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Published on Thursday, June 8, 2017

16th Annual Community Spirit Awards

Oakville volunteers celebrated for their spirit, contributions to the town

16th Annual Community Spirit Awards
Community Spirit Award Winners
Winners of the Town of Oakville-hosted 16th annual Community Spirit Awards, held Wednesday, June 7. - Nathan Howes/Metroland
By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver

If there is one thing Oakville volunteers have in common, it’s their dedication to making the community a better place.

They were celebrated for going above and beyond Wednesday, June 7 at the Town of Oakville’s 16th annual Community Spirit Awards, which honoured seven individuals and one group in seven categories.

Emceed by Chris Mei, The Weather Network meteorologist, the awards ceremony drew a sold-out crowd of nearly 200 at the Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre.

The awards were designed by local illustrator, designer and portrait artist Emily Soden, who works with oil, acrylic scratchboard and pencils, as well as watercolour and ink, in themes often inspired by nature and animals.

“Sometimes it is the quietest work that has the greatest impact. Oakville is full of people who would like to just do their work and not be shone a spotlight on. But, we’re going to shine some spotlights (on them) tonight,” said Mayor Rob Burton.

Youth Award

Sponsored by RBC Royal Bank, the Youth Award was given to two individuals – Aiza Abid and Marica Pinnock.

The former founded the non-profit Aiza’s Teddybear Foundation with a goal of making young children smile, and to date, has donated more than 3,000 stuffed toys to local hospitals and more than 2,000 gently-used clothes and toys to local homeless shelters.

“A lot of people have passions and this is one of mine. Volunteering has become a large component of my life. I can’t imagine living any other way. I’ve been doing this since I was really young, about seven or eight,” said Abid.

“It’s really a liberating feeling for me because I felt that I could really expand my work and help more people.”

Abid led the Me to We club at Garth Webb Secondary School for four years and was recognized for her efforts with the Governor General’s Award, presented by Free the Children founder Craig Kielberger.

The 19-year-old said she is “extremely grateful” for the recognition because it honours the work she has done and those she has helped through her organization.

“I’m here representing them because they help us way more than we’re able to help them, with their stories and compassion,” said Abid.

Pinnock, 16, was named a recipient of the Youth Award for her volunteer efforts with the Canadian Caribbean Association of Halton (CCAH), which she has been doing since she was eight.

She reaches out to high school youth, with a focus on minorities and newcomers, to enrol them into the CCAH Youth Leadership Program.

Getting involved in the community has always been something her family has done, so for Pinnock, it was only fitting she did the same, she said.

Since she began high school, Pinnock has helped Oakville and Halton youths obtain approximately 2,100 high school community service volunteer hours through the Youth Leadership Program.

“It’s really important to give back because a lot of people don’t even realize all the opportunities that are there for them. My role is as a youth outreach volunteer is mostly to get those kids more involved in the community,” said Pinnock.

She was recently awarded with the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award and Scholarship for Youth Achievement, one of only two award recipients in Ontario.

Senior Award

The Senior Award, sponsored by Chartwell Waterford Retirement Residence, was given to Peter Lowes, recognized for his voluntary efforts as a scout leader and sailing commodore, as well as for giving his time to the Arthritis Society and FIRST Robotics, among other groups.

Lowes said he was “stunned” when he was chosen as the recipient because he thought the other nominees were more deserving of the accolade.

“We’re trying to get science and technology to the same level of accolade that professional athletes have, just to get it recognized in society,” said Lowes.

After attending a robotics competition, Lowes discovered a passion for volunteering with FIRST Robotics and joined his grandson’s high school robotics team as a mentor, hoping to learn more and help the team.

In 2015, he established the Oakville Community FIRST Robotics Team, open to all high school students and is based at Sheridan College’s Skills Training Centre.

Now in its second year, it is comprised of 50 students from 13 different high schools.

“It’s enormously satisfying. It’s a lot of fun working with kids who are brighter than I am, who are constantly challenging (me). I enjoy it very much indeed,” said Lowes, on giving his time to help students.

Access Award

Bingo Rivera took home the Access Award, sponsored by Access Abilities, for his role as an active volunteer and coach with Special Olympics Ontario (SOO) for almost 10 years.

In 2016, he was the lead district team manager for the South Central team, with more than 200 athletes, most from Oakville, in five- and 10-pin bowling, swimming and rhythmic gymnastics at the SOO Provincial Spring Games.

Rivera will once again represent Oakville at the 2017 games.

He said he wasn’t expecting to win the award because when he does volunteer work, “I never expect anything in return.”

“(Volunteering) has always been part of me. My parents were always big volunteers. It was just natural for me to give back to the community,” said Rivera.

“I do it because I love seeing the smiles on all the athletes. When you see them perform and getting their medals, that’s what motivates me.”

2017 Community Spirit Award recipients

Access Award - sponsor Access Abilities

• Bingo Rivera

Arts Award - sponsor Oakville Beaver

• William (Bill) Smith

Group Volunteer Award - sponsor by Town of Oakville

• The Oakville Rotaract Club

Heritage Award - sponsor Genworth Financial Canada

• Mary Davidson

Individual Volunteer Award - sponsor Paradiso Restaurant

• Jan Tingle

Senior Award – sponsor Chartwell Waterford Retirement Residence

• Peter Lowes

Youth Award – sponsor RBC Royal Bank

• Aiza Abid

• Marica Pinnock

For more information, visit www.oakville.ca/.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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