Georgie Cole named Kushiro Cup winner

Georgie Cole leads her line dancing class at Deer Lake United Church, one of the many activities that earned her recognition as this year
Georgie Cole leads her line dancing class at Deer Lake United Church, one of the many activities that earned her recognition as this year's winner of the Kushiro Cup.

Georgie Cole says her decades of volunteerism come naturally.

But it's that passion for community work that led Burnaby city hall to name her this year's winner of the Kushiro Cup, awarded to its outstanding citizen of the year.

Her reaction to the news?

"Stunned, I think, surprised," she said by phone Monday.

"I never thought some of the things I did was that remarkable. I mean, doesn't everybody do it?"

The award recognizes 50 years of volunteerism, said a city staff report. The work has included helping out at Second Street Community School's breakfast homework club and providing one-on-one reading assistance.

At the Eastside Opportunities Society, she's been an active board member for 30 years, helping promote youth programs. At Deer Lake United Church she's made lunches and offered care to strangers through its homeless outreach program.

Through East Burnaby United Church she's contributed to outreach at care homes, teaching Sunday school and helping out with youth activities.

She's also served as a Block Watch captain for 26 years, volunteered with the Burnaby Barracudas Swim Club for 18 years, and advocated for amenities and programs at Robert Burnaby Park.

In between, the grandmother to four managed to find time to teach line dancing classes for 21 years.

Cole believes part of her desire to volunteer comes from an ethic instilled in her while growing up in Alberta during the Depression.

"Everybody helped everybody or none of us would've survived."

Cole has lived in the same house since moving to Burnaby in 1955 with her late husband Bill. After giving up a job at BC Tel when her kids were born, she discovered a passion for working with little kids while helping out at her kids' preschool.

That led to her going back to school to be certified in early childhood education and a 25-year career with the City of New Westminster as a preschool teacher.

After noticing that "children say the darnedest things," she collected the material and turned it into a stand-up comedy routine after she retired.

She still performs her routine occasionally. "That was one of the most fun things to do, make people laugh."

Sure, some of her volunteer work happened because of the activities her three kids, a son and two daughters, were involved in. "It takes a lot of people to put on a swim meet," she said of her Barracudas experience.

But for Cole, she cites her older brother's work as a union organizer, back in the days when that wasn't too common, for inspiring her.

"I understood that people do have the power to change things if they take an interest."

She's kept herself busy making a difference, whether it's making sandwiches or quilts or collecting clothes for people in need.

"It's nice to think you've made somebody's life a tad easier."

Cole will be presented with the Kushiro Cup award at the annual city appreciation dinner on May 2.

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