This royal honour concluded in February 2023 and recognized 7,000 Albertans throughout 2022 who have devoted their lives to making the province a better place.
Congratulations to Brenda Leeds Binder, Cliff Dimm, Steve Gilliss, Ahmer Memon, Bukola Ojemakinde, Sabrina Pelley, George Rowe and Arlene Strom.
Ahmer Memon came to Canada in 1995. Despite having many qualifications as a civil/structural engineer, it was three years until Ahmer could put his education to use in the Canadian workforce.
“The delay was mostly due to lack of guidance and support from anyone. Once I got settled, I decided to support new immigrants and help them settle sooner in Canada,” says Ahmer, a Senior Quality Inspector at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site in northern Alberta.
Through 15 years of volunteer work, his time has been spent with various groups in board leadership roles, such as Pakistan Canada Association, Association of Pakistani Engineers in Canada, South Asian Community Services Society and International Development and Relief Foundation Calgary.
“If during our life, we have received help in any shape or form, then we must pay it forward,” he says. “Even a kind word of encouragement can help others realize that they're not alone.”
Arlene Strom is putting her Alberta roots to good use in her role as Board Chair of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation. For the past six years, she’s been instrumental in recognizing and supporting emerging and distinguished artists throughout the province.
“Through the foundation’s board, it’s our role to help artists make their voices heard and support them to feel uplifted to share their stories and narratives,” says Arlene, Suncor’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We collectively share a passion for the arts and want to make space to hear the diverse group of voices that reside in different Albertan communities.”
Since the foundation was created in 2003, close to 100 artists have been recognized and bestowed with grant money to support their careers. Supporting the artists brings collaboration from local community organizations, colleges and institutes such as the Banff Centre for the Arts.
“Being involved with this work reminds me of the diversity and wonderful narrative that makes up being an Albertan,” adds Arlene. “It’s a beautiful thing to embrace our collective diversity.”
Brenda Leeds Binder
Brenda Leeds Binder, Vice President, Legal, who is currently on secondment with Pathways Alliance, was living in her Calgary home for six months when the city and surrounding communities were ravaged by record-high water levels in 2013. The flood destroyed homes and businesses, and left areas looking unrecognizable.
Within a month after the flood, a group of community members organized a meeting to discuss how to solve the problem so it wouldn’t happen again. The Calgary River Communities Action Group (CRCAG) was formed, and Brenda went from volunteer board member to co-president the following year.
With support and dedication from its approximately 1,000 members, much progress has been made through the past decade. Construction of the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir to mitigate flooding on the Elbow River is currently underway and will be fully operational in 2025.
“It’s been a positive way to leverage my skillset, and I have learned a lot,” says Brenda. “There’s been tremendous support from the large number of people involved. It’s been a rewarding journey so far.”
With a smile and nod, Bukola Ojemakinde says she is an introvert who plays the role of an extravert through her community activism. It’s become an opportunity to connect, engage and communicate.
Years ago, a leader influenced her to get involved in a local “cycling for cancer” initiative in Calgary. The experience left her wanting to do more.
That small spark eventually lit the flame for two foundations that Bukola founded. The Bridge to Oasis Foundation, which focuses on the well-being of Black and African seniors, and the Ladies in the Family Foundation , which aims to bridge cultural differences between women and address shared challenges.
“My hope is always to rally support for these groups of people that might not have normally received attention,” says Bukola, an engineer at Suncor’s Firebag site. “Working in the community has become my therapy and a venue to share my vulnerability and experience as a Black woman and female engineer. My story might not be your story, but we can share our uniqueness together.”
It was a tour he took with the Fort McMurray United Way in 2007 that opened Cliff Dimm’s eyes to the immediate need in his community. Volunteerism has been a priority in his life ever since.
Among the highlights of his community involvement, his role as board president of Waypoints Community Services Association has been a passion for the past 10 years.
Waypoints supports Unity House, an emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence; Cedar Sage Healing Center, northeastern Alberta’s only sexual assault healing center; and undertakes sexual abuse education in all Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo schools. It also operates northeast Alberta’s only Child and Youth Advocacy Centre.
“Volunteering with Waypoints is something that I’ve been able to do with my wife, Ronda and our two daughters,” says Cliff, Director Development, Mining and Tailings. “It’s led to my girls volunteering in town on their own as well, which I’m very proud of.”
George Rowe has spent the past 34 years raising his family in Fort McMurray and working as a proud Syncrude employee during that time. Now he’s being recognized for his community contributions, which includes being an ally for animals.
George, an infrastructure advisor within Mining and Upgrading, has been involved with the Fort McMurray SPCA since 2010 in a variety of volunteer roles including board chair. One of his proudest contributions was during the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 when he was one of many volunteers who helped coordinate the complicated rescue of hundreds of pets. These efforts helped to reunite animals with their families, who in some cases, could not return home to collect their pets due to swift evacuation orders and emergency road closures.
“There was a sense of unity and it was a true collaborative effort. We worked side-by-side with city officials, local animal rescue groups, and those who travelled from Edmonton and Calgary to help,” says George. “It was long days and nights, but we were committed.”
Over the past nine years Sabrina Pelley expanded her volunteer work with CAREERS: The Next Generation, by providing hands-on environmental and technology career exploration to Indigenous youth across northern Alberta.
“It’s important to me that our Indigenous youth are exposed to the opportunities that are available to them in a way that is tailored to their needs and interests,” says Sabrina, Manager, Field Services at Suncor’s Base Plant near Fort McMurray, Alta. “Getting into local communities, encouraging kids to try field equipment, ask questions, and share experiences, is the best way to reach them and make them feel comfortable.”
Sabrina also believes it’s important to empower youth to choose a career path that allows them to participate in environmental stewardship of the land and give them the knowledge to protect it.
“Committing to the development and long-term success of Indigenous youth is a small, but important, step along the journey to reconciliation.”
Over the past nine years, Steve Gilliss has been devoting his time to help people across Alberta and Canada with two of his passions: music and mental health. Working closely with Guitars for Vets Canada, this organization provides music lessons and guitars to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress and trauma to aid in their healing process.
“I was in the military for a short time and understand some of the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life,” says Steve, who resides in Calgary. “It’s important to me as I’ve seen first-hand how, when properly structured, music can change lives for the better. Music and mental health go hand-in-hand.”
Some other groups that Steve volunteers with are Veteran Emergency Transition Services Canada, Thumbs Up Foundation and Supporting Local Area Musicians .
“These organizations and this work are improving lives, saving lives and is making a difference at the front line,” he says.
We thank and support these recipients and every employee who contributes to their communities in meaningful ways. Through our SunCares program, we support employee engagement, volunteering and donation opportunities and the causes that are important to them.