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Spreading kindness in dark times: Dr. Robert Strang Community Hero Award Winners Part 1

From left to right: Susan Wright, Matt Spurway, Georgia Skinner (photo by Kaitlin Miles), Lawrence Shebib (photo by Len Forsyth) and Rebeccah Raphael.

Even during a global pandemic, Nova Scotians are working hard to support one another. Twenty Nova Scotians who have inspired others, raised spirits or helped people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic have been chosen to receive the Dr. Robert Strang Community Hero Award.

The award is about recognizing some of our province’s unsung heroes who have put others first and gone the extra mile to serve their communities during this difficult time. A committee chose the 20 winners from 179 outstanding applications – scroll to the bottom to learn more about the award.

Read on to learn about five of the award winners. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more winner profiles on the blog. (Read the other blogs: blog two, blog three, blog four)

Susan Wright, Ellershouse
Susan Wright is being honoured for being a champion of her rural West Hants community. During the pandemic, she fundraised to save her local community hall and started a team to prepare and deliver 100 take-out dinners each month to seniors, supporting those isolated and in need. Her fundraising also helped a local food bank that serves over 300 local families. Currently, Wright is helping seniors book and travel to their vaccination appointments.

Matt Spurway, Dartmouth
Matt Spurway is being honoured for his dedication helping marginalized Nova Scotians access home internet through the GEO (Get Everyone Online) Project. Through his efforts, he has helped source devices and internet services at no or low cost, and provided digital literacy training, ensuring vulnerable people and their families were not excluded from online education, communication and connection with others.

Georgia Skinner, Halifax
Georgia Skinner is being honoured for putting herself at risk by serving numerous roles during the pandemic. From April to June 2020, Skinner put her paramedic training on hold to join the front lines at Northwood, serving as a long-term care aide and personal support worker for ill residents during the height of the outbreak. After completing her paramedic practicum, she once again joined the COVID-19 response by working at a vaccination clinic in Halifax.

Lawrence Shebib, North Sydney
Lawrence Shebib is being recognized for his leadership with the North Sydney Food Bank. During the pandemic, he adjusted how the food bank operates, ensuring volunteers could work and people could safely access essential supplies during uncertain times. Under Shebib’s guidance, the food bank has moved to a new location where it has become a community hub, assisting clients in new areas such as housing and employment.

Rebeccah Raphael, Halifax
Rebeccah Raphael is being honoured for her work founding The Halifax Helpers, a free online virtual tutoring platform that provides English second language training and subject-specific support for children from kindergarten to Grade 12. Raphael started the program with 10 volunteer tutors, but it has grown to over 50 across Canada, helping ensure that students can get the educational support they need during this difficult time.

About the award
In December 2020, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, donated some of the zany neckties he had worn to help lighten the mood during the year’s COVID-19 media briefings to decorate a Christmas tree for the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s annual Festival of Trees fundraiser. Doctors Nova Scotia was the successful bidder for that Christmas tree.

The Dr. Robert Strang Community Hero Award was created so the neckties could continue to uplift and inspire Nova Scotians, in honour of Dr. Strang and the team at Nova Scotia Public Health. Doctors Nova Scotia partnered with Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health to offer this award. A committee with representatives from each organization reviewed 179 nominations and selected 20 winners.

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