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Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Community Builders: The people who make us fall deeper in love with our city

By Hayley Robateau on March 13, 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.


What made you fall in love with Ottawa?

Maybe it was sitting in a shaded waterfront picnic spot at Commissioners Park. The first time you bit into a SuzyQ doughnut and tasted that perfect balance of cakey, gooey goodness. Eating handmade vegan perogies while beating the high score of Terminator 3 pinball at House of TARG. Maybe you were walking along the Mer Bleue boardwalk and realizing how easy it is to find little bits of paradise just outside the city’s core.

At United Way Ottawa, we believe that for a city to be great it has to be great for everyone. We fall deeper in love with our city because of the people working hard every day to make Ottawa a better, safer, stronger, more exciting place to live.

We wanted to let all these unsung heroes know how much we and the community appreciates them, so we started the Community Builder Awards program in 2000. Every year, we recognize (with a surprise visit from our Recognition Team) about 30 organizations, neighbourhood groups and individuals who work tirelessly to improve our city. These Community Builders have their names permanently etched on the Wall of Inspiration at City Hall’s Jean Pigott Place, so people will see their contributions for years to come.

Some of the Community Builders we’ve recognized in the past are:

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Kevin Waghorn, the full-time theatre manager who devotes his evenings and weekends to managing the Alexander Community Centre skating rink in Carlington and organizes the annual Carlington Cup. He also volunteers with the St. Elizabeth Catholic School parent council, Carlington Community Association and many local arts organizations.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

The Ottawa Syrian Refugee Leaders Coalition, made up of many organizations including Refugee 613, the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa, and the Community Foundation of Ottawa, with help from United Way Ottawa. They came together to drive the overwhelming outpouring of compassion from thousands of Ottawans to support refugees of the Syrian crisis. Together, they helped change the lives of more than 2,000 people who now call Ottawa home.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Noémie Pound—our youngest ever recipient at just nine years old—has raised more than $32,000 for charity by bringing together classmates and organizing events. Noémie received the Youth Inspiration Award from Proud to be Me and graciously donated a significant amount of the financial award to the United for Refugees campaign.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Osman Naqvi is a leader, social entrepreneur and youth empowerment advocate. He founded the Kiwanis Club of Barrhaven and helped create the YOUth Heroes initiative—a city-wide campaign that empowers local youth to create positive social change in their neighourhoods. Osman has been an active leader with the Caring and Sharing Exchange, Carleton University’s Young Liberals Association, the Canadian Hearing Society and Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.

Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa

Eldon Holder is a dedicated youth mentor and volunteer with the Young Leaders Advisory Council and Camp Quality, which provides empowering camp experiences for youth with cancer. Eldon volunteers as the director of Youth Engagement for Black History Ottawa and advocates for the national recognition of the United Nations Decade for people of African Descent.

And so many more—in fact, we’ve recognized more than 800 Community Builders in the past 18 years and that number continues to grow.

A lasting impression

When we engrave the names of each Community Builder on the Wall of Inspiration, their contributions become a lasting legacy. But the reality is, we simply don’t have the space to tell each Community Builder story in detail on the Wall. Those lucky friends and colleagues who happen to be there during the surprise presentation get to experience the magic, but we want to make sure these stories can be shared for celebration and to inspire others.

Wall of Inspiration inductees photographed at City Hall. Photo courtesy of United Way Ottawa.

In this column, you’ll see the stories of every day Ottawans who take the time to extend a helping hand… and those who push for a better city.

So, to that end, we’re pleased to launch this Community Builders column on Apartment 613 to share the stories of every Community Builder recognized by United Way Ottawa from this point forward. Both our organizations are passionate about the hyper-local, underappreciated stories that are making waves in our city, so we think this partnership is a great fit.

In this column, you’ll see the stories of every day Ottawans who take the time to extend a helping hand, break down stereotypes and barriers, and those who push for a better city by showing us the true meaning of compassion for others. We’ll recognize these change makers, and we hope you will help us share their stories.
Stay tuned—we’ve got a lot of inspiring people to tell you about!

Do you know someone who deserves a Community Builder award? You can nominate them.


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.