A Meritorious Service Award was given to local resident Irene Kroeker for her founding and directing of Steinbach Community Outreach.

After getting an invitation from Governor General Julie Payette asking her to attend a Presentation of Canadian Honors at 10:30 Saturday morning, Kroeker was flown to Regina to receive the recognition.

(Photo credit: John and Tammy Bekkering) Kroeker receivers her award“This definitely caught me completely off-guard,” exclaims Kroeker, “A little person from Steinbach who was nobody is all of the sudden recognized Canada-wide. This is very out of this world.”

Kroeker explains that an Outreach associate, Tammy Bekkering, nominated her without her knowledge so the summons came as a shock. Though she stresses an award is not something she was ever aiming for, Kroeker hopes the national recognition will inspire others in the country towards similar efforts in their communities.

The Outreach initiative began back when Kroeker was a teacher, and she realized some students in her classroom were lacking sufficient food and clothing. From there, it slowly mushroomed into a larger organization. “Now, anybody who walks through our doors, and has a need, is accepted here and we try and help them," explains Kroeker, "That’s what we did and it grew and grew and grew.” Right now there is a lot of federal conversation regarding homelessness, observes Kroeker, who suspects this is one of the reasons her expanding organization was recognized.

Ultimately, Kroeker hopes all of this publicity will raise local awareness for the poverty within Steinbach and Outreach’s attempts to help.