Three North Shore residents are among 31 people and one group being honoured by BC with the Medal of Good Citizenship for outstanding contributions to the well-being of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual medal presentation will take place on Thursday, March 24.
James Lester and Natalia Skapski from North Vancouver and Jonathan Yeung from West Vancouver are among those being honoured by the province.
“We are proud to honour these British Columbians who have demonstrated themselves to be extraordinary individuals,” said Premier John Horgan. “Each one of them has been singled out by their peers for their tremendous generosity, kindness and selfless acts of service during one of the most challenging times in our province and around the world.”
Here is the background on all three local award recipients
“When the pandemic began many people and organizations found it nearly impossible to source the alcohol-based cleaners and hand sanitizers they needed. James Lester, co-owner of Sons of Vancouver distillery, immediately recognized the role that he could play in this situation.
He saw there was a shortage of hand sanitizer in North Vancouver and how it was affecting care facilities and first responders. His company had the ability to produce sanitation grade alcohol. James had been contacted by a needle exchange, care homes, women’s shelters, municipalities and others asking for help. His dilemma was that producing it would technically not be in compliance with the law. The sense of urgency he felt around the issue caused him to advocate and push hard in all the ways that he could. Fortunately in the days that followed, provincial and federal leaders made the necessary changes for production. Soon Sons of Vancouver was not only producing sanitation grade alcohol and hand sanitizer, but also giving it away for free to the public and organizations across the region. They hosted sidewalk giveaways to allow individuals and families to get free hand sanitizer every week and partnered with local grocers to sell bottles of hand sanitizer to raise money for Lions Gate Hospital. The local constituency office distributed thousands of litres of hand sanitizer to child care providers and non-profit organizations. Throughout this process, James never demanded nor expected any gratitude or attention in return for his business’s generosity. Even tax receipts for donations in kind from eligible charitable organizations were an afterthought for him and his team. He has since returned Sons of Vancouver to the core business of liquor production, but countless individuals and organizations benefited from the rapid pivot he made at the start of the pandemic.”
Natalia Skapski has gone over and above contributing to the safety and well-being of the Capilano University community during the COVID-19 pandemic. As well, she has a long history of volunteerism locally, nationally and internationally as part of a life dedicated to the health and safety of others. Since the pandemic began, Natalia has dedicated herself to the safe operations of all campus locations and engaging as a citizen in reconciliation through her extended canoe family. No safety question is insignificant to Natalia; she offers equal time and patient consideration to calming an anxious employee with factual information; reassuring a student worried about attending an inperson class; or supporting a manager seeking guidance for their team. Natalia’s leadership, her guidance to others, her mentorship of a fledgling Emergency Operations Centre crew and her absolute commitment to the safety of others is awe-inspiring. In the Fall 2021, new and returning students owe their welcomed return to CapU in-person learning to Natalia’s leadership, perseverance and personal sacrifice. Natalia collaboratively worked through a deluge of information to keep the campus safely moving forward. She has built trust by working alongside members of the community and demonstrated tenacity, fairness and unwavering commitment to public health. Natalia volunteered for 15 years with the Red Cross both in Ontario and in B.C.. In 1993, she was deployed as a volunteer to aid the Red Cross mission to the Mississippi Floods. Natalia was one of six Vancouver-area Red Cross volunteers who assisted in the response to the 9-11 tragedy in Queens, New York. More recently, Natalia began actively volunteering with Team Rubicon Canada. In December 2021, she was able to dedicate time to mucking-out flooded homes in the Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford, B.C. Natalia’s life is deeply entwined with local First Nations and Indigenous values of family, caring, community and responsibility. She is a founding member of the Sema7maka (Snowbird) Squamish Nation canoe family, a member of the Pulling Together Society of canoe families. Natalia actively lives the values of uniting as people on a journey of reconciliation to make the world a better place.
Jonathan “Bear” Yeung
Jonathan “Bear” Yeung has actively helped his community since he was five when he started cleaning up beaches. And that was just the beginning. In 2017 when he was seven, Jonathan and a friend helped a family in need by organizing a fundraising campaign that raised more than $20,000. When COVID-19 first struck this community, Jonathan learned about the embattled and exhausted frontline health care workers. He responded by using his life savings of $70 to purchase healthy snacks and electrolyte drinks for the team at his local Lions Gate Hospital. When he realized the pandemic was persisting, he engaged his local community along with companies to help expand and maintain his snack drive for over a year. When Jonathan heard about a family who was harmed following a major crash on the Sea-to-Sky Highway near his home, he wanted to help. He didn’t know the family, but knew there were two children involved, aged 10 and five. He raised $20,000 which was enough to buy a safe car for the family. Recognizing the children being treated at B.C. Children’s Hospital were isolated from their families and friends due to strict COVID-19 visitation restrictions, Jonathan responded by starting a toy and tablet drive with a friend. Their efforts resulted in successfully collecting 159 electronic tablets, more than 1,000 new toys along with $14,000 in donations worth a combined $60,000 and delivered them in time for Christmas. In 2021, Jonathan and his friend repeated their efforts and again made their delivery before Christmas, this time with even greater success because the pair’s actions inspired more people and companies to participate. Jonathan also provided his local police force in West Vancouver, the Vancouver Police and Transit Police with masks to protect them from COVID-19. Now at the age of 11, Jonathan has been raising money and donations for several years and is developing a reputation of a community leader.