2020 YMCA Peace Medal awarded to organization serving seniors

Community COVID-19 Featured

The YMCA of Pictou County celebrated Peace Week the week of November 14, along with every Y across Canada. One of the week’s highlights is awarding the Peace Medal, which goes to an individual or community group that demonstrates the values expressed by PEACE (Participation, Empathy, Advocacy, Community, and Empowerment.) This year, the medal was awarded to Mary MacLellan, who has been the co-ordinator at Pictou County Council of Seniors/Seniors Outreach for almost 12 years.

“This year, because of COVID, we were looking for a group that took the pandemic in stride, didn’t miss a beat, and continued on with their important community work,” said Tammy Goodwin, the Y’s CEO and executive director. “And we got the clear sense that Mary is unstoppable.”

On the other end of the phone, however, MacLellan had other ideas. “When I called Mary to tell her about the award for the work of Seniors Outreach, she indicated that the medal should be shared with Barb Smith, Senior’s Safety co-ordinator, and Dian Day, regional co-ordinator for Community Links, as well as all the volunteers who helped to deliver important programs and services,” said Goodwin. “She was very insistent.”

“We were a team,” explained MacLellan. “We call ourselves the Pictou County Three for Seniors, or PC3. Whatever got done over the past nine months, it was because we all worked together to make it happen. And there are countless individuals in Pictou County who generously volunteer their time and energy to contribute to our community. They make my job easy.”

“This is typical of Mary,” said Smith. “She shares everything — her energy, empathy, knowledge, and enthusiasm, as well as the recognition and accolades.”

The PC3 came together after COVID hit to try to ensure that local seniors’ needs were not forgotten during the pandemic. “We just started to meet by Zoom every week, and sometimes several times each week, to talk about how to handle certain issues that were coming up in the community,” said Day. “Our collaboration wasn’t anything we planned in advance. The co-operation between our groups, which all have different mandates, just made sense and helped to get things done.”

Some of the things that got done included developing an emergency network of people who could be called upon to meet the needs of seniors by people in the communities who seniors already knew and trusted; producing a YouTube video of a popular local exercise program when participants could no longer meet in person; setting up modified lunch and learn programs that involved a prepared meal that was picked up or delivered, to be eaten at home, accompanied by print resources; providing craft supplies and an improved outdoor space for people in a local long-term care home; and, along with other community partners, ensuring the continuation of a number of Meals on Wheels programs in the county. The group also worked together on the Community Links project that saw 300 emergency kits delivered to area seniors so they would be better prepared for hurricanes and winter storms.

Throughout the pandemic, the PC3 have worked to ensure that individual seniors who needed food, transportation, devices, or other physical resources did not fall through the cracks. The Nova Scotia Department of Seniors, Community Links, the United Way, and community donors provided funding for a number of projects. “Sometimes one of our organizations would have the lead, and other times it would be someone else’s turn,” said Smith. “The opportunity to work so closely and regularly with these two women was one of the unexpected gifts of COVID.”

“Although the medal is supposed to be awarded to someone who works ‘without any special resources, status, wealth or position,’ Mary does have a special resource,” said Day. “It’s her connection to the community. When a question comes up at a meeting about local people or organizations, somebody always says, well, Mary will know the answer! And it’s usually true!”

Since 1987, almost 2,000 individuals and groups across Canada have been recognized for their work with YMCA Peace Medals.

“Mary MacLellan of Seniors Outreach is an amazing support for seniors in our community, and the work she continues to do during the pandemic is critical,” said Goodwin. “Mary is a role model for all of us, and her organization, as part of the Pictou County Three, makes a huge difference in the lives of others. We take our hats off to all of them.”

Mary MacLellan, centre, with Barb Smith and Dian Day.