Giving back
From left, Jocelynn St. Pierre, wife of J.P. St. Pierre, Marie-Claire Ivanski, and Gary Barton, Warden of UCPR. St. Pierre and Barton presented Ivanski with the J.P. St. Pierre Award at the Warden’s Banquet on Dec. 2.     Courtesy photo

Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
Villager Staff
EMBRUN – Marie-Claire Ivanski has been a resident of Embrun since 1974. Throughout those years, she has volunteered for small organizations to help with her children’s hockey and Girl Guides. It was 12 years ago that her true volunteer work began.

Marie-Claire Ivanski was presented with a Canada’s Volunteer Award for Community Leadership by Minister Jean-Yves Duclos at a ceremony held at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on Dec. 5. Courtesy photo

After a close friend was diagnosed and died of breast cancer, Ivanski felt a spark light inside her. It began with fundraising for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Ivanski was part of a corporate team for five years and then after started her own team, called Friends for Life. “With the combined effort of these two teams, I’ve raised over $600,000 for the Canadian Breast Cancer foundation,” said Ivanski.

Alongside her work for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ivanski’s second biggest project is her work with Victoria’s Quilts. An organization of quilters, about 50 strong, who make and deliver quilts to cancer patients in Russell, Embrun and surrounding areas. “This made me feel like I was giving more to the cancer community at large. I’m the distributor, and deliver to this area/district,” said Ivanski, who stores the quilts in her home and coordinates recipients. “A lot of times I get to meet the cancer patients and go that extra mile whether they need a ride to an appointment or whatever they need that day.”

Ivanski doesn’t limit herself to these two projects, however. “We’ve done fundraising for the Sports Dome in Embrun, and any big causes, I like to get involved. Probably all together over the 12 years of fundraising I’ll probably hit the million dollar mark this year,” she explained.

Ivanski doesn’t do her volunteering or fundraising for recognition. If anything, her biggest message and goal is to let people know that they are not alone. This exemplary empathy has not gone unnoticed.

In the past few weeks, Ivanski has been the recipient of two prestigious volunteer awards. The first was the J.P. St. Pierre Award, given to her during the United Counties Warden’s Banquet on Dec. 2, and the second was the Canada Volunteer Award for Community Leader on Dec. 5. “I was just really in shock and both happened at once. [Volunteering is done without] expectations and then all of a sudden everyone is saying thank you in a big way, in a very humbling way,” said Ivanski.

For the J.P. St. Pierre Award, Ivanski was invited to the banquet by a friend and sister of the award namesake. When she said she could not attend due to a prior engagement, she was persuaded to reconsider. “I was told I would probably want to reconsider because I had been nominated for the award and that I would be the recipient,” explained Ivanski. “It was still an amazing shock. I had thought [J.P. St. Pierre] to be a very kind, giving man who shared and brought communities together by doing so much for the municipality. To be mentioned alongside him was quite the honour to be thought of in that way. Especially since I knew him and to have that honour in his name it was more than words can describe.”

For the Canada Volunteer Award, Ivanski knew about the nomination almost a year in advance. “In January, my friend Michelle nominated me for this Canada Volunteer Award. I heard in July that I was moving on to the next step and then one day the phone rang and they told me I was to be the recipient. Wow, that just knocked me off my feet,” she said.

The CVA’s have multiple divisions and five recipients in each division. Ivanski was one of those five for her division of Community Leadership. The award ceremony which was held at the Chateau Laurier, also featured a volunteer forum on the second day where Ivanski listened to speakers discuss the future of volunteering and best practices to get youth involved. She and the other winners were presented with a pin and certificate from Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

It is no wonder than Ivanski was the recipient of such high honours, her volunteering career is one with few rivals. Even when faced with these awards, Ivanski still aims to bring awareness to her causes. “It brings me such joy and comfort knowing [the people we help] don’t need to feel alone. That is what I want my message to be. I think we are all meant to meet when we need each other,” said Ivanski.

The flame which was ignited 12 years ago can be seen and heard through her passion and determination to help and there are no signs of that flame dying out anytime soon.