Two years after Burgeo Academy Staff submitted her name for consideration, Donna Warren has received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. The medal recognizes exceptional volunteers across Canada who have made significant, unpaid and sustained contributions to their community.
At first Warren admits she thought the email advising her of the nomination and win was a scam, but a quick Google search of Julie Payette, the former astronaut and current Governor General of Canada, soon allayed that fear.
“I said, ‘Well, this must be real,’” recalls Warren, who picked up the phone and eventually spoke directly with Payette who told her that she had been nominated two years earlier. “She said, ‘I cannot tell you where this came from, but if that person wants to come forward and tell you they can.’”
Given Burgeo’s close-knit community, it didn’t take long before Warren discovered who had nominated her.
“The principal’s wife – she was the one who nominated me – Ruby Penney,” Warren said.
Warren declined a trip to St. John’s to receive the award – she says she isn’t one for any fuss. Instead it was awarded to her during the school’s annual Award Night. Burgeo – La Poile MHA and Justice Minister Andrew Parsons made the presentation.
Warren has a long history of volunteering, particularly with children.
That legacy began when she first joined the tourism committee and the museum committee in 1990. Since then she has also volunteered for Story Hour, served as a library board member, a Sunday School teacher and confirmation leader, and still serves as a volunteer for the school Snack Program, Breakfast Program and Apple Day.
Warren has also volunteered with Girl Guides and minor hockey, and is currently a member of the Messieurs Bridge Committee, which is fundraising to restore the historic bridge that was swept away by a tidal surge last winter.
Girl Guides folded in 2017, a result of children getting older and moving into different groups and interests, with too few younger children to replace them.
“That was very, very sad when Girl Guides went. I absolutely loved it,” says Warren. “Times have changed. Nothing you can do about it.”
Burgeo’s demographics, trending towards an older population without much influx of youth, are nothing new to coastal communities. Warren estimates a little over 80 students are in the area now.
“The enrollment has dwindled to hardly anything. There’s no kids here now,” says Warren. “We’ve only got a half a dozen (to) a dozen left in hockey.”
Despite that, Warren shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Only last year she joined the ladies’ volunteer group, the Burnettes, which assists with fundraising for the fire department’s new truck.
“No, no,” laughs Warren at the suggestion she has earned some rest. “I try to get outdoors more. As you get older you need exercise.”