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Friday, July 12, 2024
Dedicated NOTL volunteers honoured with provincial awards



More than 15 Niagara-on-the-Lake volunteers have been recognized with special honours by the province of Ontario for their work in the community.

The volunteers, from various organizations, received Ontario Volunteer Service Awards during a virtual ceremony last Thursday.

Among the volunteers recognized were four people who help out at Radiant Care’s Pleasant Manor in Virgil.

Lillian Bergen received a five-year award for therapy dog services, Rosie Deb was honoured for five years of running the home’s tuck shop, selling coffee and other items to tenants, and Ralf Hamm earned a 10-year award for various duties, including running barbecues for special events, helping with food for long-term care residents and delivering fresh-cut flowers every week for the residence’s dining room tables.

And Mary Janzen was recognized with a 30-year award for playing piano and doing a singalongs with residents.

Tim Siemens, CEO of Radiant Care, said volunteers typically play a big role at Pleasant Manor, but during the past year of the pandemic, many haven’t been able to come into the home.

On top of that, the facility just saw the end of a 53-day COVID-19 outbreak, making it even more challenging.

“It’s not possible to have a lot of volunteers come into the home during a pandemic and let alone an outbreak,” he said.

“But I’ve been in this business 21 years now at Pleasant Manor, and I’ll tell you that the volunteers are a big part of the backbone to the operation of our organization.”

He said he’s grateful to all volunteers and that Pleasant Manor’s “campuses of care” model which includes long-term care and retirement homes on the same property, has many volunteers who live right on-site.

“I can’t say enough of how worthy those individuals are for what they’re being recognized, look at the volume of years,” he said.

“The history of volunteerism at Pleasant Manor is huge. Thanks to our community, the community of people who live on the campus, the community of people who live in Niagara-on-the-Lake that have supported Pleasant Manor through their volunteer efforts. Every second, every minute, every hour of time, we just value so very, very much.”

Bergen, who visits once a week with her dog Randy from Therapy Tails Ontario, said the award was “unexpected” and really gives the credit to Randy.

“These people are so lonely. They need comfort and they get such joy out of this character,” she said, with Randy at her side during an interview outside Pleasant Manor.

She said it’s been a year since Randy and she have been able to visit and that residents are missing him, and he’s missing them. She doesn’t live far from Pleasant Manor, she said, and sometimes Randy will lead her that way on walks, and they’ll wave at residents on their balconies.

Deb, who normally runs the tuck shop at the home for people who can’t go out, was also surprised to learn she received the award and said it’s really something she just likes to do. She also volunteered for a long time at various places like Sunnybrook and the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital before it closed.

“I am not doing it for recognition. I like it, to serve people. For anything you do, even if you just pour coffee, they’re so thankful,” she said. “It’s good to have that little shop.”

Hamm also was not expecting the award. He also wasn’t seeking or expecting any recognition, but said it feels nice to be recognized.

“I’m not looking for something like that but it’s always nice to be able to have somebody recognize what you’re doing.”

He said he gets the most joy from the actual volunteer work. “That’s where you get your most pleasure out of it,” he said.

At the Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum, several members were honoured for their years of volunteerism as well. Award winners were: Tom Patterson (five years), Peter Babcock (10 years), Lois Chapman, Ron Dale, Deborah Paine and Clara Tarnoy (15 years).

Museum curator Sarah Kaufman said volunteers are an “invaluable” help to the museum, with more than 100 people whose hours every year equal that of several full-time staff members.

She praised Patterson, who lives next door to the museum, for his working doing data entry.

Before the pandemic, he would come into the museum on Wednesdays to help.

“It’s a lot of computer work and it can be quite tedious,” she said, adding his wealth of knowledge as a longtime resident has been a major asset to the museum.

Babcock, who also has lived in NOTL for “a very long time,” helped during the War of 1812 bicentennial to transcribe all of the Old Town area's war-loss claims.

She said the work is extremely valuable to the museum.

"Peter went in and did a transcription of every one for the Old Town area, which is amazing work, and absolutely tedious,” she said.

Chapman, on top of being a former board member, is always out at charitable events helping in one way or another, Kaufman said.

“Fundraisers, of course, are extremely important to nonprofits, and so having extra hands to help out with those events is very important.”

Dale, who is well-known as a local historian, has done “a lot of research” to help the museum.

“And he was also a former board member as well, so he’s done a lot of great work for us.”

Paine is one of the “original vault ladies,” Kaufman said, and has spent countless hours describing new pieces as they come into the museum, as well as helping at events.

Tarnoy has been working for years on the museum’s “deeds database,” after the land registry office cleared out old land deeds and donated them to the museum, Kaufman said.

She said it’s another laborious project of inputting information, which should be completed in a couple of years.

Volunteers were also recognized from NOTL’s Girl Guides and Sparks, with Brenda Ferguson and Judy McHattie receiving honours for five years with the 2nd Niagara-on-the-Lake Brownies Unit and the 1st Niagara-on-the-Lake Sparks Unit, respectively.

At the Shaw Festival, several members of the Shaw Guild were given honours for more than 80 years of combined volunteer service.

Recipients were Margie Enns (35 years), Leonard Conolly (20 years), and John Mather, Elaine Evans and Glenna Collins (10 years).

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