Stittsville celebrates our dedicated volunteers

(Councillor Glen Gower presents his opening remarks at the virtual Stittsville Volunteer Awards ceremony held on June 3, 2021. Photo: Stittsville Central.)

Volunteers generously give of their time for the benefit of others as they quietly carry out their good deeds. This year’s nominees share their sense of pride for Stittsville creating a better place in which to live, work and play. All are deserving of recognition.

Since 1990, annual awards have been presented to Stittsville’s volunteers, with the exception of 2020 due to COVID-19. Returning this year, and for the first time, the annual Stittsville Volunteer Awards were held virtually on June 3rd. Hosted by Councillor Glen Gower, the awards ceremony celebrated many valued Stittsville residents for their contributions to the community. Mayor Jim Watson, previous award winners, friends and family of the nominees tuned in to the virtual awards ceremony.

(Mayor Jim Watson welcomed and spoke of the importance of volunteerism prior to announcing the recipients of the Stittsville Volunteer Awards for each category.)

Throughout the night, the nominees were introduced and the winners were announced in each of the six categories: Youth of the Year, Senior Citizen of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Business of the Year, Volunteer Group of the Year, and the Roger Griffiths Memorial Citizen of the Year.

The first award presented was Youth of the Year. As introduced by Councillor Gower, this award is presented to “a young person who exemplifies leadership, inspires their peers and has made a significant contribution to the community through volunteer service.” The nominees were Alexis Heitman and Amatur Raheem Salam-Alada.

Alexis Heitman acts as co-president of the Appreciation of Diversity Club at South Carleton High School, has helped organize various events in fundraising and awareness, is involved in many community activities, is a member of the Ottawa Carleton Virtual School Girls Leadership Forum, and took part in the OCDSB Menstrual Equality Project.

Amatur Raheem Salam-Alada founded the Appreciation of Diversity Club at South Carleton, is a member of the committee planning and organizing the Black Student Forum, worked in consultation with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to reform their approach to Police Involvement in Schools, worked as co-facilitator on OCDSB’s Mental Health Focus Group for Black Students, and helps in organizing sports activities.

Mayor Watson announced that the Youth of the Year Award would be presented to both Alexis Heitman and Amatur Raheem Salam-Alada.

The Senior of the Year Award is presented “in recognition of a senior citizen who has made a significant and long-standing contribution to our community,” says Councillor Gower. This year’s nominees were Marcia Buchanan and Phil Sweetnam.

Marcia Buchanan is a member of the Walter Baker Chapter of the IODE and is involved with Matthew House, Nelson House, Youville Centre, The Mission, Salvation Army, and OCAPDD. Marcia also volunteers her time and resources to help at bake/garage sales, knit toques/scarves, pack gift bags, and overall help to raise funds and awareness for various charities.

Phil Sweetnam has been involved with various business/community organizations and projects (having held leadership positions in many of them), including: Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, the development and improvement work at Poole Creek, the Stittsville Village Association, and Stittsville United Church. Phil previously received this award in 2016.

Mayor Watson announced that Marcia Buchanan is the Senior of the Year.

The next award introduced by Councillor Gower, “in recognition of an outstanding teacher in our community who goes above and beyond to support students and inspire the next generation of leadership in the community,” was Teacher of the Year. The nominees were Erica Mallamo and April Soni.

Erica Mallamo teaches Grade 1 at St. Stephen School. Nominated by a parent in the community, Mrs. Mallamo is described as a teacher who has gone above and beyond to support her students and their parents throughout the difficulties of online learning, and one who also encourages her students to help others and be kind while celebrating diversity in her classroom.

April Soni is a Grade 7/8 gifted class teacher at Goulbourn Middle School. In addition to inspiring her students to dream big and be passionate advocates for climate change and the overall betterment of the world, Ms. Soni has helped to run the school’s Terry Fox Fundraiser, helped with food bank donation drives, and most recently organized a special delivery of origami flowers to seniors at the long-term residence.

