Lorraine Finn of Barry’s Bay received the Ontario Senior Achievement Award on Monday, Jan.31 2023 in Toronto from Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, at a recognition ceremony in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite. She was grateful also to receive in-person congratulations from Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP John Yakabuski who attended the ceremony. The Ontario Senior Achievement Awards recognize people who have made outstanding contributions to their communities through voluntary or professional activities after the age of 65. Finn had been nominated for the honour by several local healthcare organizations who appreciated her “second career” during the past 25 years as a community healthcare volunteer, including St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation, St. Francis Memorial Hospital, SFMH Auxiliary, Madawaska Valley Hospice Palliative Care. Finn is one of just sixteen people across the Province of Ontario who have been honoured for their community service this year. MV Council will formally recognize her for the Ontario Senior Achievement Award at the Regular Council Meeting on February 21, 2023. (Shown above: Lorraine Finn, front row at far left, among other Award recipients. Photo submitted)
A lifetime of service
Finn’s volunteerism has been recognized several times – this most recent award was at the provincial level, but previously she has received both federal and municipal recognition for her community work. The late Gwen Woermke nominated her for the Caring Canadian Sovereign’s Award which she received from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, in 2007. Last year, based on a nomination from the St. Francis Valley Healthcare Foundation, the Township of Madawaska Valley named her as the recipient of its July 2022 Above and Beyond Award.
During an interview with The Current a few days after the awards ceremony, Finn revealed there was a solid foundation to her life of community service — something that came “very easy” to her because, she said, “I just love to make people happy.” Her father operated a grocery store in the small community of Coniston near Sudbury and from an early age Finn practised the twin skills of hard work and customer service in a place where giving and helping one another was the norm. That attitude and disposition was carried over into a 35 year career in education as a principal/French teacher (Finn is bilingual) including in the communities of Wilno, Killaloe and Round Lake. The advice to graduates from teachers’ college to become part of the community was something Finn had already learned from the family supermarket business. She understood the importance of local needs; she served on the Railway Station Committee and helped with the first ten Bay Days. As one notable example, when she worked in Wilno, she introduced herself as the daughter of a butcher and offered to cut up chickens for the Wilno Chicken Supper — so for the next ten years, she cut up 500 chickens at the end of every summer!
Finn said when she moved to Barry’s Bay she saw a need in local healthcare and was invited to join the Auxiliary at St. Francis Memorial Hospital. When she retired, the transition from education to a second career as a healthcare volunteer was seamless. “I handed in my keys at school, and picked up the hospital keys.” She ran the SFMH Auxiliary Gift Shop with a stalwart crew of about 40 volunteers.
Fundraising came naturally to her, so getting bingo prizes and finding venues for the games was straightforward. She shared a simple tip for her success in the Gift Shop, the Mammography unit, the bingos, Meals On Wheels: Make an effort to learn people’s names and interests, explaining that one of the sweetest things you can ever do is call someone by their first name.
She explained, “Being part of a group, people were always there to help me and support me…. And all the money goes back to the hospital – that’s why it was easy. Nobody ever said ‘No’ to me…. It was a blessing – and it felt good.”
The Current’s publisher, Roger Paul, encountered Finn during the five years he served on the SFMH Board of Directors. “Lorraine embodies everything required in a volunteer – an infectious passion for the cause, a willingness to work hard, a great sense of humour, and an excellent memory for faces, names, and relationships. I can’t think of someone who deserves this award more than she does.”
Her message for youth
Be sure to get involved in your community by volunteering. Getting to know everyone and making connections pays off. Volunteering can help you decide what career you should choose, and what your likes, dislikes and skills are. Then you can follow through with your education. Volunteering looks good on your resume and can open doors. The 40 hours co-op program for high school students is minimal – there is always a need for volunteers.
Advice from Lorraine Finn for the newly-retired in the Valley
You are greatly needed here! If you want to love the Valley community, you must get involved and contribute. There are so many groups needing help that it’s easy to do as much or as little as you want. You don’t need to be on the executive; you can choose to help with some of the many tasks in the background that keep things running smoothly.
Congratulations to Lorraine Finn on this latest recognition of a lifetime of service in her community!