Wellesley recognizes volunteers with its citizen of year awards

Last updated on Sep 07, 23

Posted on Sep 07, 23

7 min read

At next week’s Wellesley Fall Fair, four residents will be recognized for their volunteer contributions to the community.

Lisa Weiler Haskins and Richard Hamming have been named as citizens of the year, Alexis Boyd-Koudys is the junior citizen and Bob Reid is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award.

Citizens of the Year

Lisa Weiler Haskins and Richard Hamming were named citizens of the year after opening their home to several Ukrainians who came to Wellesley after the Russian invasion. That was something they had been talking about doing for a long time, dating back to the crisis in Syria, Hamming said.

“For me, it was easy to jump on board because my grandparents, both my grandparents immigrated here. I’ve heard all those stories, so I felt compelled to kind of give back into that. Somebody helped them, which helped me,” Hamming said.

Wieler Haskins was one of the founding members of the Waterloo Region Grassroots Response to the Ukrainian Crisis group, which is made up of community members who assist Ukrainians coming to the area.

“I just created online information sessions, because we had so many people that wanted to host and it was really good that we learned about what is involved, because I think it was a lot more than we initially thought. Through it all, we realized you’re going to need a circle of support,” she explained.

Several people stepped up to provide needed items, such as a fridge for their basement where the Ukrainians stayed.

“We had people we’ve never met in this community before emailing us, and when that family arrived, dropping off stuff at the door, sometimes not even knocking on the door. It was just quite a humbling experience, for sure. We just really didn’t feel alone in this. People say, ‘oh, it’s great you opened your home.’ But that felt like an easy part for us. We gave up a bit of privacy, but they are an amazing family.”

Hamming said it was all about providing a hand up to those who need it.

“They just need that timeline. That’s it,” he said. After providing housing and other support for a family of four last year, they have since opened their home to two other couples. Technology was a key factor in overcoming any language barrier,  Hamming explained.

“That literally, for me, dropped the barrier. You can communicate with them as long as you’ve got access to Google Translate,” he said.

For those who might be considering opening their home, Weiler Haskins suggested doing as much research as possible and getting to know the families before moving in.

“You need to have both people on board. You need to have a supportive partner. You need to really understand what you’re getting into. But the rewards are just unbelievable. There were some bumps along the way, but you work through it,” she advised.

“Don’t be scared to step up. It’s easier than you think. And it’s very gratifying,” added Hamming.

The couple was so uncomfortable with being recognized that Hamming asked if it could be given to the runner-up.

“I don’t do it for recognition. I don’t need accolades for doing something….Anybody could win this,” he said.

Another resident helped put it in perspective for Weiler Haskins.

“They said ‘this award isn’t just about you. This is about the community you belong to. It’s about everybody else. And it’s about setting an example. It’s about people thanking you for being a leader and  inspiring them.’ So really, when people say congratulations, we have to say ‘thank you.’”

Junior Citizen of the Year

Entering her second year of kinesiology at the University of Waterloo, Alexis Boyd-Koudys was recognized for her years of volunteer efforts. It’s a list that includes fundraising for the Paradise & District Lions Club Tree of Light program, making safe injection and harm reduction kits for the Sanguen Health Centre and helping out at her former elementary school with marking and lesson preparation during high school. This season, she will also volunteer as a student trainer for the Waterloo Warriors Field Hockey Team at their 6 a.m. practices.

Alexis Boyd-Koudys was recognized for her years of volunteer efforts [Bill Atwood]

“It’s nice to do these things and then see it affect the community [and] see actual results…. Knowing that some of that volunteering has helped  the Christmas tree, it’s like, you get to see the actual results of things that you’ve been doing, and it makes you feel a bit more accomplished,” said Boyd-Koudys of her desire to volunteer.

“It gives you a lot more connections, as well. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people from the fair, the Lions Club and businesses in the community. It really makes you feel like you’re involved,” she said.

While her volunteer roles, such as making the injection kits, are not necessarily traditional, they don’t feel random to her, Boyd-Koudys said.

