Gillian MacDougall wins provincial award previously given to mum, sister
According to 4-H Canada, “The National Volunteer Leader of the Year Award recognizes the volunteer leaders who are the biggest champions of the 4-H program.” Valley native Gillian MacDougall comes from a family of devoted and accomplished 4-H leaders. Following her older sister Caitlin’s 2021 win and their mother Laura Johnston’s recognition in 2004 and 2011, MacDougall has been named as Quebec’s 2022 Provincial Volunteer Leader of the Year. While her family volunteered in Ormstown, MacDougall is assisting the Shawville 4-H Club.
After graduating from Carleton University in 2011, MacDougall settled in western Quebec with her now-husband Tyler McCann. The couple have a farm in Bristol where they are raising beef cattle and meat goats as well as their four children.
A former member of Ormstown 4-H, MacDougall served on the executive of the 4-H Quebec board of directors from 2007 to 2010 while also representing the province on the 4-H Canada youth advisory committee.
“4-H was a huge part of my life growing up. It’s where I made many lifelong friends, as well as [where I] met Tyler. It gave me the opportunity to travel across Canada and is a community like no other,” says MacDougall. She explains that 4-H helped her to “build skills, knowledge, and confidence. Even before we had our own kids, it was important to give back and ensure that the next generation had a chance to experience and enjoy the program.”
She volunteered intermittently starting in 2011. After a hiatus while their children were small, MacDougall will start her third consecutive year in 2023. As overall leader, she provides support to all the project leaders and members. The Shawville club offers a wide variety of animal projects as well as life skills and giant pumpkin growing. Square dancing will start again this winter after a break due to the pandemic. MacDougall says, “I like to see the members grow in the program and continue the tradition of ‘learning to do by doing.’ This year, I am also very proud of our club and the amount of community outreach they took part in.”
About her own children, the proud mother notes that Rosie (aged 10) is a 4-H goat club member, Ray (8) is a beef club member, six-year-old Beth will join next year, and three-year-old Annie is happy to tag along. “It’s wonderful to see our kids be a part of a program that we both love so much. It is interesting too, as they show in different projects than I grew up with, so it’s a learning curve for me too.”
MacDougall was nominated by her sister-in-law and co-leader, Kayla McCann, who stated, “Gillian worked tirelessly to make the local club grow by attracting and retaining members by encouraging them to become more actively involved in 4-H events.”
McCann also said her nominee “stepped in to help and make sure the province’s largest event was successful.” MacDougall says of Provincial Rally which the Shawville club hosted in July, “We were so happy to be able to continue this tradition, especially after a two-year hiatus from our traditional Rally due to COVID. It was wonderful to see our members work together and meet new friends from other clubs. It was also pretty awesome to have two of my children as third generation Rally participants. They were extra excited that my mum, who was on the original Rally committee, made it up to watch them during show day.”
McCann said, “Gillian is strong, encouraging, supportive, and resilient. The 4-H club would not be the same without her. She is someone who parents and kids alike can look up to and reach out to when they need help.” MacDougall shares credit in turn: “I wouldn’t be where I am without my fellow leaders in Shawville. Without their knowledge and the time that they dedicate towards our club, we wouldn’t be able to offer all that we do. The same goes for our outgoing youth executive and the community that supports us all.” About being recognized for her dedication to the youth program, she says, “It’s a pretty great honour! Especially to join my mum, my sister, and other great leaders provincially who I still rely on for support and advice.”