Citizen of the year loves working with seniors, caring for cats
By Liz Dadson

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Donna Coughlan of Kincardine loves working with seniors and caring for her cats, and sometimes she gets to combine the two.

Wednesday afternoon, the winner of the Bruce Power citizen of the year award brought seven-month-old "Lexi," from her "Allies for Alley Catz" cat rescue, to her workplace, Malcolm Place Retirement Residence, to visit with some of the residents.

"Lexi" was greeted by Malcolm Place resident Betty Brown and the kitten cuddled up for a photograph.

Coughlan and her partner, Phil White, operate Allies for Alley Catz from their home in Kincardine. They found "Lexi" near Walkerton with several other kittens, left abandoned in boxes.

"Lexi" was the only kitten out of her litter that survived. She is blind in one eye because she was suffering from an eye infection, double-pneumonia, and malnutrition when she was rescued.

Right now, Allies for Alley Catz has 25 cats available for adoption. All are spayed or neutered, and 12 just had their shots this past week.

Coughlan has worked at Malcolm Place for six years. She was recreation director, then administrator, and is now health care director.

"It's a wonderful place," she says. "I get to greet new residents and help make them comfortable and become familiar with their new home."

She assists families in dealing with issues, and has nurses on staff to help with health concerns.

"I enjoy spending time with the residents and getting to know them better," she says. "I like listening to their stories. When they open up and share their past, it's pretty interesting."

She also volunteers after-hours at Malcolm Place, taking people to appointments, sitting with residents, and helping out where needed.

"There are things you can do," she says. "You don't need to be paid for everything."

Besides the cat rescue and her work with seniors, Coughlan also helps with community events, such as organizing the Feb. 22 benefit for Lynn Campbell who lost his home to fire New Year's Eve.

"That was a very successful event," she says. "It had to be postponed from January but that worked to our advantage - it was standing-room only."

Coughlan says when her name was called as winner of the citizen of the year award she was very surprised.

"My mom was there and she was getting tired so I told her she could leave because I didn't think I would win," says Coughlan. "But she stayed till the end and she was there to see me win."

Coughlan says she had no speech prepared so she just spoke from the heart.

"You don't do these things for recognition," she says. "You do them to help out your community."

She says the residents at Malcolm Place were so excited.

"They all sang 'For She's the Jolly Good Fellow' for me and hugged me," says Coughlan. "It was all very touching. That's what made it so rewarding for me."

She says the Malcolm Place residents are a huge part of what she does.

"I love my job, I enjoy coming to work," she says. "We have an amazing staff here and we work as a team."

Meanwhile, at home, she and White also work as a team, along with his daughter, Cora, 18, caring for the cats. 

Besides her mom, Ida Stephens, Coughlan has one brother and two sisters, and they all live in Kincardine.


Bruce Power citizen of the year Donna Coughlan (L) and Malcolm Place resident Betty Brown hold "Lexi"

Donna Coughlan (R) receives her Bruce Power citizen of the year award from Rob Liddle

In their few moments of spare time, Coughlan and White enjoy taking their dog, "Gypsy," for a walk in the woods near their home.

Allies for Alley Catz was also nominated for the Enbridge Quality of Life award which was won by the Kincardine Rotary Club.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014