PARRY SOUND – There were few dry eyes in the room when the 2013 Order of Parry Sound was presented to Harvest Share executive director Gail MacDonald Sunday afternoon.
Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey, left, presents Harvest Share executive director Gail MacDonald with the Order of Parry Sound for her work within the community.
Stephannie Johnson/North Star
“This award goes to a very dedicated, and hardworking lady,” said McGarvey during the annual Mayor’s New Year Levee. “Her efforts and determination have meant that people have had food where they might not have had any. Full bellies allow children to focus better in school and she has created a fellowship for a group to work in supporting those who have not.
Prior to receiving the award inside the council chambers, McGarvey read just a handful of the nominations for MacDonald.
“I’ve volunteered off and on in my need to give back for the help I was given (at Harvest Share),” wrote long-time friend Rose Mark. “The last two years I’ve started working closely with Gail in the office and started to see first hand the ongoing job she does. When Gail is not on the phone finding ways to get food for the bank, or money for food to buy, she’s in the food bank handing out hugs and I’ve never seen so many people just wanting to speak to her.”
McGarvey credited MacDonald with helping programs such as Harvest Share, Great Beginnings and Helping Addicts Restore Themselves (HART) get up off the ground.
It was one of MacDonald’s three children, Amy Lebreton’s nomination, that had many in the room, including McGarvey emotional.
“There is an Arabian proverb, ‘If have much, if you have little, give of your heart.’ She did not have much when she moved to the Parry Sound area, enough clothes to cover her back and the backs of her then two children and a dream to provide a better life for them all,” wrote Lebreton. “From this moment, my mom worked hard, harder than any one person I’ve ever witnessed, not only for her family, but evolving into a great deal of community work which cannot be measured.
“Whether my mom wins this award or not, she will have already won. She has strengthened the community of Parry Sound which you can see through the lives of so many people and the help she has given them. Buddha once said, ‘Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the light of the candle will not be shortened.’ Happiness never decreases by being shared. My mom is a never-ending candle, shining light on everyone she comes in contact with.”
MacDonald said she was humbled and surprised by the honour.
“Listening to those letters, the one from my daughter – they all touched my heart, but that one really touched my heart,” said MacDonald. “Thank you. I’m very humbled by this. For me, it’s my job. If you can do a job that you love, it’s not like a job anymore. I really do love Harvest Share and all the programs I’ve been involved with in this community. To be acknowledged in this is very humbling. Growing up by mom said, ‘Gail, if you want to keep what you have, you have to give it away. And you give it away in whatever way you can.’ A lot of families that I work with, a simple hug means the world and I love hugs so it’s not that big of a deal in my world. I have been blessed, I think, more than others by living in Parry Sound in doing the work that I’ve done. Thank you so much, I’m really at a loss for words, but I really am touched by this.”