Dear Knights and Dames,
Earlier this month, we announced the launch of an anthology series to honour and share the everyday heroism of our members as we muster to support our veterans and to fight COVID-19.We begin this series today by telling two inspiring stories from the Cascadia Commandery. Every Commandery will be featured.
One of our stories is COVID-19 related, while the other speaks to the Order’s proud support of Canada’s cadet programs. Both epitomize how this Order is about people and good works – serving our communities in any way we can.
Andrew Nellestyn Leo Valiquette
Grand Master Communications Group
“I am proud, as a Commander, that our members continue to contribute and be a partner in solutions to everything around us in these trying times.
I say congratulations to both, the family of Ron Theroux and Deborah Morrow, for the goals they have set before themselves, exemplifying what the Order is all about.”
Chevalier Steven R Mohns
Supporting Sea Cadets is a Family Affair For Cascadia’s Theroux Clan
Develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership and promote physical fitness.
The aims of Canada’s military cadet programs are just as vital to our society today as they were when Chevalier Ron Theroux first enrolled as a sea cadet in 1952.
His days as a fresh-faced cadet may be long behind him, but this member of the Order of St. George’s Cascadia Commandery still tirelessly supports the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps.
Ron retired from his role as a commanding officer in the Corps in 1979. Never one to sit idle, he then went on to serve in a variety of capacities with the local branch of the Navy League of Canada and BC Mainland Division – vice-president, president, treasurer. His years of service have earned him Navy League of Canada Member of the Year, a Community Service Award and appointment as a Life Member of the Navy League, among others.
This is a family affair. Ron’s wife Yvonne has her own distinguished service record with the local branch of the Navy League of Canada and the Fraser Alumni.
In the role of treasurer, Yvonne has played an instrumental role to ensure sound financial management. She too is a Navy League of Canada Life Member and will soon be invested as a Dame into the Order of St. George.
A Training Facility Second to None
“It’s a lifestyle for my wife and myself at this stage,” Ron said.
With that pedigree, it should come as no surprise that their son James is just as involved. He too is a member of the Navy League New Westminster branch and a former sea cadet. James is also a postulant for investiture into the Order. He volunteers his expertise in computer IT support, 3D printing and CNC machining wherever it’s needed.
No cadet training program is viable without the facilities and resources for cadets to make the most of the experience –suitable quarters for both male and female cadets, properly maintained jetties, appropriate watercraft and equipment, and so on.
The Theroux family regularly volunteers with other sea cadet alumni to ensure these assets are in place. Their efforts are focused on the New Westminster Navy League Branch Cadet Training Facility on Annacis Island in Delta, B.C. The facility has been a work in progress since Ron was a cadet.
Mustering donor support from area businesses goes hand in hand with the ongoing Wednesday work parties of volunteers. Yvonne is a pro with a paint brush with no fear of heights. James is the building supply hauler with his truck and a fabricator of custom boat trailers. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort where the old veterans eager to give back work side-by-side with the latest crop of cadets to pass on a few practical life lessons.
As seniors in their 80s, why do Ron and Yvonne still do it?
“When you can find yourself at a store away from home and a young lady or young man comes up and says, ‘Hi sir, hi ma’am,’ and recognizes us from their time in the cadet program…that acknowledgement, that thank you, is all you need,” Ron said.
Cascadia Dame Takes Her Cue From The WWII Home Front To Help Fight COVID-19
Volunteering is in Dame Deborah Morrow’s blood. Some 40 years of community service earned her Canada’s Community Leader Award for British Columbia and the North in 2017.
Deborah, a member of the Order’s Cascadia Command, hasn’t allowed a recent multiple sclerosis diagnosis or the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to slow her down. In fact, it’s only inspired her to find new ways to make a difference and help those most in need.
These days, Deborah is housebound, like so many of us, considered at high risk from the virus due to her diagnosis. She continues to operate her own personalized healthcare business, Verity Health Resources, and manage her nursing team, remotely.
Over the past decade, Deborah and her team have provided free nurses’ clinics and healthcare services to homeless veterans. She works with the Royal Canadian Legion/BC Yukon Command and other stakeholders groups to help struggling veterans with housing, healthcare, addictions support and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Angus Stanfield, Dominion Vice-President of the Legion and Chairman of Cockrell House, which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans, is no stranger to Deborah’s good works.
“For many years now Deborah and her company have been strong supporters,” he said. “Every couple of months she brings two of her nurses over to Vancouver Island and provides a wide range of health care to not only our residents, but any veterans in the Legion that require medical attention…all at no charge. When it comes to volunteering Deborah is a Rock Star!”
High-risk groups like homeless veterans need help and support now more than ever. While we are all living with the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, Deborah feels we each have a responsibility “to show leadership right now to help the less fortunate.”
“We need to figure out creative new ways to muster people in smaller grassroots ways because I believe that a grassroots effort is very effective,” she said.
Deborah is taking inspiration from her mother and grandmother –veterans in their own right of two world wars and the Great Depression. Back then, people who couldn’t serve in uniform rallied together in other ways to do their part. The emphasis was on rationing, recycling and re-using as much as possible.
“There was no social media and no TV, but they got the message out and everyone participated in whatever way they could,” Deborah said.
It’s this same mindset that we need now, she added, along with a shift in the perception of what constitutes volunteering on the “frontline.”
“A lot of work can be done from the home – I find it far more efficient and it is forcing me to be far more creative.”
Sewing has been Deborah’s passion since childhood. She is applying that skill now to address the critical shortage of protective masks. Her dining room has become a makeshift assembly line, capable of producing in 20 minutes a hand-made mask with HEPA filtration repurposed from vacuum cleaner filters. She has levered her social and professional networks to acquire necessary supplies and to provide for safe distribution to those in need.
The masks are intended for those without the means to acquire their own, as well as to address supply shortages with her own staff, who continue to provide health services in the community. “It is a very scary time for people on the front line and they are my heroes.”
Deborah has also opened a support line for veterans. In addition to providing emotional and mental health support, this effort has already identified urgent care needs in the community which she was able to get addressed quickly by enlisted the aid of the Legion.
Her efforts have attracted a huge response on social media. As word has spread, more and more people have stepped up to help or start their own at-home production of needed items.
Deborah’s experience so far with the pandemic response proves the point she has always made about volunteering: “When you start something, it can become a movement and people will depend on that – but you should always volunteer in response to a pressing social need.”