Friends of Carol Matthews describe her as a voice for social justice in Nanaimo.
For years she spoke up whenever she felt anything was unfair.
There isn’t a local cause Matthews hasn’t been involved with in one shape or form, said Steve Arnett, Nanaimo Youth Services Association executive director, who has known Matthews for years.
“Carol Matthews is the voice of social justice and has been the voice for years,” said Arnett. “What she does is stand up and become the voice until you can be the voice.”
Her tireless dedication as a community leader, advocate and educator are some of the reasons Matthews was chosen as one of 14 British Columbians to receive the Order of B.C. this year.
“I was very surprised,” said Matthews. “It is a great honour.”
Getting recognition for work in the community is “really special” and there are a lot of people doing work in the community that tend to go unnoticed, Matthews said.
“There are lots of people who do volunteer work, but also people that just do things at the local level with their friends and community to make this a better place to live,” she said. “Where we can have the most influence is in our neighbourhoods and in our community and they are small things that often make the difference.”
Matthews said she is most proud of connecting people to each other or to ideas, because you never know where small connections can lead.
“Sometimes great things happen just from very small efforts,” she said.
Matthews worked as a hospital mental health and social worker, the executive director of Nanaimo Family Life Association, dean of human services and community education at Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University) from 1988-1999 and served on numerous boards, including the Nanaimo Port Authority, B.C. Association of Social Workers and the Social Planning and Research Council.
She is also the author of several books.
“You can find Carol’s stamp on pretty much any service in town,” said Coun. Diane Brennan, a long-time friend.
Brennan said she appreciates the friendship with Matthews over the years, adding she is a source of wise counsel.
“Carol is really funny and has amazing wit,” said Brennan.
Arnett said Matthews was instrumental in the campaign to purchase a new site for Nanaimo Family Life on Townsite Road, said Arnett.
“She is so kind – kind and wise,” added Arnett.
Matthews will receive the Order of British Columbia during an investiture ceremony Sept. 6 at Government House in Victoria.
Since the Order was introduced in 1989, 331 people have received the honour. The order was created to recognize people who served with great distinction and excelled in endeavours to benefit people in the province or elsewhere. The Order represents the highest form of recognition the province can extend to its citizens.