signSecond annual Public Heroes Awards held in Calgary

The second annual Calgary Public Heroes Awards were presented before a full house at the Calgary Golf and Country Club on May 22.

The awards, put on by the non-profit organization Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI), are aimed to celebrate public service officers involved within the community who are dedicated to multiculturalism.

 Malik Muradov, executive director of IDI, said the awards are important in recognizing "public officers that have dedicated involvement to the community.

"Most often these officers are unrecognized, they are greatly doing their job and they are proud of what they are doing, but we think that we can be more appreciative of their services, their dedication and altruism, and their efforts to protect us and make this life safer for us."

Nominees and four winners were chosen from each of the four public service sectors: The Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Services, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and Public Safety Communications (PSC).guestsGuests arrive at the Calgary Golf & Country Club for the second annual Public Heroes Awards.

Photo by Evan Manconi

Adam Loria, an EMS spokesman and part of the selection committee for the awards, said they were looking for "three main factors, being altruism, multiculturalism and dedication to multiculturalism.

"The main thing we look for is just people that are involved with the community, take time out of their personal lives mainly to learn about different types of traditions, different cultures out there, different heritages."

Heather McEachern, from PSC, was one of the four winners, nominated for Snack Shack, a project she started eight years ago. McEachern provides snacks for staff members on the PSC, and all of the profits are donated to charities of the employees' choice. The profits have totalled to nearly $5,000 per year.

McEachern is also heavily involved with the Calgary Police Service Law Enforcement English Proficiency, or LEEP program, helping foreign officers learn and practice their English.

She said winning the award was for all the people she has helped over the years.

"My students mostly inspire me, to go through our program and to try and go through the recruiting process at the Calgary Police Service is enormously difficult," said McEachern.

"You have to have enough English to be able to speak professionally to a judge and then to talk to the homeless guy on your beat so it's not like you can just learn a specific set of vocabulary and move on, you have to know everything.

"So, when a student comes to us and wants to be a police officer, they're taking on a huge challenge.

"They work their butts off to do it so this is really for them and how hard they've worked."

winnersWinning officers, from left to right: Scott Cowan of the Calgary Fire Department, Mary Heyde from EMS, Heather McEachern from PSC and Steve Ross of the Calgary Police Service.

Photo by Zoe Choy
The other winners included Steve Ross of the Calgary Police Service for his work mentoring underprivileged youth, Scott Cowan of the Calgary Fire Department heavily involved in providing funding for The Seed of Hope Community Development in South Africa, and Mary Heyde from EMS who works to improve the quality of life of those living on the Eden Valley Reserve.

Muradov said the IDI is in the works of planning the next Public Heroes Awards, and he hopes to open the event to the public instead of being an invitation-only affair.

"We are looking forward to get... nominations from the public who had a good relationship or good experience with public service officers."

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