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Karen MacKenzie-Stepner

Nominated by:  Catherine Clute 

Karen has always been a person who is very active in her professional and personal life to help those in need of assistance. She credits her parents for instilling a strong sense of providing voluntary service where one can, and her family who like to joke, “where is she off to now!”At home in Chester, Karen volunteers with:
St. Augustine's Church Guild, as Co-Chairperson for the last 5 years. She organizes and coordinates fundraising and outreach events. She oversees the participation of the Church in the Christmas Families program as well as the coordination of support to individuals in need in the Lunenburg area.  Karen is a member of the Church's Maintenance Committee and the Prayer shawl knitting group.  Karen reads at Church and prepares the weekly announcements. 

Karen has been an active member of the Bridgewater Red Cross Personal Disaster team since 2011 where she assists families in the first 72 hours following a disaster. She serves as the Member at Large of the Chandler's Cove Condominium Board for the third year as well as several ad hoc working groups. She has been a member of the Chester Basin, New Ross and Chester Lions Club since 2019 where she enjoys serving as the Club’s Secretary. She is involved in the monthly activities of the Club as well as selling apples in September and Christmas trees in December. 
Karen recently volunteered her time to help establish a Comfort Centre at the Chester Basin Fire Station. She will be involved in responding when the Centre opens in times of need.  She enjoys teaching in many capacities; she is currently providing tutoring to the children of the local Syrian family in English, Science & Math. She previously worked with their parents teaching English. Karen also had volunteered to assist the other 3 Syrian families with learning English over the last 6 years. Karen also provides teaching assistance to the Grade 4 students at the Chester District Elementary School and has done this for the last 5 years. 

Karen currently works with new immigrants to Nova Scotia who are Deaf and have no/limited English skills. Karen teaches them both English and Sign Language. In addition to her job, Karen provides additional support to help the newcomers learn about Canadian culture and about the city they have moved to. Karen has also taken part in handling the Red Cross phones during National Emergencies, such as the most recent hurricanes, and the Fort McMurray Wildfires. This work has led to her being asked to join the Lunenburg Disaster Planning committee. Karen, also volunteers Internationally, she is a frequent traveler to Central and South America.   Her purpose is to represent Team Canada Healing Hands.  For this NGO, Karen serves on the Board of Directors, as well as the Director of Communications. When not involved in policy meetings, she has been traveling yearly to Haiti, Belize, Peru and Guatemala.  She is preparing for next mission to Guatemala in March and Panama in May. Her main task is to prepare curriculum and to “Teach the Teachers”.  This program is complicated as she not only needs to prepare the curriculum in Spanish, but also needs to learn the indigenous sign language. 

Karen had brought her talents and skills to other nonprofits in the past, such as Signs of Fun (three annual teaching trips to six school programs for Deaf students in Lima, Peru) with the United Deaf International Services at a camp for deaf persons displaced by the political situation in Haiti and with the West Tennessee Haiti Medical Partnership delivering medical services to Deaf individuals at St. Vincent's Centre for Handicapped Children. Karen is a passionate educator and nonstop volunteer. She finds it extremely rewarding to meet people in a variety of settings and with multiple viewpoints and abilities.  She has always had a sense of the importance of communication. Her volunteer work in developing countries and at home allows her the opportunity to help individuals to better communicate with others. In the end, she knows she is making a lasting impression in everything she does and proves one person can make a difference.