Port Alberni’s Sally Anderson has won the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award for her dedicated involvement with the Breakfast Club of Canada.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston presented her with the award last week in Vancouver.
The Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award, created in 1995, recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.
Anderson is a seasoned volunteer in Port Alberni and has been involved with many notable charities, churches and community events since she moved to the valley in 1974 from California. She is the organizer and director of the Alberni Valley NeighbourLink Society that runs the Read and Feed program, a breakfast service run by close to 150 volunteers at four elementary schools in the Valley, providing students with a nutritious breakfast and literary aid.
Anderson was watching her grandson play hockey a few weeks ago at the Multiplex when she first heard she was a recipient for the award.
“I got an e-mail, I looked at it, and thought it was spam so I closed it back up,” Anderson said. “I had no clue I was nominated.”
After some additional research and a phone call from the Governor General’s secretary, Anderson was assured the award was in fact legitimate.
Initially, Anderson was skeptical to travel to Vancouver, where the ceremony was held at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, because of the long distance she’d have to trek from the Island. She said Robin Ryan, provincial coordinator of the Breakfast Club of Canada, who nominated Anderson, convinced her to go to the ceremony to spread the word and advertise about the breakfast club.
“I was in awe at the many other volunteers that went across the stage, who put in many years caring for their communities,” Anderson said.
Helping people is in Anderson’s family tree. Her mom and dad actively volunteered in Ontario, where she grew up, and taught her and her siblings to help others and “pay it forward.”
“Wherever you are put in this life that’s your corner. You’ve got to shine and do the best you can with what you have and say thank you,” Anderson said.
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Anderson and a group of board members at her church formed the NeighbourLink Society 11 years ago because they wanted to get together to do something in Port Alberni as a group. Today the Read and Feed program serves more than 300 students daily, ensuring they get a healthy breakfast to start their day.
She says she is not the only one deserving of this award.
“There are not enough pieces of this certificate to cut apart and share with the hundreds of volunteers and supporters of the Read and Feed program, who stand by me in this endeavour to care for Port Alberni’s elementary school children,” she said.
Anderson is always looking for more volunteers to help with various programs and services in the community and said that having some “young blood” around to help would be beneficial as many of the volunteers are seniors.
Aside from her volunteerism, Anderson is widely recognized as the Valley’s “flag lady,” a role she said many look forward to. From June to September each year, Anderson shuffles her schedule to assure she’s ready to wave her various flags, dressed in colourful costumes, for McLean Mill steam train passengers, when the locomotive travels past her house.
Anderson recognizes the many other volunteers that work together with the NeighbourLink Society and wants to share her award with them all.
“I get blessed more than anybody else could even imagine,” she said.