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Volunteer spirit impresses lieutenant governor

Elizabeth Dowdeswell makes first official visit to Orillia during Ontario Winter Games

Elizabeth Dowdeswell considers storytelling to be an important part of her job as Ontario’s lieutenant governor.

She’ll certainly have some inspiring stories to share after her first official visit to the City of Orillia on Sunday.

Dowdeswell was in town on the last day of the Orillia 2018 Ontario Winter Games.

“Just from this afternoon, it’s the spirit and the generosity of the volunteers (that stood out),” she told OrilliaMatters during a visit to Swanmore Hall.

The lieutenant governor is required to be “totally apolitical,” she said, “which is very hard to do.” Instead, she travels the province and listens to the stories and experiences of Ontarians.

Shortly after being named lieutenant governor in 2014, “I realized that we don’t tell our stories very well,” she said, “so I just declared that I would be the province’s official storyteller.”

She invited citizens to send in brief stories so she could “get a sense of who Ontarians really are.”

When she visits municipalities, she often invites mayors to pull together a roundtable of citizens to discuss what issues are important to them. After her address Sunday, Mayor Steve Clarke said he would like to take her up on that offer the next time she is in town.

Asked what she does with the information gleaned from those roundtables, Dowdeswell reiterated her role as a storyteller, saying she shares the experiences of one town when she visits another, because Ontarians “actually don’t know each other very well.”

“It gives me a picture of who the people are in the community — what they’re concerned about, what they’re proud of,” she said. “There’ll be stories from (Orillia) that I’ll be telling to people in other communities.”

Among the crowd at Sunday’s event was Doreen Field. She met Dowdeswell in January, when the lieutenant governor awarded the Ramara resident the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship.

Field, whose 60-plus years of volunteerism has benefited causes such as United Way, Helping Hands and the Ontario Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, “was absolutely astounded” when she found out she would be receiving the medal.

She isn’t allowed to wear it just anywhere, however, so she jumped at the chance to don the hardware in the presence of the person who gave it to her.

“I wanted to wear my medal and I thought the best time to do it was when Her Honour was here,” she said.