Six years after moving to Parrsboro, Karine McGregor is being recognized by the town and honoured by the province for her dedicated volunteerism.
The busy retiree will travel to Halifax on April 12, where she will receive the provincial Volunteer of the Year award, in recognition of her efforts in such areas as Parrsboro's Communities in Bloom project, the Catholic Women's League, Relay for Life, Ship's Company Theatre and Ottawa House By-the-Sea Museum.
Surprised by the honour, McGregor said she almost did not receive the official news has had been intended.
"When I got the envelope, it said Recreation Nova Scotia, and I thought it was an advertisement so I was going to throw it in the garbage," she said. "But my granddaughter said, 'Nan, maybe you should see what's in there.' When I opened it, I couldn't believe it."
She said she was thrilled and humbled that the town thought enough of her to nominate her for the award, and shocked to learn she would be receiving it.
Although originally from Halifax, McGregor and her husband Doug had been living in Montreal, Que. for 17 years before deciding to retire and move back to Nova Scotia in 2004. They discovered a house for sale in Parrsboro on the Internet, and paid a visit to the town to have a look.
She said she fell in love with the Eastern Avenue home right away, and within two hours it was theirs.
Unfortunately, the couple's happiness in their new community took a tragic turn 18 months later, when Doug passed away.
After what she described as a year of "moping," she refused to move to Halifax, where she would have been closer to her two children and four grandchildren. Instead, she decided to stay in the community that she said had embraced her.
"I just started volunteering," said McGregor. "And I love it."
The first to benefit from her services was St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church, where she served as a minister of the Eucharist and a reader, and could also be found working at all the casserole suppers and teas as a member of the Catholic Women's League.
After encouragement from Bev Clarke, she started volunteering at Ship's Company Theatre shows, and then Kathleen Howe invited her to get involved at Ottawa House, where she volunteers as a worker in the gift shop. She also assists Dora Fuller with the monthly seniors' suppers, and has been a key figure in Parrsboro's participation in the Communities in Bloom program, according to co-ordinator Mary McPhee.
"She doesn't expect anything in return, she just wants to fill her life and be a part of the community," said McPhee. "She's a perfect volunteer that way. She does it purely because she's interested, she wants to help, and she believes in all of the groups she's involved in."
Whether it is sitting through a two-hour meeting or digging through the dirt to plant flowers, McGregor always shows up with a smile on her face, and never misses a day, McPhee explained.
"She's extremely dedicated, works until it's done, and always has a positive attitude, not just for the project but for the other volunteers," she said. "She's happy to help and happy to be around other people."
The people she meets and works with are the main reason that she enjoys volunteering so much, McGregor explained.
"It's the people," she said. "Helping people, seeing different people... you see different people at Ottawa House than you see at Ship's Company. I just love it."
The activities help her pass the time, especially during the winter months, but she said she keeps herself from getting overloaded by knowing when to say no. She admits those moments are few and far between, however, and she always seems ready to help the community she has grown to love.
"I don't know what it is about this community," said McGregor. "They just embrace you and make you one of their own."