Each year since 1995, the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan has handed out volunteer medals to worthy community pillars giving back to their homes. One of the nine recipients this year is Elaine Wirtz of Wadena. Wirtz is a Wadena native who left the community but returned with her husband to raise their children. During that time, she has provided exemplary service in her practice as a physiotherapist, but she has also given countless volunteer hours to volunteer endeavours in Wadena. 

One of the beneficiaries of Wirtz’s time is Mallard Diversified Services Inc. MDSI provides training opportunities, employment and residential options for adults with intellectual disabilities. Wirtz muses how she stumbled into the opportunity to sit on the board ove 42 years ago.

“I was hosting a meeting in Wadena, and MDSI had a speaker that I was actually interested in having for the meeting that I was hosting,” explains Wirtz. “So I went to their annual meeting with the intention of talking to the speaker. At the same time, they were looking for another board member. Somehow by the end of that meeting, I had managed to become that board member.”

That fortuitous event led to a relationship that’s gone on steadily since 1980. As a physical therapist, Wirtz has always been interested in helping people meet and overcome challenges, most often in a physical sense. With her role on the MDSI Board, she has been instrumental in seeing the development of employment, training and housing opportunities for those with cognitive disabilities. Wirtz maintains a couple days a week in her private physiotherapy practice; now in semi-retirement, she devotes many hours to her volunteer interests. 

The Wirtz family has given countless hours to the many executives of organizations that their children were involved in. Once the children exited their youth activities, Elaine continued to show an interest in volunteer work, so she also undertook a position on the board of the local housing authority. 

“It gets me out once a month for the meetings,” she laughs. “It’s a very small committee, but there is the opportunity to ensure that all the rental houses are being well looked after, and it’s another thing that I still enjoy doing.”

Ever vigilant about scams and illegitimate communications, Wirtz says she was wary when she was first contacted by email about receiving the award. 

“I received an email stating that the protocol office of the Government of Saskatchewan was trying to get a hold of me, and I thought ‘this is a different kind of scam.’ That was my first reaction. So then I looked up the protocol office, and I thought ‘maybe that’s actually what they’re doing.’”

After phoning the protocol office, she realized that the nomination was legitimate and that she is slated to receive the award at a special ceremony at Government House in Regina on April 26. The presentation event is slated to coincide with National Volunteer Week. 

"The 2021 recipients of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal have given their time and effort to organizations and communities across our province," Lieutenant Governor Mirasty said in a release. "I congratulate them on this well-deserved honour and thank them for their remarkable contributions to the people of Saskatchewan."

With that nomination, Elaine Wirtz becomes one of 240 deserving individuals who’ve been bestowed the award since its start.