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Port Hope woman honoured with Horizons medal

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today

Horizons of Friendship board member Paul Caldwell presents the medal signifying the agency’s 2012 Founders Award to Port Hope resident Doreen Gorsline.

Horizons of Friendship board member Paul Caldwell presents the medal signifying the agency’s 2012 Founders Award to Port Hope resident Doreen Gorsline.


Port Hope resident Doreen Gorsline was honoured this week at the Horizons of Friendship annual meeting with the agency’s Founders Award for 2012.

This award was created in honour of Christine and the late David Stewart, who took their children to Honduras to work for a year in 1971. They invited Father Tim Coughlan to accompany them.

When the three returned, they founded the Help Honduras Foundation, which eventually became Horizons of Friendship.

The award honours the spirit of volunteerism in addition to the founders themselves, board member Paul Caldwell said at this week’s annual general meeting at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Cobourg, as well as the programs made possible by Horizons.

A volunteer and a program are honoured annually, Caldwell said. The program gets a financial contribution, and the volunteer gets the medal that was created by Cobourg sculptor Frances Gage.

The Santa Maria Linguistic Project, which runs in the highlands of the western part of Guatemala to promote bilingual education among Mayan communities, is this year’s program winner.

“Ninety per cent of this population is indigenous and do not have access to appropriate economic and social services — and are taught in Spanish,” Caldwell said.

“It is very important to provide learning opportunities in the first language of people to provide a solid base for development.”

Through this program, 240 teachers and 120 parents have been trained, and have worked with 7,200 students in 40 schools.

Gorsline’s nomination was submitted by Anne Cox, Bud Lynch and Farley Mowat.

“Doreen’s drive and tenacity, coupled with her focus and her joyous approach to her work, permeate all that she does,” Caldwell read from the nomination submitted — adding his own tribute to her persistence that consistently reaps results.

Born and raised in Port Hope, Gorsline began volunteering as a high-school student and continued as a mother, when she returned from the University of Toronto and married another Port Hope resident.

An active Friends of Music volunteer and former president, Gorsline is also a devoted choir member and elder at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church (where one of her latest project is the Musical Soup For The Soul concerts and luncheons).

Gorsline expressed her pride that she was a member of the provincial and Federal riding associations that made this the first riding in Canada to elect both a female MP and a female MPP.

She was a part-time teacher and political enthusiast contemplating a return to graduate school in the early 1990s, when her mother drew her attention to an ad for a new community-resource development position at Horizons.

Before long, Gorlsine had begun two Horizons fundraisers that have become annual fundraising staples: the Homes, Gardens and Music Tour that is in its fifteenth year, and the Writers & Friend gala — in its seventeenth year in Port Hope and its fifteenth in Kingston.

More than 125 musicians and home owners have made many memorable summer afternoons, she said. More than 70 authors have been spotlighted at the galas. And thanks to the thousands who supported these events, almost $1-million has been raised (qualifying for matching Canadian International Development Agency funding).

Gorsline continued her involvement, even travelling on such occasions as the aftermath of Hurricane Fifi in Costa Rica.

In short, she said, her passions have been “music, politics, the church and this amazing family that we all belong to.”

Her mentors, she added, have been “people of vision who perceived challenges around them and felt compelled, cajoled and called to get things done and make a difference.”

“When I heard the news (about the award), I was speechless at being considered in the same category as previous honourees,” she said.

“Gradually it sank in. Let there indeed be celebration of the spirit of volunteerism and community leadership as symbolized by the founders’ lasting legacy and Horizons’s partners.”

The meeting was attended by retired Northumberland MP Christine Stewart and Father Coughlan (who continues with the agency as honourary president).

Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier did some calculating based on Horizons figures, which he shared at the meeting.

“For every volunteer you have, you are directly affecting the lives of 1,200 people. I don’t know of any other organization that can make that kind of claim,” Brocanier said.

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