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Champions of youth, art, housing honoured at annual levee

The mayor did bring up his pyjamas, but a British king started it.

Collingwood celebrated its volunteers with town hall’s highest honour given out at the Mayor’s New Year’s Levee yesterday (Jan. 13).

The town gave seven local volunteers the Order of Collingwood and two more received the Companion to the Order at a reception held at Georgian Bay Club in the afternoon.

The Order of Collingwood goes back to 1986, when then-mayor Ron Emo started the award program for Collingwood’s volunteers.

The ceremony began with land recognition and a greeting from James Carpenter, a prayer by Reverend Donna Wilson, poems by Day Merrill, and a welcome by Clerk Sara Almas.

The tradition of a Mayor’s Levee, as Almas pointed out in her role as MC, goes back to the 18th Century, when the king would invite men into his bedroom as he woke up on New Year’s Day and started making decisions for the New Year to show the government was for the people.

Mayor Brian Saunderson welcomed the public to the levee and told them he was glad not to be in his pyjamas.

Kidding aside, Saunderson said Collingwood’s strength was its people, and he and the rest of council delivered introductions for each of the recipients – all injecting personal anecdotes about time spent working with each volunteer as they served in the community.

Councillor Kathy Jeffery introduced Margaret Adolphe as a volunteer who “leads by example.”

Adolphe has been a volunteer on several committees including as a founding member of the Collingwood Gaslight Tours, and the Collingwood Arts and Culture Awards.

Adolphe told the crowd of several successes she had seen in Collingwood from moving the side launch mural to the Loblaw store from the Mountainview Hotel, and helping Home Horizon open Barbara Weider House to provide a shelter for homeless youth.

Deputy Mayor Keith Hull introduced Gail Michalenko, a champion for affordable housing and an end to homelessness in Collingwood.

Michalenko has been a local volunteer for 35 years and is currently a member of Home Horizons, the Collingwood Public Library Board, and the Collingwood Municipal Non-profit Housing Board of Directors.

Michalenko quoted the phrase: a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.

“I believe Collingwood as a community can be well-judged,” said Michalenko.

Councillors Bob Madigan and Tina Comi introduced Order recipients Wayne and Hilda Noble.

Hilda died in April this year and is receiving the award posthumously. She volunteered as part of the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Auxiliary, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts.

Wayne is the owner of Noble Insurance and a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Collingwood, where he introduced a Meals on Wheels program. He delivered meals personally, and managed other volunteers in the program.

“Hilda would have been very proud to receive this award,” said Wayne, adding the epitaph on her headstone reads “lifelong volunteer.”

Wayne was also honoured to received the award and said he always loved driving for Meals on Wheels. He also added, with particular pride, he had donated 150 pints of blood so far in his lifetime.

Councillor Mariane McLeod introduced youth champion Ray Smith, who brought to life a vision for a Collingwood Youth Centre.

Smith volunteered many hours designing the Collingwood Youth Centre, Hospice Georgian Triangle, and the Barbara Weider House.

“We have to do what we can to help the youth today,” said Smith. “Collingwood has been very good to me and I have to repay that debt.”

Councillors Deb Doherty and Yvonne Hamlin helped present the Order to Sharon Stewart and Marc Suood, both members of the Syrian Sponsorship Committee.

Suood can speak Arabic, and has helped provide translations for the six refugee families that have arrived in Collingwood. Stewart used her experience as a teacher to work with the children in the families, and helped some of the refugee women explore their passion for cooking and helped them establish Our Syrian Kitchen.

“We’re going to share this award today because there were so many volunteers involved,” said Stewart. “Collingwood, you are the volunteer capital of the world.”

Mayor Saunderson presented the first Companion to the Order of Collingwood, which is awarded to a past Order of Collingwood recipient who has continued to volunteer since receiving the order.

Dr. Farel Anderson was one of two recipients. Anderson was a dentist in town who continued to volunteer after his retirement, most recently on the board for E3 Community Services (for 25 years).

Anderson took the opportunity to speak about a changing world - for better or worse - and quoted Victor Hugo, saying nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

“That’s what has happened in Collingwood,” said Anderson, quoting one more unknown author.

“Success is not measured by what we have achieved, by what we gain, but by what we have given,” said Anderson.

Councillor Steve Berman gave the final introduction for Harold Zukerman, who received the Order of Collingwood in 2013 and has continued to volunteer daily at the YMCA.

“There were so many other people who deserve this kind of honour,” said Zukerman.

His speech was a list of the people who inspire him, those he works with at the YMCA, patients at the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where he volunteers, and one person he never met, Andy Wimmer, who was a banker who left his job to join Mother Teresa in her charity work.

“Wimmer said, ‘my life is a loan from God and I’m just paying back this loan with a little bit of interest,’” said Zukerman. “My loan is a huge one.”

Saunderson wrapped up the reception with a review of 2018 and a look ahead to 2019.

“You are a critical part in telling us what you want,” said Saunderson. “This council will make decisions in your best interest … The next four years belong to Collingwood and we’re here to serve you.”

To read more about Zukerman and Anderson’s volunteer work, click here and here.

Watch CollingwoodToday soon for more stories about the award winners.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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