HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L.
Paula Dawe is a familiar face to many around Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The former teacher is heavily involved in many volunteer efforts in town and is always willing to lend a helping hand.
Recently, Dawe was honoured with being chosen for her volunteer efforts as a member of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“I’m still rather in shock,” Dawe said with a laugh. “It’s blown my mind. I got a call a few weeks ago to inform me I had been selected. It was quite amazing, I never expected anything like this.”
The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, which has been around since 2004, is the highest honour of the province. According to the provincial government, the object of the Order is to “recognize individuals who have demonstrated excellence and achievement in any field of endeavour benefiting in an outstanding manner Newfoundland and Labrador and its residents.”
Dawe said she never expected any reward for volunteering beyond the enjoyment of the work itself. She’s been volunteering since the 1960’s, when Dawe and some other young parents set up a cooperative preschool in Portugal Cove, which has evolved into a daycare and still exists to this day.
In 1975 Dawe and her husband moved to Happy Valley-Goose Bay where she helped set up a local Early Childhood Development Association, which set up a co-operative daycare in town, now known as Pumpkin House. She was also heavily involved in recreation and coached the Melville Mantas swim team for 25 years, as well is being involved in the organization at the board level.
“We came here on a two-year contract and have been here ever since,” she said. “People here are so giving, it’s never a problem to get money or goods raised when needed. Where else would I want to go?”
She has also been a volunteer with the Roland Shears Memorial Hamper for many years and now is mostly focused on that program and the Kids Eat Smart program at Peacock Primary.
“I get a lot back from all of these endeavors, but my work with kids is my greatest joys,” she said. “I spend about five hours a day at the school right now. I’m retired, what else would I do with my time?”
She said wanting to be out, doing something and being a positive influence on the community is why she continues to spend so much time helping others.
“I taught kindergarten for 28 years, I tell them they just can’t get rid of me,” she said with a laugh. “The joy it gives the kids is one of the main reasons why I do it.”
She said the award is such a huge honour and has been given to many people she admired in the past, which makes her humbled to be a part of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Some other recipients this year include Olympic medalist Kaetlyn Osmond and artist Christopher Pratt.
Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, who presents the award, said in a release this year’s recipients represent the diversity of the province.
“While they vary in age, gender and the nature of their accomplishments, two things they all have in common are their love for Newfoundland and Labrador and their desire to make the world a better place,” Foote wrote.
The recipients will be inducted in a ceremony in St. John’s on Jan. 29.