O'Leary woman still volunteering at 94

Empress McDowell among recipients of Governor General’s award

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 17, 2014

Gov.-Gen. David Johnston gives Empress McDowell a hand getting to the stage to receive the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award during a ceremony held in Charlottetown Monday. 

Guardian photo by Jim Day

Empress McDowell has tallied plenty of recognition for 70-plus years of volunteer work.

All of the awards meant a good deal to her. Her most recent, though, takes top honour.

After all, how often does a 94-year-old woman from O’Leary get led to the stage on the arm of the Governor General of Canada?

“Oh, it’s pretty good,’’ says McDowell.

Sporting a cast on her right arm resulting from a fall two weeks ago, the tireless volunteer was one of 10 Islanders to receive the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award during a ceremony Monday in Charlottetown.


Gov. Gen. David Johnston did not let McDowell get far from her chair before darting forth to provide a helping hand to the stage.

For more than 70 decades, though, McDowell has been more accustomed to coming to the aid of others.

She is a life member of the Knutsford Women’s Institute and she remains actively involved in her church. 

For the past 16 years, she has driven herself every day to the Margaret Stewart Ellis nursing home where she helps to prepare meals, tidies up, socializes and plays cards with the residents.

However, she made the decision earlier this spring to stop driving. 

She now relies on family and friends to get to her volunteering destinations.

The broken arm has also slowed her down of late, but she has no plans to stop volunteering.

“I always like helping people and they love having me there,’’ she says of her many hours spent at the long-term care facility in O’Leary.

The Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award proudly embraced Monday by McDowell was created in 1995. The award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made significant, sustained, unpaid contributions to their community, in Canada, or abroad.

The governor general also recognized younger volunteers Monday.

Johnston awarded 22 Island youths with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award in recognition of their dedication and personal accomplishments within their communities.

Katelyn Marion Handren, 20, was approved for the award more than two years ago, but like 

others, waited for an award ceremony a bit closer tohome before stepping forward to receive the honour.

“Oh, it’s awesome,’’ says Handren, who was joined by four fellow Bluefield 

High School students in receiving the award at the Rodd Charlottetown Monday.

The latest Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award Achievers are, along with Handren: KariLyn Celeste Blacquiere, Ellen Marie Chapman, Bradley Cooper, Carolyn Hunter Crane, Heather MacKenzie Crane, Kyla Elizabeth DeHann, Morgan Dehmel, Carlie Layne Jay, Élie Kassouf, Jodi Lambie, Kate MacDonald, Grace Marshall, Adrian Scott Monthony, Schurman Peters, Ashley Sara Praught, Kiersten Shea Richards, Emily Eden Ross, Julia Ross, Katherine Mary Sonier and Catherine Jane Williams.

Caring Canadians

Here is a list of Islanders that received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award Monday during a ceremony in Charlottetown:

• Empress McDowell for more than 70 years of volunteer work in her community.

• Nancy Barrett of Mermaid created the Upper Room Angels Program, a soup kitchen and food bank service for Charlottetown.

• Douglas Kelly of Stratford was instrumental in creating the Stratford Heroes project.

• Gail MacLean of Charlottetown has been a stalwart volunteer of the QEH Auxiliary since 1984.

• A. John Robinson of Albany shares his leadership and entrepreneurial acumen with a number of organizations.

• Peter Rukavina of Charlottetown is a board member of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation, the Quality of Island Life Co-operative, and the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust.

• Alan Stewart sits on the boards of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, and the Capital Area Recreation Inc.

• Janice Trowsdale is a dedicated canvasser for local charities as well as a volunteer with her church, the local Tyne Valley Oyster Festival, the community choir, and the Atlantic Missionary Society.

• Wayne Trowsdale of Bideford is an active member of the Ellerslie Lions Club, the Ellerslie-Bideford Community Centre and the Tyne Valley Fire Department.

• Sandra Weeks of Pleasant Valley has been a volunteer leader with 4-H in P.E.I. for more than 25 years., serving in leadership roles at the district provincial and national levels.