Volunteers are the heart of our community. I held a community celebration to recognize many of the amazing volunteers on October 21st 2017 at the East York Civic Centre. The awardees were nominated by community members and chosen by an independent community-based selection committee. They were invited alongside their friends and families to be recognized for their exceptional volunteer efforts.
The Awards recipients were piped into the council chambers by our local bagpiper, Sarah Severn. The ceremony started with the singing of O Canada by nine-year-old Sakina Phelan from On the Off the Beat Music School. We were also honoured to have Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clark, read a rousing rendition of his Canada 150 poem “Freedom”. All photo credits to Peter Visima.
Several youth were nominated for volunteering in our community. (Clockwise, starting from top left.) Michelle Guni was nominated for her exceptional volunteerism for Camp Yolo this past summer. Hamdi Jimale has already made an impact by volunteering with Amnesty International, Canadian Red Cross, Toronto Youth Cabinet and empowering Muslim youth into politics through Muslim Interscholatic Tournament. Elektra Lindquist-Dakkogiannis is a committed youth volunteer with particular interest in the environment, social justice and tutoring.
I presented awards to those nominated in our community who advocate for youth. Alisa Metcalfe was nominated for her involvement with school councils for the past 14 years. Volunteering with the East York Learning Experience for the past 20 years in many capacities, the current Chair, David Finley, has advocated for building literacy in students and adults. Angie Law and Sara Ehrhardt, were instrumental in saving SH Armstrong pool this past year, greatly expanding and improving the programming.
Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre is a vital hub in our neighbourhood that provides social and cultural services to the community. Starting from top left and going clockwise: Maria Lobo has been offering free piano lessons for the past 17 years; Shimu Rana and Jasmine Asina help at Eastview’s weekly Food Bank; Guo-Zhen Wen has run the seniors dancing group for 6 years; Neeka Allison has dedicated 20 years to the Boys and Girls Club and the Good Food Market; Ming Chau teaches the women’s line dancing; Mary Au volunteers with the folk dancing group; and Wai Ling Cheong helps with the women’s cooking group.
I also recognized community members who have dedicated a lifetime of service to helping out seniors. Wan Chin Chong has been involved with the South Riverdale Community Health Centre for many years helping out with Tai Chi, plain language translation and being on the Board of Directors. Emily Kozak has been with Nisbet Lodge for over 25 years, volunteering in many different capacities and “has become part of the [Nisbet] family”.
Two programs in our neighbourhood provide food security to some of the city’s most vulnerable. Joan King, of Rivertowne Safety 1st group, runs the Rivertowne Breakfast Program every Friday morning. Gloria MacPherson coordinates the Out of the Cold Program run out of Eastminster Church, providing food and shelter to the needy.
This team of volunteers represents the Thrill of the Grill, a group of friends who have volunteered over 8000 hours collectively, and raised over $125,000 in five years for kidney cancer research. From left to right: Trisha Bjorkland, Barb Hefler, Anne Duquet-Ford, Sandy Molner, Mark Thom, David Carr, Steve Williams and Albert Stortchack.
Building communities can happen in so many different ways. Benjamin Ferrer has been running the Silayan Community Centre for the past 5 years, bringing together the Filipino community in Toronto. Michael Rusek helped organize sponsorship and fundraising for the Canada 150 East York Canada Parade. Joan Melanson spearheaded a private sponsorship group that brought over a Syrian family. Alan Munn used his professional expertise to help make Eastminster Church accessible to all through a project to build a ramp and elevator.
A group of volunteers were recognized for their Lifetime of Service. Sister Gwen Smith from Mustard Seed is well known in the community for her work in social justice, youth and refugees. Jeff Otto is a vital member of the Pocket Community Association, enhancing the neighbourhood and community building. Karen Somerville is a fixture in East York where she volunteers with East York Soccer Club, the Rotary Club of East York, Riverdale Share, and Eastminster United Church, just to name a few of the organizations she is involved with. James Caldwell accepted a posthumous award on behalf of his wife, Roseanne Carlquist, who was instrumental to the Monarch Park area by championing Friends of Monarch Park and the annual street sale for the last 28 years. Nacia Miller is on the board of Shakespeare in the Ruff and volunteers at Regents Park School of Music, teaching choir to children. In addition, for the past 20 years she has maintained the Disabilities Online resource page helping those with a comprehensive database for those with disabilities in North America.
Thank you to our Selection Committee for helping out with the selection process and handing out the awards. From left to right, Jim Parker, Grace Chen, Susy Glass and Andrew Sherbin.
Thank you to Peter Visima for capturing all these moments!
Thank you once again to all our wonderful volunteers for being the backbone of our community and to our nominees for letting us know of all the great work done in the neighbourhood.