Dedicated Soup Kitchen Chef Honoured as Top Citizen

Irma "Granny" Gray of Whitecourt selected from province-wide nominations

Calgary, AB - Ms. Irma "Granny" Gray of Whitecourt, Alberta is being honoured with the 2011 Volunteer Citizen of the Year Award. Her dedication to a long list of community organizations includes founding a local soup kitchen and operating as its head chef for over four years.

Now in its seventh year, the award is sponsored jointly by Direct Energy and the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA). Nominations for the award were solicited from more than 100 Alberta communities. "Ms. Gray's numerous accolades and letters of support from members of the Whitecourt community made her a clear frontrunner for the Award," says Tanis Kozak, Direct Energy's Vice-President and General Manager, Canada. "Her many years of unwavering dedication to her community are a true inspiration."

Granny Gray dedicates her time to a long list of community organizations in Whitecourt including, the Youth Justice Committee, Lorne's Blanket, Girl Guides of Canada, her local church, the Whitecourt Legion, various seniors groups, the Boys and Girls Club, the local homeless shelter, the Lac St. Anne or affordable housing foundation, and as one of the founding members and head cook of Tennille's Hope Kommunity Kitchen.

When Granny Gray heard the news that the possibility of a soup kitchen was opening, she said, "if a soup kitchen opens, as long as I'm alive, you will never have to worry about cooking the soup." More than four years later, Granny still plans the meals, does the shopping, fundraises to purchase supplies and equipment and personally cooks and serves the food to the many people who count on the meals each week.

Ms. Gray, the mother of seven children, eighteen grandchildren and ten great grandchildren said, "I feel like an old car battery," when she heard she'd been selected as the 2011 winner. "When I volunteer, I am charged. It keeps me young and I look forward to it; it's my whole life."

Close friend and fellow volunteer Bob Walker wrote in his nomination, "Some people were put on this earth to look after people and make the world a better place, Irma is one of those."

Ms. Gray received a $1,000 cash award from Direct Energy as well as a plaque signifying her achievement. In addition, Direct Energy made a donation of $5,000 to Tennille's Hope Kommunity Kitchen, a charity chosen by Ms. Gray, in her name.

"What's great about this award is that we get to recognize people like Irma for their selfless contributions and also give financial support to a cause that's important to their community," says AWNA President, Ossie Sheddy.

Four finalists were also selected for outstanding volunteer efforts in their communities and will each receive $1,000 toward their charitable organization of choice:

  • Sherrie Mitchell of Ponoka has volunteered with a number of community organizations including the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury, the Crisis Centre of Red Deer, the Ponoka Rising Sun Clubhouse Society, a facility that assists clients who suffer from mental illness, and a community event that Sherrie founded herself, the Ponoka Community Christmas Dinner. 1995 was the first year for Community Christmas when Sherrie identified a need for individuals who may not have anywhere to go, or may not have the means to celebrate. Sherrie collected donations from local businesses and citizens, advertised and promoted the event, and found volunteers to assist with preparation and serving. 2010 was the 15th anniversary of the dinner that would not have continued without Sherrie's leadership and enthusiasm.
  • Jessica Price of Banff is a student who has been volunteering for as long as she can remember. She is the youngest Board member with The Banff Community Foundation and sits on the Grants Advisory Committee to ensure the many voices of non-profit organizations are heard and represented. Jessica also volunteers with a long list of organizations in Banff and is taking her love of helping others to her career working in the field of social services.
  • Yvonne Doroshenko of Athabasca was the driving force behind bringing the licensed practical nurse course to her community so that students didn't have to travel long distances away from their families to participate. In 1990, at the age of 40, she graduated with 13 others in the first class. She is also a founding member of Quilting for Humanity, which provides quilts to those in need and victims of trauma. Yvonne raises funds for the materials, makes the quilts and helps distribute them. This year, the organization expects to make close to 500 quilts.
  • Jennifer Peddlesden of Chestermere has served on numerous community Boards and organizations and helped to start the Chestermere Community Playschool. She was a founding member of the Chestermere Rockyview South East Family School Liaison, and fundraised to bring a social worker to serve five isolated local schools. Jennifer also helped to revitalize a dwindling Fair for the Chestermere Ag Society, became the Coordinator of the Red Ribbon Competition and partnered with Active Community Enhancement (ACE) to develop a "bake-it-don't-fake-it" competition to encourage additional entries. Closest to Jennifer's heart is La Leche League Canada (LLLC), a volunteer organization to provide new mothers information, support and education about breastfeeding.

About Direct Energy

Direct Energy is one of North America's largest energy and energy-related services providers with over 6 million residential and commercial customer relationships. Direct Energy provides customers with choice and support in managing their energy costs through a portfolio of innovative products and services. A subsidiary of Centrica plc (LSE: CNA), one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, Direct Energy operates in 46 states plus DC and 10 provinces in Canada. To learn more about Direct Energy, please visit

About Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association

Alberta's community newspapers reflect the images, thoughts and everyday happenings of the communities they serve. While these communities may vary in size; from tiny, isolated locations to bustling suburban centres, they share one important feature - a strong weekly newspaper. Today there are 118 member newspapers throughout Alberta and the Northwest Territories. They boast a combined circulation of 900,460. The smallest newspaper circulates 443 copies each week; the largest - 127,593. We are part of a Canada-wide network of community newspapers through the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA). Together with six other provincial associations, we represent nearly 650 newspapers.


Lynzey MacRae Maurizia Hinse

Public Relations Professional Development and

Direct Energy Communication, AWNA

403.776.2316 780.434.8746 x225

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