‘Outstanding’ Durham senior among 15 honoured by Ontario

The Ontario government is celebrating 15 outstanding seniors for their exceptional contributions to their communities and to the province.

“Congratulations to this year’s Ontario Senior Achievement Awards recipients,” said the Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. “Seniors across the province have felt most directly the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and it is a delight to be able to celebrate the positive difference seniors make to our communities. Today’s recipients are role models to Ontarians of all ages.”

The seniors being recognized are dedicated and compassionate individuals who are helping to improve the lives of older adults through community services and humanitarian activities. This includes fundraising, helping with Meals and Wheels programs, and volunteering in local churches, retirement homes and long-term-care homes. They support and empower seniors by serving as mentors, environmental stewards, agricultural ambassadors, and educational, cultural, and artistic organizers.

The recipients are being recognized by the Lieutenant Governor, and Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility at a virtual recognition ceremony.

Quick Facts
• Older adults are the province’s fastest growing demographic, and by 2023, there will be 3 million Ontarians over the age of 65.
• The Ontario Senior Achievement Award was created in 1987 to recognize outstanding seniors who, after the age of 65, have made significant contributions to their communities.
• Since 1986, the Ontario Senior Achievement Awards have recognized 660 outstanding seniors. •

The 15 recipients are:

Leo Blindenbach of Newcastle, known for his environmental stewardship, he is a member of the Samuel Wilmot Nature Area Management Advisory Committee. Leo also organized a local community watch program and most recently created an online group to liven community spirit safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This group now has more than 1,100 members.

Beverly Baxter of Lindsay, a retired registered nurse known for her compassion and caring, continues to put her professional skills to good use in the community through her work to establish a local palliative care program and by volunteering at monthly blood pressure clinics. Beverly received a 25-year service award from the City of Kawartha Lakes Community Care in 2016.

Michele Boniface of Stratford is a tireless supporter of the arts through her work with the Off-the-Wall Stratford Artists Alliance, which gives students the opportunity to learn, earn and collaborate with artists involved in the Stratford Festival. Michele is also a member of the Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts Advisory Committee and has contributed to numerous projects involving arts and music, civic beautification and environmental awareness.

Joan M. Goldsmith of Oro-Medonte, has been a volunteer for more than 45 years, including more than 450 hours at Trillium Manor Long Term Care, where she has organized many successful fundraising events and trained other volunteers. As a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force Veterans in Canada, unit 400, Joan ensures every veteran that moves into Trillium Manor receives a special door plaque and a large poppy.

Donald “Donny” Hishon of Kitchener, was also a recipient of the local Senior of the Year Award in recognition for his more than 17 years of community service. Donny was the lead facilitator for Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings at the Grand Valley Institution for Women. He also volunteered with reintegration programs to help female offenders prepare for a better future and trains new volunteers.

Pat Kolb of Bolton, has been a dedicated community volunteer for more than 30 years. She has delivered meals on wheels and when that was not possible due to the pandemic, she transitioned to doing weekly telephone wellness checks for seniors and people with disabilities. Pat also volunteers with youth through her work with Peel 4-H. In addition, she is a passionate advocate for farm and agricultural issues and volunteers with the Albion-Bolton Fall Fair.

David A. Longstaff of Hamilton, has been a committed volunteer at Shalom Village for 14 years. David’s volunteer work began when his mother moved into the seniors residence and continues although she passed in 2012. David is an integral member of the team due to his tireless energy in running entertainment programs, gardening, fundraising, taking residents to appointments, and so much more.

George Lowes of Iron Bridge, is a member of the local Lions club where he serves as Treasurer. During tax season, George uses his financial skills to help people in need complete their tax returns at no cost. In addition, he volunteers with youth, and assists at flu and diabetic clinics. On Remembrance Day, George wears his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform, recalling his time in the Reserve RCAF working with cadets for more than 25 years.

Lawrence Martin of London, has been volunteering for more than 40 years. His upbeat personality comforts patients at Victoria Hospital and entertains visitors at Fanshawe Pioneer Village. Lawrence is an active member of Trinity United Church and regularly pitches in to perform building repairs, including acting as a volunteer general contractor for a multi-year renovation project.

Darrel O’Shaughnessy of Arnprior, uses his considerable energy and organizational skills to advocate for seniors through his role as Chair of the Greater Arnprior Seniors Council (GASC), his involvement in forming the local Seniors Active Living Centre (SALC), the creation of a local Men’s Shed, and founding of a local Dragon Boat group, to name just a few of his many projects that enrich community life for older residents.

Dr. Sally Elizabeth Palmer, Professor Emeritus of Dundas, is a retired professor in the McMaster University Faculty of Social Sciences and a 26-year member of the Children in Limbo Task Force. Serving on many committees and volunteering her time for more than 45 years, she is a social justice advocate, an Indigenous ally and founder of the Good Food Box program which provides fresh produce to low income Ontarians.

Janice Preiss of Beeton, is a pioneer in the benefits of pet therapy. A lifelong dog lover, she started a pet therapy program for senior residents at Simcoe Village and Manor 33 years ago and has since trained many volunteers, while also serving as a member of the local St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program. Janice also raises funds for many community initiatives and has received several awards for community service.

Thomas Shura of Kenora, is a generous community volunteer who has been known to take money of his own pocket when local fundraising drives fall short of donation targets. Tom also organizes clothing drives for local First Nations and others in need of winter wear. For many years, he has put his construction skills to good use by building homes for Habitat for Humanity to help low-income families own their own home.

Sonja Elizabeth Smith of Bracebridge, is a volunteer with over 60 years of experience contributing to community life. She regularly assists residents of the Pines Long Term Care Home on bus trips and organizes evening entertainment. In addition, Sonja has been a member of the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital Auxiliary for 25 years, assisting in the gift shop. She delivers meals on wheels and for the past six years has been a volunteer at the local Intergenerational group for the young and young at heart.

Touran Vakilzadeh of North York, emigrated from Iran in 1990 with her five children. Back home, she was a school principal and studied to gain accreditation to teach in Ontario. She later started the Persian Avicenna Learning Centre which became a focal point of the Iranian diaspora in Toronto. Touran remains a pillar of her community and continues to give back through a charitable fund for oppressed women and children in rural Iran.


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