Everything longtime Merrittonian Peter Samra does for the community comes from the heart — and, as he recently discovered, his good work gets noticed beyond the city’s borders.

His voluntarism of nearly three decades in Merritt earned him a Caring Canadian award earlier this month.

Samra was one of only three people from B.C. to receive the award from the Governor General in Ottawa. Another 46 people from across Canada were awarded at the April 14 ceremony.

He said it was inspiring to hear the accomplishments of other recipients and to network with them after the awards presentation.

“Your mind kind of grows and you want to give to a greater extent,” he said.

Over the 27 years since Samra moved back to Merritt after attending UBC, he has volunteered with both local Rotary clubs; been a member and vice-president of the Merritt Sikh Society, which promotes awareness of Sikhism in the community; promoted Meals on Wheels, Country Christmas and the Terry Fox Run; supported multicultural sessions with the Punjabi Canadian Roots Club; and facilitated Merritt Youth and Family Resources Society’s boys’ group.

As a Rotary member, he was responsible for the citizenship program, in which he’d select one local student to go on an educational trip to Ottawa.

He said it was rewarding to see students who were shy come out of their shells and develop personally after their return from the trip.

He facilitated that program with the Merritt Rotary Club for seven years and another four or five years with the Sunrise club.

Samra also spent one term on Merritt’s city council from 2005 to 2008, during which time he voiced his concerns about the old Tolko beehive burner and Coquihalla toll booths, both of which have shut down.

Professionally, Samra’s role in School District 58 goes beyond teaching at Merritt Central Elementary.

He is also the district’s Indo-Canadian liaison, meaning he helps new Merritt residents from India understand the school system here.

That includes translating report cards for parents and students alike. Although that’s part of his role as the district’s liaison, it also involves evening calls to parents’ homes to go over individual report cards.

At the Sikh temple, he is also a point of contact for translation and his voluntarism there has included accompanying the temple’s priest to the MLA or MP’s office to translate what he requires.

Samra said he was stunned in January to learn he would be receiving the award at a formal ceremony in Ottawa.

“Somebody kept count of what I was doing,” he said. “You just keep doing things without even thinking about it. You just keep doing your own thing.”

Samra said being nominated by other people in the community validates his efforts to help others, even though he doesn’t do it for validation.

“Don’t think of it as just a minor thing. It makes a huge impact on people, especially when you’re improving their lives,” he said.

Samra said he didn’t quite believe he’d be receiving the award at first, but as the April 14 ceremony came closer, it began to sink in.

His wife Bal and oldest daughter Rajneet, 26, accompanied him to the nation’s capital.

Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas was also one of Samra’s guests in the audience.

After the ceremony, Albas gave the family a tour of Parliament.

Samra said he was impressed by the professionalism of the ceremony and especially touched by the personal way Gov. Gen. David Johnston connected with each recipient.

“The way the staff organized the whole presentation made you feel hey, this is very, very special,” he said.

The Caring Canadian Award was established in 1995 and recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who make long-term, unpaid contributions to their communities, the country or on an international scale.

The ceremony took place during National Volunteer Week, which ran from April 12 to 18.