Locals honoured by Governor General

Contributed Image

Contributed Image

On Sept. 23, Governor General David Johnston visited Kitchener to present Caring Canadian Awards to 13 individuals from the area. His visit also celebrated the launch of the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation’s new initiative, Smart and Caring Community Grants Program.
“We were absolutely delighted that their Excellencies — not only the Governor General but his wife, Sharon Johnston — were willing to come back to what we consider their community,” explained Rosemary Smith, CEO of KWCF.

Johnston was the president of the University of Waterloo from 1999-2010 so in many ways his visit was a return “home.”

The Caring Canadian Awards were first presented in 1995 by the governor general at the time, Romeo LeBlanc, to recognize volunteers who give their time to make their community a better place.

Smith explained that in May 2011, Governor General David Johnston spoke to Community Foundations at a national gathering in Vancouver.

“At that time he laid out, as passionately as he is known to do, his vision for building a smart and caring nation,” Smith explained. “Part of that … was encouraging people to be the best they could be to step up and make those differences in their communities to recognize what was called ‘caring Canadians’. ”

Smith explained that since it was KWCF’s 30th anniversary, Johnston is a patron of Community Foundations and they were ready to launch their new program, it was a perfect fit for Johnston to attend the event and present the awards.

She continued that because this was the first opportunity he’d had in a while to visit the area, he requested that others from outside the region be present to receive their awards.

Accordingly, nine recipients were from the region, with the others being from Brantford, Stratford, London and Midland.

Smith was also recognized at the event for her contributions to the community.

“On the one hand I felt really proud and humbled to be included in the group, and on the other hand I thought, well this isn’t about me at all, it’s about community,” she explained.

Kelly Lovell was recognized for her work to inspire and empower young leaders. She is a motivational speaker and founder of several organizations which target helping youth reach their full potential.

She explained she was humbled when she found out she was a recipient of the award.

“That’s really what the best part of it is — when you connect with the fellow Caring Canadians,” she said of attending the ceremony.

As for her personal passion for volunteer work, Lovell said she was inspired by her own struggles with being taken seriously as a leader as a youth.

“I wanted to build a path for my peers that gave them opportunities to have their ideas heard and to take action and discover their potential in their youth,” she explained.

Timothy Jackson was also a recipient of the award. He said he was taken aback when he found out.

“I know most of the local people that were recognized, and I think all of us just go about doing what we do to give back to the community and none of us do it to be recognized. That’s why it was a surprise.”

Jackson has been involved in a number of local organizations, such as chairing the board of the local food bank, the Waterloo Public Library board and the Centre in the Square Board.

He explained that his reason for volunteering comes from his belief that it’s everyone’s obligation as community members to help make their community a better place.

“For me, Waterloo is a great community and it’s been a community of barn raisers since its inception,” Jackson said. “The whole concept of barn raising, which David Johnston often talked about, the notion of a community coming together to help one another — I just think it’s part of our culture.”

Smith paraphrased a message Johnston gave at the award presentation which she found inspiring.

He explained that when Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1967, the emphasis in the country was on building brick and mortar. But his vision for the 150th anniversary in 2017 is to build a country that is known for smart and caring people.

“I just thought, man, you can have all the brick and mortar in the world you want, but if you don’t have smart and caring people you don’t have anything,” she said.

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