A Communications Operator who has always kept in mind there are people relying on her at the end of the line was recognized for a career of contributions on the phone and in fundraising.
A week before retiring after 31 years as a Communications Operator, Donna Remy was presented with the St. Michael Award at the 54th annual Toronto Police Service Communion breakfast on March 4.
St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers.
The award was launched in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Communion Breakfast, started in the winter of 1964 by a small group of Toronto cops who took their sons to mass at the cathedral and then to breakfast at a local restaurant.
Open to uniformed and civilian members, the award recognizes a Service member for their contributions to the community through humanitarian acts of kindness, both on and off duty.
Months after joining the Service in 1987, Remy identified that there were many people in the community who were in need. As a result, she started the Communications Centre Food Bank Donation Drive that has raised thousands of pounds of food and money.
Six years later, she put on a “Women in Transition” fundraiser and donated all of the proceeds to the centre to help the women and children who use the service. In 1998, she organized a fundraiser for the Bloor MacMillan Centre to help support and enrich the lives of young adults with disabilities or complex long-term needs.
In response to a growing number of “missing elderlies” calls, Remy and Elizabeth Murphy started an annual fundraiser in 2006 that benefits the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto (AST). Nearly $30,000 has been raised from the “Coffee Break” bake sale and raffle that also raised awareness of the habits of people with dementia so both officers and civilians could better respond to the calls.
She also established a program that sponsors a family every Christmas through Victim Services Toronto.
Communications Operator Michelle Balogh nominated Remy for the prestigious award.
“Donna not only touches the community, but also the lives of each and every person she comes in contact with through her job,” she said. “Each one is treated with respect, compassion and an abundance of patience. Not one person is hurried off the phone. From a parking complaint to the horrible death of a child, Donna is, without question, who you want to answer your call. Upon hanging up, each citizen must feel like they have been given a big hug. Many of us have commented that she is who we want answering the phone if our loved ones are in distress and requiring help.”
Balogh said Remy is the consummate professional, treating everyone with dignity and respect.
“Each and everyone is treated like a loved one who must be kept fully informed and, above all, safe,” she added. “No morsel of information is overlooked or omitted when relaying information. All under her watch are protected. It is written that St. Michael recognizes the threats and imminent dangers that those in law enforcement face and, in prayers, he is referred to as the Archangel that safeguards wickedness. Donna, with her determined, yet gentle, manner, whether unveiled through her kindness and compassion as evidenced by her many charitable acts or through her proficiency and skill while performing her duties, is surely one of St. Michael’s angels on earth.”
Chief Mark Saunders joined Staff Sergeant Madelaine Tretter of 22 Division Primary Response Unit in presenting the award to Remy, who joined the Service 31 years ago after graduating from Concordia University.
With an eye on teaching, she was attracted to an advertisement for communications operators.
“I really had no idea what I was getting into when I joined,” said Remy. “…I soon found out that we speak to thousands of citizens a day during the worst moments of their lives. Our jobs can be stressful, overwhelming and sad as we are constantly reminded how fragile life is. But it can also be heartwarming and rewarding and life-affirming.”
Remy said her family’s and colleagues’ support has been pivotal in the last three decades.
“In this line of work, you need that,” she added.
Up until four years ago, Remy did shift work.
“I was on 12-hour day shifts in the latter part of my career as I was given that option which was nice,” she said. “I will sleep and decompress over the next 12 months before deciding what’s next.”
Her last day on the job is March 11.
Previous St. Michael Award winners were Constable John Zivcic who was honoured posthumously, Staff Sergeant Matt Hoyer and retired civilians May Mak and Avis Ottey.