Candace Gordon has an issue with one part of the glowing account of her volunteer efforts, extolled in last week’s Citizen of the Year event.
She’s not too thrilled about being called a “gentle pit bull” guarding the social conscience the community.
She does, however, acknowledge she’s dogged in her pursuit of getting things done.
Just look back at what she’s done over the past few decades for Maple Ridge, such as the early days in getting the recycling society rolling, to the point where the trucks now show up at every driveway to haul away reusable trash.
“I have to say that the work I did with the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, it was a wonderful experience.”
Gordon and a few other local eco-freaks who wanted to make a difference, started recycling in the 1970s, but it was Gordon who shepherded the paperwork through in 1981 that actually created the legal entity that still exists.
The society is now celebrating its 40th year.
“It’s always been really important to me to make a difference,” she says.
That was also the beginning of the supported work program at the depot for those with developmental disabilities, a program which continues today and one that proves that it’s possible to hire those with disabilities, she pointed out.
Gordon received the award last Thursday at the Maple Ridge Community Foundation Citizen of the Year Award evening at Meadow Gardens Golf Course.
Walk around Maple Ridge and it’s easy to see the results of her hard work and tireless hours of volunteering, mixed with four terms on district council.
As a member of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Arts Council board, Gordon laboured on making the Arts Centre Theatre a reality.
“We worked over 10 years to get that happening.”
That, along with the Maple Ridge leisure centre, library and the business centre – the products of the municipal buildings project that dragged on over many years of financial controversy – still work, she says.
Gordon, though, says the whole complex is a success.
“You look at those facilities now and there’s no doubt we built the right thing.”
And in Memorial Peace Park every weekend in the summer there is the Haney Farmers Market, where local growers share their produce. Gordon is a present and founding board member of the market, just as she is for the Alouette Home Start Society, which has created the Iron Horse Youth Safe House and a $10-million supportive housing building, Alouette Heights, that’s soon to open.
Gordon’s persistence comes from her patience.
It is frustrating when things don’t happen soon enough. But she knows that determination and patience pays off. Her mom used to call her pig-headed, tenacious.
“I have patience to stay with stuff. So I see results in 30 years, 30-plus years.
“I certainly didn’t do any of this by myself. I worked with wonderful people.”
Gordon is currently managing the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Kitchens program, a moveable workshop that teaches those on low-incomes how to cook and eat well and affordably.
That’s a paid position, but volunteer hours overlap.
Gordon was also on the Building Community Solutions committee for 11 years, is current chair of the Community Network (likely the only volunteer there, according to her nominee write-up) and is now vice-chair of the agricultural advisory committee, after previously serving as chair.
She also helps out with Golden Harvest, the fall event in the ACT where local produce is showcased. She’s also joined the United Way’s Senior Network, but she’s only been doing that for two years.
Ask her about the future, though, and there’s no great project that’s next on her to-do list.
She is, however, concerned about the future of journalism and laments that budget cuts that have reduced the ability to inform the public.
Journalists used to hold the prism as they sifted through the masses of information to create an informed public, she says.
“We need to look a lot deeper in a lot of cases.”
But she says she’s a glass-full person rather than a pessimist and appreciates the citizen award, which she says comes from a foundation that does great things.
“It’s wonderful to be acknowledged in this way.
“It is a wonderful place to live. I did call it marvellous Maple Ridge.”