Back to top

Deb Billwiller accepts Diamond Jubilee medal amid tears of gratitude

Deb Billwiller of the Boundary Community Food Bank gratefully accepts the Queens Jubilee medal during a special ceremony held on Dec. 23. Photo Erin Perkins.

“This medal does not belong to me. It belongs to every board member and person who has been on the board since I’ve been with the food bank and every volunteer we’ve had in that time,” said Deb Billwiller, Boundary Community Food Bank volunteer, during her modest acceptance speech at the presentation of her Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal on Sunday, Dec. 23.

BC Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko was on hand to present the prestigious medal at the food bank on Central Avenue in Grand Forks amid more than 20 well-wishers, including Billwiller’s husband, John and their family.

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. This medal was given on behalf of Food Banks Canada, which was asked by the Governor General of Canada to nominate 33 of their most outstanding volunteers from across Canada. Billwiller was one of more than 70 nominations the food bank received. She is one of six in BC to receive the food bank medal.

“The kind of leadership it takes to make things happen in a town is a critical part and I know you’ve taken a real leadership role here,” said Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor. “I look at the community in general and the role of the food bank. Partly because we have some weak government services in some areas, it is difficult in this town to live on basic income assistance or disability pension … As a true socialist, my belief is food is a right, not a privilege. Basic food for all is something that I would be disappointed if we didn’t have something within our community that recognized that right of people to eat. And so, again, on behalf of the citizens of Grand Forks, congratulations. It is a very prestigious award and you deserve it.”

“Thank you Deb, you truly deserve this award,” said current food bank president, Larry Dickerson, in an email, because he couldn’t attend the celebration.

“It’s not a secret in Canada that we have something like 900,000 people who are in need of food banks,” said Atamanenko before presenting Billwiller with her medal. “And  I think until such time that we are able to improve the system to get more people friendly governments in, we will need more people like yourself, Deb, and others to maintain that social network so people don’t just fall through the cracks. Thank you so much for being part of that.”

He went on to say it is people like Billwiller who work to “keep our communities alive” that keep him going as a politician representing our region.

Billwiller has volunteered with the food bank since 2006 and just completed a two-year term as president of the society. 

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.

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 noon and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.For more information about the food bank, visit http://BoundaryCommunityFoodBank.blogspot.com.

For the original announcement of Billwiller’s win, please visit the Boundary Sentinel story published in November: http://boundarysentinel.com/news/deb-billwiller-grand-forks-be-awarded-diamond-jubilee-medal-21912