Marisa Jimenez in the hospital lobby for her 2018 Christmas raffle fundraiser. (Trail Times file photo)

Seniors advocate named Trail-Warfield Citizen of the Year

Tireless volunteer Marisa Jimenez will be recognized at an awards ceremony on May 7

Kind, generous, cheerful, and genuine are just a few traits that has Marisa Jimenez being recognized as Trail-Warfield Citizen of the Year.

Most of all, Marisa is known as a truly humble volunteer who selflessly goes about helping families care for their ailing loved ones, visiting housebound neighbours and friends, and volunteering her time six days a week in Poplar Ridge Pavilion, the long-term care wing of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).

And that’s not even mentioning how Marisa has raised $61,710 for Poplar Ridge Ridge residents through a Christmas Raffle she’s organized for 18 years, going on 19.

Not one for the spotlight – but a spit-fire behind the scenes – Marisa was bowled over when she got the call that she was named Citizen of the Year.

Her nomination, supported by so many people from all avenues of life, speaks volumes as to why this small-in-stature-but-giant-in-spirit volunteer was so deserving of this recognition.

Marisa, however, wasn’t sure what to say about the honour other than ‘Oh my gosh.’

“It’s overwhelming,” she told the Trail Times. “There are so many people in this town that deserve this award, and it was given to me. I was shocked and all I could think was, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Many will recognize Marisa from her Christmas fundraiser, and all the incredible gifts and prizes that individuals, families, and local businesses donate toward her cause each year. But she is also being acknowledged for the heartfelt care she has given so many over 25 years.

“Marisa is the shining example of an individual who strives to make Trail a better place,” wrote one supporter.

“Marisa made me believe in angels because she gave of herself unfailingly and her generosity of spirit exuded a warmth and love that was totally genuine. She never asked for anything … It was not about the money or the accolades, it was about helping others,” wrote another.

Since July 1994, Marisa has been giving her time to residents at Poplar Ridge. She began single-handedly raising thousands of dollars for its residents in 2000. Each September Marisa starts canvassing local businesses for donations, and by the third week of November, she’s ready to go. Day-after-day she hauls cartloads of raffle prizes out to the lobby to artfully display while she sells tickets from early morning to the afternoon. Then she wheels the bounty back to a locked room, jumps on a city bus and heads home, then starts the whole process over the next day. This goes on until the residents draw all the prize winners the day of the Poplar Ridge party for families, usually a week before Christmas.

“It started off so small and just kept growing and growing, and I like it because so many people can win,” Marisa said. “And this raffle, it’s a joy to me.”

Recreation therapist Margot Wright shared her thoughts as well by saying, “Marisa is a great community supporter and a valued ‘volunteer-supreme.’”

Wright’s letter of how Marisa has helped over the years is too long to highlight in one story. Portering residents, assisting with music therapy, monthly birthday celebrations and popcorn fundraising sales, as well as organizing weekly church services, only briefly describes the ways Marisa helps Poplar Ridge residents and staff.

“Our new residents feel much more at ease when they see Marisa as she is familiar and welcoming,” Wright continued. “She aids in the difficult transition many of these people have when moving from their homes to a facility, and she never forgets anyone’s name.”

The KBRH Health Foundation relies on individuals in our communities, like Marisa, to help provide the best possible patient comfort and care at KBRH, wrote Bill Clark, board chair.

“Her volunteer efforts and positive energy support both the residents and the staff at KBRH. Marisa even makes a point to deliver tea to the foundation staff to let them know they are appreciated for the work they do. Her presence enhances the quality of life of those around here and we could not be more grateful for her many years of service.”

The Trail Knights of Columbus will award Marisa Jimenez as Citizen of the Year in the gym at St. Michael’s Catholic School on May 7 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend the presentation and social hour.

The Citizen of the Year award is the first event heralding the annual Silver City Days festivities. The award was inaugurated by the Fraternal Order of the Knights of Columbus in 1957, and since then 56 residents of Trail or Warfield have received the honour, as well as three couples, the Trail Maple Leaf Band and the Trail Pipe Band.

Correction: This story was updated May 13 to correct how much Marisa has raised over the years for the residents of Poplar Ridge Pavilion. After the Christmas Raffle started growing due to donations from individuals, families and local businesses, Marisa registered her cause in 2008, with the health foundation at KBRH helping with administration. In 10 years, Marisa has raised $61,710 through the Poplar Ridge Christmas Raffle – not $34,000 as previously stated.

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