social impact that he has had on our community and especially the community living sector. A conservative approximation of volunteer service would be in excess of 1,300 hours each year; and believe me – that is a conservative estimate. He is a man who deserves the recognition of appreciation and gratitude!
DR MOUSTAFA MOHAMED – PG
Dr. Moustafa Mohamed is a founding Member of the UNBC. He is also a member of the UNBC Donor’s Club.
He got the first U.S. and Canadian patents issued for work done at the UNBC
Dr. Moustafa Mohamed has shown himself to be a man of peace, promoting understanding in the community and helping those in need. As President of the Prince George chapter of the BC Muslim Association, he helps fellow Muslims to build a home in Prince George. He made a great contribution to the interfaith discussions at different levels. This helped in building a better understanding with other groups in our city of Prince George and the surrounding communities. As a member of the Prince George Hospital Spiritual Health Team, he helps people during the difficult times of illness. As President of the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society, he guides this organization in its important work of assisting newcomers to Canada as they establish themselves here in Northern BC.
His work with the Syrian refugees who have settled in Prince George and Smithers includes translation, getting to medical appointments, joining them on emergency calls to the hospital, taking them shopping, assisting with driving lessons, providing spiritual help, and generally supporting them in all aspects as they build a new life here.
GURU NANAKS FREE FOOD LANGAR – REP: RANJIT SINGH RARRU PG
Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar on Victoria Street in Prince George is the epitome of what it means to serve selflessly and the volunteers that make it happen are a true reflection of heroism, they are the spirit of what it means to be real heroes in our communities.
Ranjit Singh Rarru started Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar 2 years ago by using his life savings and converting his rental property on Victoria Street into a kitchen to provide free food to those in need. Since then, Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar has served tens of thousands of people with free food. The service, run all by volunteers, operates 3 days a week at the kitchen and also provides free fruit to elementary schools in Prince George and Quesnel.
Like a true unsung hero, Ranjit was reluctant to accept any recognition for his selfless work, saying that he helps others and expects nothing in return. He has been heard saying that “It is not about myself, but the Almighty. Once the ego disappears, you can feel the bliss all the time. There is no need for recognition.”
We will still say that Ranjit Singh Rarru is an unsung hero of Northern BC. But, in accordance with his wishes, we recognize Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar and all the volunteers that help run this amazing service as unsung heroes of northern BC. It is people like Ranjit and all the volunteers that make a community a community. We all thank you Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar for your service.
It was difficult to get him here tonight, but on behalf of Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar and all volunteers that make it happen, Mr. Ranjit Singh Rarru will accept the recognition only as a representative of the organization.
LAURIE HOOKER – PRINCE GEORGE
Laurie has been very involved in making lives better for the lonely and the needy in several ways. She is an avid volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul’s community lunches, where she has helped for 17 years. Currently she coordinates volunteers and meals at large community events, where as many as 800 people attend.
She also helps others to reach out. She coordinates efforts by the Catholic schools and the Catholic Women’s League to guide students in giving back to the community through lunches for the less fortunate, and collecting money for baby needs for the less fortunate.
A life-long member of the Guides, she has spent 19 years coordinating the cookie programs and other related events that promoted Guides in the community. Laurie has worked heavily on the camps that occur every three years, which involve between 2,500 and 3,000 children.
Through PG Community for Kids, Laurie helps to raise money for BC Children’s’ Hospital to support the children from the North that go to BC Children’s Hospital for care.
Finally, she helps students in the K-12 system to find a home to stay in while they study here. She has been a “home stay mom” for 21 years for exchange students, taking in a student from a foreign country for a year in the K-12 system, and is the District Coordinator to assist this effort across Prince George.
JASON GILLIS – PRINCE GEORGE
Constable Jason Gillis has always had a heart to serve his community. Ever since his early teens, Jason’s dream was to be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in order to give back to the community that raised him. What makes Constable Gillis deserving being named an Unsung Hero is his Heart. He believes in trying to make the community, organizations and individuals around him a little bit better every day.
Being an RCMP member has opened doors for Jason to serve his community in numerous ways. An injury on the job gave Jason time to reflect on the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on First Responders. Since then, it has become a passion of his to help his fellow first responders. Six years ago, Jason started working with inmates with traditional First Nations healing practices. He volunteered his time to work with an organization that uses a sweat lodge as a tool for healing those in custody. This is when he realized that he could bring his Traditional First Nations ways to help First Responders.
Three tears ago, Jason started his own Sweat Lodge in his back yard. Its purpose was to bring healing to those he worked closely with who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Constable Gillis volunteered his time, resources and property to make it happen. He built this Sweat Lodge so that First Responders would have a different avenue to seek healing when needed. For the past three years, RCMP members, Paramedics, Fire Fighters and any other in the service industry that needed help have been helped by Constable Gillis’ Sweat Lodge.
For all of those who have been helped by Jason and his volunteer work with the Sweat Lodge know that he is deserving of being an Unsung Hero. For having a heart of service, he can now be recognized for that entire he has done for those who he serves with.
CHRIS MUSHUMANSKI – VANDERHOOF
Chris is an active volunteer in the Vanderhoof community.
He is president of the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue and has been active in SAR at a provincial level. Chris is the kind of volunteer who is always passionate about his work. He is positive and heartfelt, with no complaints.
His intuition and passion has been a huge asset to the Vanderhoof community and to Search and Rescue on a larger level. Chris has been a big recruiter for SAR, bringing 33 volunteers into the organization.
He was the driving force behind NVSAR acquiring a home building for their organization. Because of these advances, Chris and his crew are a key cog in searches all over British Columbia and the Yukon. SAR in Vanderhoof has just celebrated their 25th anniversary; they have become an organization built strong under his leadership, as he has been active with them for nearly 20 years.
Chris takes the same passion and work ethic that is such an asset in his role with SAR into many other areas of life. He is a secondary academic advisor with EBUS academy, a online public school that serves all of BC. He works passionately with students to help them reach their educational goals.
One of the great things about Chris is his ability to pull people in. He and his wife Julie are hosts that reach out to those who are new in the community, and bring them into lively and warm friendships.
Despite the fact that Chris is constantly giving to others and doing all that he can, he is always the first one to praise the efforts and work of others. Like all unsung heroes, he would be the last to claim the title. He would likely be the one who ducks out of such a claim to go do the work that needs to be done. If there is ever a person in need, whether it is in an official search, or just a friend who needs a helping hand, Chris is there.