Recognizing that our communities are made stronger by the hard work and dedication of volunteers, we created the Direct Energy Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award in 2004 to acknowledge Albertans who have made a remarkable contribution in their community through volunteer work. There are so many individuals and organizations throughout the province who have made significant donations of time and resources to help others and make the world a better place.
Each year, we work with the Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association to collect nominations and present this award. With every nomination that we review, we are truly moved by the inspiring stories of so many compassionate and committed Albertans. The Direct Energy Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award winner receives a $5,000 donation to the organization or cause of their choice, along with this commemorative award.
This year, we are thrilled to present the 2023 Direct Energy Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award to Janet Townsend of Canmore, Alberta, for her outstanding contribution to numerous non-profit and charitable organizations. Her chosen charity organization, Hearts & Hands Foundation, will receive the $5,000 donation.
Over the last 20 years, Jan has been an active volunteer with Ralph Connor United Church, Rotary Club of Canmore and the Lions Club of Canmore.
Having witnessed poverty, corruption and hardship faced by the Indigenous Mayan people, Jan founded the Hearts & Hands Foundation, a registered Canadian charity that recruits and brings groups of volunteers to Guatemala to work on special projects that serve the people there. Hearts & Hands has built 60 elementary classrooms, a junior high, and a senior high school. They have helped 926 high school and university students through its scholarship program, “Teach the Teacher.” Hearts & Hands also provides two literacy programs and free medical, dental, and eye clinics for families in need.
Jan’s vision for Hearts & Hands has been to produce new leaders in Guatemala, promote self-reliance in communities, and develop leadership skills in women and girls. Thank you, Jan, for helping thousands of people over the years and for leading by example and encouraging others to join this amazing cause.
These remaining seven finalists will also receive $500 towards the charities they support:
Debbie McCoy – Westlock Community Foundation
Grace Alarcon-Isla – Filipino Canadian Saranay Association of Alberta
Simisola Obasan – Airdrie Black Community
Sheila Clark – Strathmore Meals on Wheels
Marg Pollon – Bridges of Love Ministry Society
Linda Walton-Pluim – Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS)
Jill Burrows – FP Walshe Fundraising Foundation Outdoor Development