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VIDEO: Animal champion honoured as Vernon’s Good Citizen of the Year

Gena Barzan was surprised with JCI award at her place of work, the Animal Auxillary Thrift Store
Gena Barzan was surprised at the Animal Auxiliary Thrift Store on Thursday, Jan. 25 with the 2024 Good Citizen of the Year award. (Bowen Assman- Morning Star Photo)

After a long week, Gena Barzan was itching to leave her place of work, the Animal Auxiliary Thrift Store and head home for the night.

However, her co-workers coaxed her into staying a little bit longer and that was because, to her surprise, the Vernon Good Citizen of the Year for 2023 award would be be going to her.

“Wow! Thank you. I can’t believe it,” said a stunned Barzan as a crew of people popped in to the store to give her the news. “This is just amazing. I never expected anything like this. This is definitely a group and community effort but I really appreciate it.”

The Auxiliary Thrift Store was opened by Barzan in 2019 as a non-profit thrift store, with funds going towards disaster recovery and various animal rescue groups. The store also runs a senior hamper program, which delivers food to seniors on the last Thursday of every month.

She was given the award by JCI Vernon, along with a cheque for $500 from Kidston Helm Ross LLP, to be donated to her charity or group of choice, which was an easy decision.

“Forever Home Sanctuary,” she said. “They need some barns for their animals.”

According to Dayna Watters, past president of JCI Vernon, Barzan was nominated by Robin Steg

“Steg knew about everything you do and thinks very very highly of you,” Watters explained. “She couldn’t be here today to help surprise you but they were so heart warmed that you were here and we were able to give the award to you.”

Barzan has been working in disaster and animal rescue since 2005.

“It is so rewarding to see people smile, save their animal or feed somebody is beyond words,” she said. “You can see it in their eyes. Knowing they can come to us is really rewarding.”

Gena’s husband, Dale Christie, who is the managing director at the store, said that this was the perfect pick-me-up for his wife.

“She needed something like this,” Christie told The Morning Star. “We had a hole in our roof and there was a leak which was really rough on us.”

The leak, in early December closed the store for a couple of weeks, but due to the help of tireless volunteers and Barzan, the store has been up and running again in the new year.

Barzan will also be recognized at the Feb. 3 Vernon Winter Carnival parade.

Donations are always appreciated at the thrift store, and you can drop off items, or funds at 3100A 29th Ave or email:

READ MORE: Vernon clean-up extraordinaire Helen Sidney named Good Citizen of the Year

READ MORE: Dressed up dogs parade in new Vernon Winter Carnival event

Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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