A native of Branch, St. Mary’s Bay, Nfld., alumna Priscilla Corcoran Mooney knew from an early age that she wanted to make a difference in her community. From her initial volunteering as a member of Fatima Academy’s high school Green Team, to starting the school’s first literary club and being a contributor for the school newspaper, the young, soft-spoken Ms. Corcoran Mooney would continue this altruistic habit well into her university career and adulthood.
Now at age 31, Ms. Corcoran Mooney is one of six recipients of Flare magazine’s Community Volunteer Award an annual award given to outstanding Canadian women aged 18 and over for volunteer efforts in their community.
She came to be nominated for this award by a close friend and admirer, Tammy Roche, who submitted the required essay for Ms. Corcoran Mooney to be considered.
“To me, Priscilla seemed like the perfect candidate for this award,” said Ms. Roche. “She exemplifies the very intent of the award with her compassion and dedication to volunteerism. She is 100 per cent committed to rural Newfoundland.”
For Ms. Corcoran Mooney, the entire nomination process and subsequent award was somewhat overwhelming.
“When I sat down and read what Tammy had written, it was like a very pleasant living obituary. It was all so well written, sort of whimsical,” she said. “But I truly didn’t think it would go anywhere. My efforts don’t seem that big to me especially compared to the efforts of others. These are just initiatives that I take on because I want to see strong rural communities in this province. When I met the other five recipients in Toronto earlier this year and heard about their stories, I truly felt that I shouldn’t be here because the person next to me has done so much more.”
This is a modest statement for someone who serves as Branch’s mayor (the youngest in the town’s history), is obtaining funding from federal and provincial partnerships for a new town water supply, has started her own bed and breakfast, is a co-founder and member of a number of organizations that improve quality of life for all ages in her community, including Singing Kitchen, Friends of Cape St. Mary’s, the recreation committee, and special initiatives such as the Well Teen Club.
Both Ms. Corcoran Mooney and her husband, Chris, are making a concerted effort to reside in Branch the place they call home. It is this strong determination to make a living in rural Newfoundland that keeps Ms. Corcoran Mooney motivated. In January 2006, she was featured on the CBC program Land & Sea for her efforts as mayor, a position she accepted in 2006 without a salary, to improve the standard of living in Branch. She feels that an important aspect of being in such a position is to take people’s interests and concerns to heart.
“People tell me to develop thick skin. The thing about developing thick skin, however, is that you do not understand what people are trying to say. So when I hear people’s issues, I take them to heart and truly listen to their concerns, even if they are sometimes a little confrontational,” she smiled.
With the growing number of Newfoundlanders leaving home to find work abroad, Ms. Corcoran Mooney remains determined to stay. Such perseverance and sense of community was instilled in her youth by her grandparents, by whom she was raised.
“My grandmother was very spirited and very community-oriented. Today she might be referred to as an activist. I was always very aware of this and I believe some of these traits have soaked into my own personality. Both of my grandparents gave great respect to my life. They gave me a real sense of place and I have always been very thankful for that. I think things might have been very different if I had been raised somewhere else and in a different environment. I am what I am today because of them, and I believe they would be proud and very supportive of my chosen path in life.”
Ms. Corcoran Mooney has a bachelor of science (1999), a bachelor of arts (2000), and a bachelor of social work (2003) from Memorial. She is currently enrolled in Memorial’s master of social work program.