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Community Builder of the Year Award goes to the Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses. Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Community Builders: An evening to celebrate the best and brightest—05.31.18

By Hayley Robateau on May 29, 2018

Hayley Robateau is one of Apt613’s correspondents at United Way Ottawa. With its Community Builder Awards program, United Way honours Ottawa’s outstanding volunteers: the organizations, partnerships, agencies, neighbourhood groups and individuals who work tirelessly to make our city a better place for everyone.


Throughout the year, United Way Ottawa recognizes over 25 Community Builders, the unsung heroes of our city who make Ottawa a better place to live, work and play.

But once a year, we up the ante and celebrate the ultimate Community Builders at our Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala. We receive nominations in different categories and choose seven Community Builders of the Year, highlighting those who have left an indelible mark on our community. These individuals and organizations give through action, passion, empowerment and time, to a variety of causes—united under a common goal of making our city better for everyone.

This Thursday, May 31st at the Shaw Centre, we will honour the following seven individuals, organizations, collectives, and agencies working hard to make Ottawa a strong, healthy and safe community for all:

Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses – Community Builder of the Year Award

The Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses is a network of 15 Community Houses from across Ottawa. The Coalition was established as a platform for Community Houses to exchange information, provide support for staff and volunteers, and to collaborate on projects that impact the communities they serve.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa.

Community Houses are social service organizations located directly within 15 social housing neighbourhoods in Ottawa, offering barrier-free community-based programs and supports for individuals and families—especially those who experience more vulnerability due to poverty, crime and unequal access to resources. These locations have grown to be fixtures in the communities they support, helping thousands of families along the way through a broad range of programs, events, and connections. Community Houses are seen as the first point of contact for marginalized individuals, putting them in a unique position to be a pivotal resource to affect positive change in our city.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa – All That Kids Can Be Award

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ottawa (BBBSO) is a mentorship and friendship organization that works to ensure all children have access to a mentor when they need one. This registered charity has been serving Ottawa for 47 years, offering a variety of programs that transform children into confident, caring and motivated young people.

By creating strong relationships between Bigs (volunteer adult mentors) and Littles, BBBSO instills the values of giving and giving back, education and respect for family, peers and community. In 2016, more than 160 Bigs volunteered over 21,000 hours mentoring their Littles. BBBSO’s programs have grown from the traditional one-on-one matches to include a variety of different programs that serve youth in both the community and schools, including newcomer youth, young people transitioning out of child intervention services and more—all with the goal of changing the course of young lives for the better.


Girls+ Rock Ottawa – GenNext Award

Girls+ Rock Ottawa is a volunteer-run community organization that provides music-based programming to foster empowerment, inclusivity and community to girls, women, femmes, non-binary, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming folk (GWFNB2SGNC+) all while having fun. Their flagship event is a three-day camp, during which participants learn an instrument, join a band, and showcase their achievements at a live performance.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa.

In addition to teaching young women+ how to play instruments, Girls+ Rock Ottawa also teaches other technical skills that are valuable in the music industry, but are often inaccessible to girls and gender diverse individuals: music production, concert photography, gig planning, and more. By changing the face of the music industry, Girls+ Rock Ottawa is building a community that is welcoming to everyone.


EcoEquitable – From Poverty to Possibility Award

Founded in 2002, EcoEquitable provides a bridge to social and economic integration for people in need, especially immigrant women, all while keeping sustainability at the heart of their work.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa.

New Canadians, and especially women immigrants, experience significant barriers to finding employment and participating in Canadian society. EcoEquitable supports women through training and employment possibilities well-suited for women caring for children at home. These opportunities—often sewing projects using recycled textiles—motivate and train women to surpass the minimum income needed to cover necessities and to fulfill their dreams and ambitions.


Sunny Marriner and Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre – Healthy People, Strong Communities Award

For 18 years, Sunny Marriner has advocated for women—especially those who are marginalized—who have experienced sexual violence in Ottawa. Through her work with the Sexual Assault Support Centre and more recently as Executive Director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC), Sunny has deployed her extensive experience as a sexual assault counsellor; her knowledge, educational and research achievements; and her community leadership to support and advocate for survivors of sexual violence in a variety of contexts, including education, housing, social welfare, criminal proceedings, policing and law reform.

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre is a service for sexual assault survivors that offers a wide array of programming to serve their diverse needs. The ORCC is committed to providing inclusive, accessible and feminist services to all women, gender-fluid, non-binary and trans survivors of violence, while also advocating for change and challenging cultural norms that harm women. As our community grows and becomes more diverse, the ORCC is committed to recognizing that diversity and to creating policies, programs and projects that reflect their commitment to serving all women.


Robert Morin — Ambassador Award

United Way Ottawa also recognizes an individual who exemplifies the goals and values of United Way, and has committed their time and energy toward helping us achieve our mission. This year, Robert Morin, a retired public servant who has dedicated over 20 years to volunteering, donating and advocating for the community, will be recognized with the Ambassador Award.


CMA Companies — Community Impact Award

And finally, United Way Ottawa will celebrate CMA Companies—The Canadian Medical Association, and its subsidiaries MD Financial Management and Joule, with the Community Impact Award. This award recognizes the achievements of an organization that has invested in advancing the issues addressed by one or more of United Way’s priority goals. CMA Companies have raised over $882,000 for United Way Ottawa over the past five years, and have worked hard to advocate for solutions to Canada’s opioid crisis.


Through research, evaluation and partnerships with community experts, United Way Ottawa identifies the root causes of the biggest social challenges facing our community, and helps find solutions that change tens of thousands of lives for the better. One hundred percent of donations stay in Ottawa to help those most in need.