- Written by ROXANNE BLACKWELL ROXANNE BLACKWELL
- Published: 19 September 2013 19 September 2013
Commendation for Outstanding Citizenship given for 'tremendous community spirit'
Calgary citizens' flood relief efforts were recognized Sept. 17 by Governor General David Johnston, who was in the city to present residents with the Commendation for Outstanding Citizenship.
Johnston thanked the citizens of Calgary for their tremendous community spirit, before presenting the "rare" award, and said that the neighbour-helping-neighbour attitude in the city has been "an inspiration to all of Canada."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi accepted the award on behalf of all Calgary citizens, who Johnston referred to as "people of tenacity, versatility and ingenuity."
Johann Zietsman, EPCOR Centre CEO, also spoke at the noon-hour award ceremony inside Jack Singer Concert Hall where he remembered how, just 12 weeks before, his crews feverishly sandbagged the perimeter of the very building hosting the award presentation.
The crowd of 500 attendees were also entertained by Alberta country-music star Corb Lund, who performed his "flood anthem" Blood, Sweat and Water.
Nenshi's acceptance speech included many stories of volunteers and victims, and he thanked everyone from first responders to garbage men.
He recalled being in the neighbourhood of Rideau Park. A make shift volunteer centre overflowed with food, bottled water, tools and gloves – everything needed for the 200 plus people and volunteers that Nenshi said he could see lining the tiny street which was filled with trash piled taller than the houses.
"The (image) that is going to stick with me ... is that citizen covered in mud and mosquito bites working so hard to save the home of someone they don't even know," Nenshi said.
He recalled how often he heard volunteers say that they had never even been to the neighbourhoods that they were helping in, but that they felt the need to support those hit hardest.
Calgary resident, Marion Krause, was one of the volunteers who responded to the first call for helping hands to McMahon Stadium, where so many people showed up to assist that volunteers were actually turned away.
Krause said that she was inspired to help out after hearing the call on the radio. "You think, if you were in that situation, you would be very appreciative of any help you might receive."
"It was an absolutely tremendous and brilliant day – masses of people, very well organized – hard to believe that a flood had even happened."
Krause believes that the citizens of Calgary are every bit deserving of the Commendation for Outstanding Service.
"I think it's a very innovative idea," she said, "and it can't be (awarded to) just one individual – so many people participated, so I think it's great."
Mayor Nenshi also reminded Calgarians that although the worst is over, there are still challenges ahead. With family holidays approaching in the next few months he warned there will be a strong reminder of sentimental items that have been lost.
Nenshi encouraged citizens to continue helping each other with that same community spirit by having Thanksgiving, hosting a Christmas dinner, and continuing to support each other in the future.