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Girls+ Rock Ottawa performance at the 2018 CBYA Gala. Photo: Greggory Clark/Apt613.

Celebrate local love at the Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala—05.16.19

By Skye Walker and United Way East Ontario on May 13, 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.


Throughout the year, United Way Ottawa recognizes Community Builders from across our city. These local volunteers are actively making Ottawa a better place by giving their time and enthusiasm to local causes.

But once a year, we debut our list of the Community Builders of the Year. These are organizations, agencies, individuals, and groups who have made a lasting impact on our community. Nominated by our community in seven different categories, the 2019 winners take exceptional strides to improve lives, break down barriers, and create opportunities for people in Ottawa.

On May 16th we will celebrate these leaders for the difference they make in Ottawa. The Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala will be at the Shaw Centre, and all of Ottawa is invited! Learn more about the May 16 event and get your tickets here.

Without further ado, here are the stars of the 2019 Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala:

Trend-Arlington Community Association and West Carleton Disaster Relief: Community Builder of the Year Award

In the immediate aftermath of the September 21, 2018 tornadoes, the Trend-Arlington Community Association and West Carleton Disaster Relief emerged as trusted advocates for their communities as the response and recovery efforts unfolded. Both groups have become models for how a community can quickly organize themselves to ensure residents are supported, connected, and cared for.

The Trend-Arlington Community Association and West Carleton Disaster Relief are the heart and soul of our city’s post-tornado recovery effort. They stand with all of us to help those most affected—yesterday, today, and as long as they are needed.

Alida Burke and Corey Ellis, Co-Founders of Growcer: GenNext Award

While Corey and Alida were both in school they were a part of the Enactus—a community of entrepreneurial leaders who use business to address social issues. They travelled to Nunavut several times to see how they could help increase the quality of life and standard of living for people living in Northern and remote communities, who often have limited access to affordable, healthy food.

Through community consultation and research, the pair developed Growcer: a hydroponic system that grows fresh vegetables and sprouts, year round, in shipping containers. Each Growcer pod provides affordable food in these communities, and creates local jobs for residents.

Making Voices Count: From Poverty to Possibility Award

Making Voices Count (MVC) is an initiative of the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres and City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) that works to create a city that is inclusive and representative of everyone.

MVC empowers community leaders, increases civic engagement, and educates residents about issues affecting them at a municipal, provincial and federal level. By working with elected representatives, they aim to advance the social agenda of Ottawa’s marginalized communities.

The grassroots group identifies opportunities for positive change, and strategizes and influences social policy to address the needs of low-income residents. By training residents on how to influence city councillors and candidates, meeting regularly with councillors and staff, engaging local media, and briefing other agencies about key issues, MVC has enabled groups in Ottawa who are often sidelined to speak with a united voice and have their concerns meaningfully addressed by decision-makers.

Costco Wholesale: All That Kids Can Be Award

Through its Canadian offices, its call centre, and network of four warehouses across Ottawa, Costco is making a difference in the lives of local children. As a long-time supporter of United Way, Costco and its employees have given more than $6.2 million over the company’s history to support vulnerable families in our city, with a focus on supporting at-risk children.

Costco employees regularly participate in community events like the HOPE volleyball tournament. In 2018, they submitted six teams that together helped raise awareness for Ottawa-based children’s organizations like Children at Risk Ottawa, that helps families of children diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Through these and many other efforts, Costco supports Ottawa’s most vulnerable children and youth, to help kids be all that they can be.

United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau: Healthy People, Strong Communities Award

The United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau (UMO-OG) prioritizes contributing its time and resources to help make Ottawa and Gatineau great places for everyone. One of the ways it demonstrates this is by stepping up to help in a variety of local community and national fundraising efforts. UMO-OG continuously participate in the CHEO Telethon and also raised significant amount of fund for the Fort McMurray fire victims.

UMO-OG’s leadership helps bridge the gap between the faith community and the social services sector, and its contributions are indispensable efforts of building a safe and healthy community for everyone.

Erin Benjamin: Ambassador Award

Erin Benjamin has made Ottawa her home since 2003. Throughout her career as a leader in the music industry, she has been a determined advocate for women, and has worked hard to promote equality and inclusion across her sector.

With her strong leadership, Erin brought together numerous partners to host CUPE Local 503’s annual benefit concert in support of After the Storm. The tornado relief concert, held on November 10, 2018 at TD Place, brought 5,000 people together and raised more than $55,000 for residents hit hardest by the natural disaster.

This act was one of many that demonstrates Erin’s true character: someone willing to go beyond the call of duty for our city and its people.

Hydro Ottawa: Community Impact Award

Hydro Ottawa has been an exemplary community builder, and has demonstrated its value in helping Ottawa recover from crisis.

In the past year, Hydro Ottawa employees went above and beyond the call of duty to help people in need. In the aftermath of the spring ice storm and the series of tornadoes that struck Ottawa in September, Hydro Ottawa staff worked long hours to ensure power came back on as soon as possible for affected residents.

Hydro Ottawa demonstrates leadership in sustainability by reducing its impact on the environment and by improving performance and efficiency. It actively encourages customers and community leaders to learn about electricity conservation and renewable energy opportunities.

The Community Builder of the Year Awards Gala will celebrate these leaders and innovators, as well as host unforgettable performances from local talent. Join us on May 16th for the most inspiring evening in Ottawa!


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.