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Michael Murr, Brenda Richardson, and Gord St. Denis. Photos courtesy of United Way.

Community Builders: Showing local love for volunteers like Brenda Richardson

By United Way East Ontario and Skye Walker on February 11, 2019

Skye Walker is one of Apt613’s correspondents at United Way Ottawa. With its Community Builder Award program, United Way Ottawa 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.

Some of the greatest volunteers in Ottawa don’t know how appreciated they are, and that’s why we love to surprise them.

On December 5th Brenda Richardson was ushered on stage by local radio host and United Way recognition team member Gord St. Denis at the Centre for Social Enterprise Development’s (CSED) Unleashed conference. Brenda had helped organize the conference, so the itinerary change was unexpected.

When Brenda arrived at the front of the room, she was met with thunderous applause – nearly every person in the room seemed to know her. No easy feat, as the event drew more than 100 people to Bayview Yards to network, collaborate, and strategize about all things related to social enterprises here in Ottawa.

It was then that Gord surprised Brenda with a United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award for her many years of volunteering.

“Brenda has demonstrated a commitment to local love in this city that has not gone unnoticed,” he said to the crowd.

Brenda has spent a decade making a positive change in the Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association (KBCA). She served as a volunteer director of the KBCA and dedicated her energy to taking the organization in new directions.

“Brenda immediately got involved with assisting on key issues. She works hard to continue to make Beaverbrook the great community that our members moved here to join,” says Neil Thomson, President of the KBCA.

Brenda led a community-wide update to the KBCA’s mission and mandate in order to make its goals clearer and to build up the community. This work left a lasting mark on both the organization and Kanata-Beaverbrook.

“Brenda is a community builder through and through,” Gord said at the presentation. “She used her skills, background and expertise to bring the KBCA to new heights.”

Brenda has supported the KBCA in a variety of roles. When the KBCA’s work was stalled due to a vacant Treasurer position, Brenda stepped in to make sure the Association could continue to run smoothly. When it came time to celebrate the community, she managed presentations celebrating Beaverbrook’s history for its 50th anniversary by collecting community stories to share.

“Brenda took ownership of working with a new generation of KBCA Directors to revisit the core purpose and principles for the community and the KBCA, generating a new vision for the next 50 years,” said Neil.

“It’s very gratifying to see Brenda being recognized for the Community Builder award because she is so deserving,” said CSED Executive Director Michael Murr, adding that he was excited to be a part of something that would recognize Brenda. “The fact that the award presentation was made in front of a large social enterprise audience was an extra benefit.”

“It was incredible to see Brenda’s reaction when her name was called. It was a look of complete shock followed quickly by joy and a big smile as it sunk in that she was being honoured,” said Michael.

Brenda, like many of United Way Ottawa’s Community Builders before her, was thrilled but humble about her recognition.

“I was absolutely thrilled (and completely surprised) to be honoured with a Community Builder award,” Brenda said of the special moment.

Through her passion for social enterprise, Brenda has built an organization that now inspires up and coming change-makers. With the KBCA, she has shown that local volunteering can benefit the community in countless ways.

One thing is certain: Brenda has shown her local love for Ottawa and left an indelible mark on our city.

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.