Deb Billwiller of Grand Forks to be awarded Diamond Jubilee Medal

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
November 13th, 2012

Very few people truly exemplify the meaning of volunteerism above self as much as Boundary Food Bank Society volunteer Deb Billwiller does.

The modest and energetic woman has made herself well-known in these parts through her dedication to those who are less fortunate.

It was because of her selfless devotion to the Boundary Community Food Bank that Billwiller was nominated by her fellow volunteers for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal through Food Banks Canada.

The Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal is the most recent addition in a line of special awards that honour Canadians for their outstanding service and contributions to our country. It was created to mark the 60th Anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accession to the throne.

Over the next year 60,000 Canadian will be awarded the medal.

Billwiller has volunteered with the food bank since 2006 and just completed a two year term as president of the society. She has also served as an executive member of the Boundary Historical Society and worked closely with regional service organizations like Blessings Boutique and Whispers of Hope.

She first became involved with the food bank shortly after her retirement from the Grand Forks and District Public Library because her husband John was also involved at the food bank.

“I saw a huge need,” she said. “Some people didn’t know we had a food bank yet and regardless (of its current outreach and location) they still don’t realize we are the Boundary food bank and we serve the entire area from Bridesville to the Paulson Bridge.”

Billwiller jumped in to help fill that need wholeheartedly. The reward? Knowing she can make a difference.

“The best part of volunteering is seeing our clients’ lives turning around or in getting a Christmas card thanking us. It makes it all worthwhile knowing we helped people turn things around.”

Her fellow volunteers nominated her secretly

Current president Larry Dickerson is one of the nominators and has volunteered alongside Billwiller for about four years.

When asked what he most admired about Billwiller, Dickerson said, “her hard work and dedication, (she is) always respectful of the dignity of the clients (and her) superb organizational skills”.

“She clearly deserved recognition for her years of outstanding volunteer service,” said Dickerson in an email interview with The Boundary Sentinel. “Just to coordinate our recent move and setup in the quarters required many, many extra hours of her time, on top of all her other work. As president and line volunteer, she has done a superb job of raising the profile and stature of the Food Bank throughout the community.”

In the nomination form he and society treasurer Bobbi Boughton submitted, they stated, “her insistence that all people, whether poor, or hungry, or disabled, or abused, are worthy of being treated with dignity, has been a force which has encouraged more compassionate delivery of human services in the Boundary region”.

Dickerson and Boughton secretly nominated Billwiller. Billwiller didn’t know anything about it until an envelope arrived at her home from Food Banks Canada congratulating her for being chosen as one of 33 Food Bank volunteer recipients.

She was puzzled when an envelope from Food Bank Canada arrived at her home instead of the food bank.

“Then I started reading,” said Billwiller. “I was completely stunned; I had no idea (I’d been nominated). I’m still choked up about it.”

“In some ways I don’t feel I deserve it. I couldn’t have done the last two years (as president) without the support of all the volunteers and especially John (Billwiller, her husband) and his support.”

As far as Boughton is concerned, Billwiller’s outstanding organizational skills, reliability and dedication to the organization shone brightest when the society was forced to move to a new location last spring.

“Having to relocate pretty much put everyone into a tailspin,” said Boughton, who has volunteered at the food bank for 12 years and six years alongside Billwiller.

But she (Billwiller) just knuckled down and made a plan – she reorganized the whole place. I’ve always been totally amazed at her abilities. I haven’t found anything to stump her with, she always seems to have the answers … She is just a pleasure to be around because she is a person with such an upbeat personality.

The food bank has been in operation since 1988and is located at 7419-2nd Street in Grand Forks. It currently provides confidential help to more than 150 hampers to more than 270 regular clients, one-third of which are children, from the Boundary region. More than 23 volunteers operate the facility.

Client services are available on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.For more information about the food bank, visit http://BoundaryCommunityFoodBank.blogspot.com.

Billwiller has not yet received her medal. An awards ceremony is currently being organized and will be announced on this site once it is verified.