The recipient of Teacher of the Year, announced by Mayor Watson, was April Soni.

Business of the Year was introduced next, in recognition of “a local business that goes above and beyond in order to support the community and make it a better place in which to live,” says Councillor Gower. The nominees, both individuals involved in various business and community initiatives, were Joseph Carbonetto and Mandy Hambly.

Joseph Carbonetto actively fundraises and donates to Knights of Columbus, Stittsville Food Bank, Chrysalis House, the Stittsville United Church, and other local causes. Joseph also donates his time at the Barn to promote local artists’ merchandise and had the idea to sell hand sanitizer spray bottles on lanyards with all net profits going to charity.

Mandy Hambly is driven to make the community an even better place to live in by running a small business (alongside her husband) to promote healthy living in Stittsville, creating an advocacy platform for those living with Celiac Disease, volunteering as a kids’ soccer coach, offering free backyard workouts, launching Eldervews, and offering family photos by donation at a nearby sunflower field.

Mayor Watson announced that the Business of the Year Award would go to Mandy Hambly.

Volunteer Group of the Year goes to “a group of citizens who are actively working together to make a difference in the Stittsville community,” says Councillor Gower. This year’s nominees were Stittsville Food Bank and Emran Alnahhas, Tasneem Alnahhas, and Aliaa Alnahhas.

Stittsville Food Bank is a long-standing volunteer group, headed by a board of directors, which has served the needs of the Stittsville community since 1991. Due to the ongoing pandemic, many in the community have been affected and found themselves needing the aid that Stittsville Food Bank provides, which has been supplemented with record amounts of monetary donations to go towards meeting food and nutritional needs in the community.

Emran Alnahhas, Tasneem Alnahhas, and Aliaa Alnahhas became concerned for their sister Aliaa – who is immunocompromised, non-verbal autistic, and has down syndrome – and many other students with special needs who were unable to attend previously accessible activities and clubs as they had closed due to the pandemic. In response, they created Levant Piano to connect musically talented individuals with the special needs community through musical events, lessons, and workshops – they even created a solution for students struggling to grip drumsticks by 3D printing a grip adaptor.

The recipient of Volunteer Group of the Year, announced by Mayor Watson, was the Stittsville Food Bank.

The final award of the night was the Roger Griffiths Memorial Citizen of the Year Award. In introduction, Councillor Gower states, “Roger Griffiths was a leading citizen in our Community who served as town councillor, president of the Legion, and a volunteer firefighter. This award is presented to an individual who best exemplifies community involvement and participation.” The nominees were: Joseph Carbonetto, Kiera Delgaty, Elisa Frost, Mandy Hambly, Scott Phelan, Allan Ryan, and Jeni Sandeman-Felhaber.

Joseph Carbonetto, in addition to his community contributions outlined earlier in the Business of the Year category, has helped to collect tonnes of food and thousands of dollars for the Food Bank over the years.

Kiera Delgaty has taken the time to put her expertise in microbiology and virology towards ensuring the community has the facts they need in response to all questions they might have about the current pandemic, including doing the scientific research needed to provide the most accurate information.

Elisa Frost volunteers her time to the Girl Guides as a troop leader, the Kanata Theatre as a stagehand, community clean-up initiatives, and will take the time to lend a hand to neighbours in need.

Mandy Hambly, also mentioned earlier in the Business of the Year category, is involved in the community through her contributions to the Crossing Bridge Residents’ Association, the Stittsville Village Association, the maintenance of the local outdoor rink, the annual Cleaning the Capital spring clean-ups, Blossom Fest, WinterFest, Canada Day celebrations, Arts in the Park, and Stittsville Main Street revitalization efforts.

Scott Phelan serves as President of the Stittsville Minor Hockey Association (SMHA), where he is committed to maintaining an inclusive and positive hockey experience for all. Additionally, Scott helped to organize a food drive for the Stittsville Food Bank and helped establish a new outdoor skating rink at Village Square Park.

