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Photo: United Way East Ontario.

A return to celebrating Community Builders in person

By United Way East Ontario on October 6, 2022

United Way was back in-person and it felt so good!

More than 120 people joined hosts Stefan Keyes, CTV Ottawa, and Erin Benjamin, Canadian Live Music Association, at Ottawa City Hall to help celebrate Community Builders on Monday, October 3. The 2022 Community Builder Celebration brought together the people, organizations and community partners whose love for our community sits at the heart of everything they do. And it was made extra-special as it happened to be United Way’s first in-person event since the start of the pandemic.

The event recognized 28 people and organizations who were presented with Community Builder Awards (CBA) on Zoom meetings throughout 2021–2022. At the in-person celebration, their names were finally unveiled on the Wall of Inspiration. They join the more than 1,200 Community Builders who have been added to the wall since 2000.

In addition to the unveiling, Prescott-Russell councillor Jean-Marc Lalonde and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson presented United Way’s highest honour—the Community Builder of the Year (CBYA)—to three very deserving groups.

Jean-Marc Lalonde presented a CBYA to The Prescott-Russell Food Access Collaborative for their work to address food insecurity in the region.

“The outcome of their work has given valuable insight into food insecurity in eastern Ontario,” said Lalonde. “It’s shown that increased collaboration and deeper shifts in the way we think and communicate about community food are necessary to enable longer-term systemic impacts.”

Mayor Jim Watson presented two separate CBYAs: one to The Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition and the other to the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group.

The Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition was recognized for its ongoing work to hold health system leaders accountable and ensure safe, accessible, and culturally appropriate mental health programs and services for Ottawa’s African, Caribbean, Black community.

In his presentation Mayor Watson said, “…[T]he Coalition has made a significant impact in a short time. It’s shown it is devoted to changing the systems of care for the Black community in Ottawa and ensuring targeted support is available and delivered in a culturally competent and intersectional way—including different languages and identities.”

“We do not do this work for applause, but it feels good to be seen,” said Shannon Black, Mental Health Manager and Clinical Supervisor at Britannia Woods Community House and representative of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition, as she accepted the Community Builder of the Year Award on behalf of the Coalition. “It feels good to be seen because this acknowledgement also means that those who we do this work for and with, who have expressed feelings of invisibility and abandonment in traditional mental health spaces and systems, are also being seen.”

The Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group was then presented with a CBYA and Mayor Watson told the crowd how its members have worked hard to help unpaid caregivers get the support they need. The group was recognized for developing a cross-sectoral, comprehensive roadmap for planning, programs, and action that will better support informal caregivers and their families living in our communities.

“It’s the amazing and dedicated people behind the strategy and its plans who are working tirelessly every day to improve things behind the scenes—things that would otherwise go unnoticed but are critical to the health and wellbeing of seniors and those who care for them across the region,” said Watson.

Sheila Bauer and Gweneth Gowanlock, the co-chairs of Champlain Dementia Network, and Jennifer Lalonde, a co-chair of Champlain Community Support Network, accepted the award on behalf of the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group.

Gowanlock was touched by the distinction and expressed how important the award was in recognizing the partnership’s work.

“As a caregiver of many years for my husband with dementia, and as a member of the Champlain Dementia Network, I want to thank United Way East Ontario and our other partner organization, Champlain Support Network, for making the caregiver project possible,” said Gowanlock. “This project highlighted the debilitating, painful, frustrating, and often thankless job of being an unpaid caregiver, but it offered constructive, realistic, and a doable roadmap to address the gaps in services to support caregivers.”

United Way President and CEO Michael Allen presented three United Way Champion awards—a new award—to Jean-Marc Lalonde, Jackie Holzman, and Mayor Jim Watson for their ongoing support of United Way and for continuing to champion social justice issues.

If you missed our Community Builder Celebration, check out our YouTube channel for the recorded livestream.

Get to know our three Community Builder of the Year Award recipients

Prescott-Russell Food Access Collaborative

Louis Beland accepts the CBYA from Jean-Marc Lalonde on behalf of the Prescott-Russell Food Access Collaborative. Photo: UWEO.

The Prescott-Russell Food Access Collaborative has been honoured in recognition of the collective effort of community partners to address food insecurity in Prescott-Russell. Food insecurity is prevalent across Ontario and data has shown that rural communities are significantly affected. In Eastern Ontario, approximately one in eight households do not have enough money to buy food.

The work done by the Prescott-Russell Food Access Collaborative aims to better understand the food and peripheral social systems of Prescott-Russell; to gain a true understanding of systemic challenges, unite stakeholders working across the community food system, and identify specific opportunities or initiatives that can help ensure that everyone in Prescott-Russell has access to the food they need.

The 26 community partners involved included producers, distributors, farm associations, food services, community social services, economic development, health care, and education stakeholders from the region. The outcome of their work gave valuable insight into food insecurity in eastern Ontario and identified that increased collaboration and deeper shifts in the way we think and communicate about community food are necessary to enable long-term systemic impacts.

The Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group

Members of the Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group accept their CBYA from Mayor Jim Watson. Photo: UWEO.

The Eastern Ontario Caregiver Strategy Working Group has been honoured in recognition of its efforts to develop a cross-sectoral, comprehensive roadmap for planning, programs, and action that will better support informal caregivers and their families living in our communities.

The Champlain Community Support Network and the Champlain Dementia Network formed a working group of over 17 members representing long-term care, health care, and senior serving agencies from across eastern Ontario to support the activities required to build their strategy.

Consultations with other agencies, seniors, caregivers, levels of government, and stakeholders were conducted to gather input of the status of the current state including the good and the challenges and innovative ideas that could propel the system further. This strategy is the first of its kind in that it is a coordinated cross-sectoral framework and strategy, versus one based on a health issue.

Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition

Shannon Black accepts the CBYA on behalf of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition from Mayor Jim Watson. Photo: UWEO.

The Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition has been honoured in recognition of its work to hold health system leaders accountable and ensure safe, accessible, and culturally appropriate mental health programs and services for the African, Caribbean, Black (ABC) community in Ottawa.

Common elements that impact mental health and access to service include: a deep lack of trust in mainstream mental health systems based on past experiences of discrimination and racism, a lack of cultural integration in current models used by mental health professionals, and a lack of awareness about free or low-cost resources specific to the ABC community.

By recognizing the unique challenges faced by ACB populations, actively addressing barriers and looking for innovative ways to connect with an often hard-to-reach population, the Coalition has made a significant impact in a short time. The OBMHC is devoted to changing the systems of care for the Black community in Ottawa and ensuring targeted support is available and delivered in a culturally competent and intersectional way, including in different languages and for folks of various identities.

United Way East Ontario would like to extend a special thanks to Nambi for a lovely musical performance and to our sponsors Apt613, CTV Ottawa, Move 100 Ottawa, TSN 1200, and CFRA 580! Our return to in-person events wouldn’t have been possible without you!


Did you know we have a new website for our Community Builder Award Program? You can read about our Community Builders, nominate someone who shows their local love, and so much more! Check it out!