“In high school, I was looking for a health-related volunteer opportunity, and that one just seemed really unique. I guess I could have helped in maybe a clinic just volunteering some time there, but I just thought that those experiences stand out to me,” she said.

This summer, Boyd-Koudys has been volunteering at the university’s anatomy lab, helping dissect six cadavers used in classes in the upcoming school year. This includes removing all the skin (the faces remain covered) and then removing things like muscles to show deeper ones or all fat and tissue to display the abdomens.

“The goal is to make it look like a textbook picture, so clean all of the extra stuff away.”

Last year, Boyd-Koudys ran to become the Wellesley Fall Fair ambassador and was named the associate ambassador after finishing second to Ali Khan. Being a part of the program was “an amazing experience,” she said.

“I learned a lot in just what it takes to kind of be a useful representative of the community. It takes a lot of time and effort and commitment to represent Wellesley or the fall fair, or just your community in general. I have a deeper appreciation for that. And I think that I now know how to be a better involved resident in the community because of it,” she said.

Boyd-Koudys recognized that many Wellesley residents are highly involved in the community and the importance of honouring them for that work.

“I am very grateful to be included in that this year. I know that they always choose a good recipient of the award. It just it feels a little bit surreal that they chose me.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

The importance of community involvement is not lost on Bob Reid, who moved to Wellesley with his late wife, Susan, 45 years ago. In the years since, Reid has been involved in many community groups, including the Lions Club, the Apple Butter & Cheese Festival (including 20 years as chair), his church as a past president, and he was a founding board member of the Wellesley Applejacks for whom he still serves as the current president and timekeeper. He is also a supporter of the Wellesley Food Cupboard.

The importance of community involvement is not lost on Bob Reid. [Bill Atwood]

“I  said to my wife, ‘We’re going to be involved.’ So, while we were painting a house before we took over, I met a gentleman who ran a service station. He was a very good Lion, and he asked me to join. I joined the Lions Club right away, and haven’t been sorry that I did join,” said Reid, who has been club president on three separate occasions.

Although he claims his role was minor, Reid did highlight some of the achievements of the club, such as the splash pad or making playground equipment accessible to people with physical disabilities.

“We’ve had some super fundraisers,” he said.

While never reluctant to be involved, he didn’t actually commit to being a part of the ABC Festival committee when he was asked to join about a year after joining the Lions Club.

“I was getting more and more involved with going to hockey games here with the senior hockey team. I met a gentleman who was vice-chairman of the Apple Butter & Cheese Festival…And he wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining the festival committee. I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ The next thing I read in the paper is that I’m the new advertising chairman for the festival. I didn’t commit, but yet he committed me, so I joined the festival,” Reid explained.

His desire to be involved came from watching his dad, who was always there to help those in need, Reid explained.

“I just followed that up, and now, being retired, I have a little more time on my hands. It hasn’t been a real burden. There are some weeks where I’ll have two or three meetings with the different organizations, which gets to be a little much, but I still have made my commitments. I still want to be there. I like the community. I like Wellesley. That was the main thing about us moving here and spending the time we did here,” he said.

While he would encourage all residents to get involved, Reid acknowledges the challenges.

“The problem with young families nowadays is that both parents have to work to afford the house. They have little time to spend with their kids, so it’s harder and harder for them to do the volunteer stuff.”

There are, however, ways to be involved without as much commitment, such as joining the “Friends of Lions” to volunteer at events or sitting on the board of the Applejacks, Reid added.

“Sometimes, to run an event, we need more than the number of Lions we have in our club. Or some of those people are busy too, and they can’t help out. If you’re a hockey fan, the Applejacks are always looking for volunteers to sit on the board in various capacities, sometimes just to be on the board to give us numbers and give us advice.”

Reid said that while it is nice to be recognized with the lifetime achievement award, such accolades aren’t the reason for getting involved.

“We’d rather just be sitting in the background. It’s nice to get, but it’s not something that you canvass for,” he said.

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