Allan Ryan has been a leader in the business community, having represented Stittsville on Goulbourn township council in the 90s, helped establish (and becoming an early fundraising leader at) Holy Spirit Catholic Parish. Integral in bringing a multi-purpose sports facility (the former Goulbourn Rec Complex) to Stittsville and has served as a SMHA coach. He formed and led the Stittsville Business Association (SBA), and used his talents as a piano player to entertain at various seniors’ residences.

Jeni Sandeman-Felhaber is President of Stittsville Childcare Centre (SCC), leading the Board through the challenges faced throughout the pandemic within the childcare sector, as well as addressing the immediate concerns of families and staff. Jeni also volunteers as a Guiding Leader and a parent volunteer with the Air Cadets, and previously served on her daughter’s school parent council.

(Margaret Griffiths participated in the Stittsville Volunteer Awards as is the tradition of having a Griffiths family member present to award the Roger Griffiths Memorial Citizen of the Year Award. Margaret participated virtually for this year’s awards ceremony from her home in Florida. Photo: Stittsville Central)

Margaret Griffiths continued the tradition of the award recipient being introduced by a member of the Griffiths family. Margaret is the Granddaughter of Roger and Florence (Bee) Griffiths.

Allan Ryan was the honoured recipient of the Roger Griffiths Memorial Citizen of the Year Award.

When speaking to Allan after the ceremony, he told us, “I love what I do and it is part of my DNA I think, to do what I can for the community and those who may need help. I have received more from all of this than I have ever given, so it has been great to be a part of so many projects, events and organizations”. His proudest moment, is his perseverance to bring a multi-purpose sports facility to Stittsville. For over 30 years, Allan has been a volunteer working quietly behind the scenes to make Stittsville a better place to live, work and play. For that we are grateful and thank you.

(Allan Ryan was the recipient of the Roger Griffiths Memorial Citizen of the Year Award, presented virtually by Margaret Griffiths on June 3, 2021.)

What many in the community may not know is the fact that because of Allan’s actions and thinking of the future, he was responsible for bringing a ‘white paper’, if you may, to a Saturday morning meeting of the former Goulbourn Township Council. His white paper introduced the idea that a multi-purpose sports centre was needed in Stittsville. With this move and after much conversation amongst Council members, Bob Townend, the Chief Administrative Officer of that time was convinced. With the persuasion of Allan, the purchase of the property where the CardelRec-Goulbourn Complex now sits was made. Secondary in the purchase was the land where Sacred Heart High School is now located on Shea Road and the Roman Catholic Parish on the east side of Shea Road. Next time you step inside the CardelRec-Goulbourn sports complex, give a nod to Allan Ryan who had the inspiration and foresight to bring this wonderful facility to our community.

Mandy Hambly, recipient of the Business of the Year Award, told us, “I love feeling a part of my community, something I had never felt before since I was a traveling gypsy from age 19-33. I never thought I would want to stop traveling. I never thought I would settle back in Ottawa. But I have to say – Stittsville, with its beautiful trees, trails, parks, schools, homes, people and soon Main Street has everything I could hope for the community where I am raising my kids.

I love Stittsville. I will continue to do anything I can to make Stittsville awesome for all of us. I envision street fairs, a bustling, exciting Main Street – annual events that bring in out of towners, and new businesses along Main Street that keep us all close to home. The SVA is looking for fresh faces who like me are excited about the bright future here in Stittsville, and I would encourage others to get in touch with them to be a part of the fun.

Volunteers, as it turns out, are nice people not motivated by greed, ego or competition. Time spent doing anything as a volunteer is fun, rewarding and productive for others around you. Which feels great!”

Congratulations to all of the nominees and winners, and thank you so much for all that you have contributed and continue to do to make Stittsville such an incredible community!


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