After a hiatus due to COVID-19, the annual Lord Mayor's Volunteer Awards have returned, honouring 11 of Niagara-on-the-Lake's many outstanding volunteers for their selfless charity and community work.
Town council bestowed the awards during an online ceremony on Monday night.
Marilyn and Jim Armstrong won the award for community and civic engagement. The couple have lived in Queenston for 23 years and started the Queenston Residents Association in 2007.
Marilyn said she is most proud of how the association has strengthened community spirit in the village.
“It’s not just about preserving the village, it’s also preserving community spirit,” she said in an interview at their home.
Niki Walker didn’t even know she was nominated until the town told her she was receiving the award for diversity, equity and inclusivity.
As a white woman, Walker was a little embarrassed to be the winner of the diversity, equity and inclusion award, but said she got involved as a way to use her privilege for a good cause.
Walker is the co-chair of the diversity and inclusivity committee and said everyone has a responsibility to promote equity in NOTL.
“I try to be aware of the benefits that I enjoy because of who I am, my identity," she said in an interview at Balls Beach.
Caitlyn Neufeld, 24, volunteers with the Cornerstone Community Church junior youth program and won the award for working with children and youth.
She was a member of the program when she was a kid and said she was embarrassed to have received the award instead of her deserving peers.
“It feels like this should be for my whole team that I work with. But I feel like I can kind of accept it on behalf of them,” she said in an interview at the church.
Rosemary Goodwin was recognized for her involvement in sports and recreation.
Goodwin, a longtime member of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Tennis Club, can talk at length about all things tennis and even has a bowl of tennis balls in the centre of her dining room table.
After her adored husband Don died, Goodwin found that tennis, a passion they both shared, was the one thing that made her happy.
“Somehow, when I’m doing anything with tennis it just makes me feel close to him,” she said with a big smile in her Old Town home of 34 years.
Goodwin invited all the town councillors out to play tennis come spring. She is 75 and says she plans on playing tennis for another 20 years.
Kyra Simone was the well-deserving winner of the environmental efforts award.
Simone has been cleaning up NOTL’s environment since she was a kid and recently picked up more than 30,000 cigarette butts from areas around town.
“I have so many amazing memories of cleanups with family and friends, especially at Niagara Shores Park where we’ve dragged out car tires, Adirondack chairs and damaged canoes and removed hundreds of balloons, bottle caps and straws from the shoreline,” she said.
Simone writes a regular column on environmental issues for The Lake Report and is a member of the town's environmental advisory committee.
Carrie Robinson was named volunteer of the year under 30.
She volunteers for a myriad of organizations in NOTL, from the young adult focus group to the Santa Claus parade.
Robinson, 21, was recognized for her work this year with the Daughters of the Vote project, which seeks to recognize 100 years of women having the right to vote in Canada, and is addressing the issues that still remain for women in the political sphere.
In a message to The Lake Report, she said she will continue to “lobby to make it feasible for young adults to work, live in and enjoy our town,”
Samantha Fretz won the volunteer under 16 award.
The teenager donated her long hair to a wigs for kids program earlier in the year and is a member of the town's youth advisory council.
“I’ve belonged here for many years and I love giving back to my community,” Samantha told council.
Tim Taylor was singled out for his work with seniors.
Taylor, who is a regular feature writer for The Lake Report, raised thousands of dollars this year for palliative care riding his bike throughout September.
“I feel a little guilty, though," Taylor told councillors. "I raise money for local palliative care but I also do it because it’s fun. It’s fun to go cycling in the month of September.”
Joan King was given a special award created to honour her 15 years of organizing NOTL’s Terry Fox run and for the milestone of surpassing $1 million in donations.
“There’s so many admirable people here in Niagara-on-the-Lake that volunteer and it helps me shape my way of thinking, that each and everyone of us has the capacity to make a difference,” King said during the award ceremony.
Lise Andreana won the culture award.
Andreana was recognized for her work as the chair of the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre.
“If you are thinking about volunteering, I encourage you to follow your passion and your talents and to bring those to a cause that interests you,” Andreana said.