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Community Builders: Celebrating Pride (Part 2)

By United Way East Ontario on August 3, 2022

On July 19, in collaboration with Apt613 and a special partnership with Capital Pride, we recognized six more incredible community builders. You read about three of them yesterday—here are the rest!

Our July presentation was extra special because we awarded recipients who are a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, plus allies dedicating their work to creating more inclusive communities. Toby Whitfield, Executive Director of Capital Pride, hosted the presentation and helped us surprise these unknowing recipients. From supporting youth through their gender transition to creating an online book club and curation service focused on gender-inclusive and diverse characters or families, local community builders are constantly showing selflessness and care during these unique times.

These recipients are community leaders and fearless advocates who have stepped up and demonstrated a local love that has not gone unnoticed. Award recipients have demonstrated a strong ability to mobilize their communities, going above and beyond their regular volunteerism. They also represent the kind of quiet determination and heroism that inspires others to act—leading by example.

We thank everyone who takes the time to nominate everyday heroes, and we thank you, community builders, for your exceptional contributions.

Jamie Topping

Jamie Topping. Photo provided.

Jamie is described as a true leader with a natural ability to put others at ease. After sensing a need in his community, Jamie created the Lanark Village Community Development group on Facebook. Through the group, he helped community members organize to facilitate improvements to their village. Jamie began attending council meetings to help spread information through the township and later made his group an official nonprofit organization. He embraces ideas from members of his community and helps them organize their own projects in the village.

Through Lanark Village Community Development, Jamie has facilitated several much-needed improvements in his community. This has included a total cleanup of the main street, assisting in cleanup after acts of vandalism, installing planters in front of city buildings, restoring photo history boards in front of the post office, and more.

“Everything he does has been total self-dedication and a dedication for bringing people together.” — Rob Eady, who accepted the award on Jamie’s behalf

Jamie’s nominator noted that the community has faced challenging economic circumstances in the past years, and many aspects of the village have sadly fallen to the wayside. Jamie’s dedication to improvement is what united members of the community and motivated volunteers to take matters into their own hands. In 2018, the Lanark Village arena was shut down by fire marshals for failing to meet code regulations. Jamie brought together a group of volunteers to restore the location to code and worked with the township to provide volunteers with supplies.

Jamie is the kind of leader for whom no task is too small. Whether organizing events for children and families during the holidays or replacing stolen Christmas lights, Jamie is always ready to help. He is truly the heart of his community, making it a safe and inclusive place to live for everyone. His nominator describes Jamie as a strong 2SLGBTQ+ community ally and personally found he has been encouraging and supportive.

Ciara Wallace Mackenzie and Esther Csurgai

Ciara and Esther are both valued team members of Christie Lake Kids, an inclusive and diverse environment bringing youth from all backgrounds together to celebrate uniqueness and find common ground. As program leaders, Ciara and Esther facilitate fun and enriching activities for the kids, checking in on them regularly and providing mentorship. Ciara and Esther go above and beyond in their commitment to empowering Ottawa’s youth.

Esther Csurgai. Photo provided.

Esther received a Legendary Volunteer Award from Christie Lake Kids for her work as a program leader and with the kids. She is currently a volunteer leader with the Rockers program. In the past, Esther has volunteered as a camp counsellor and is an active volunteer year-round. She is described as a champion of inclusivity who makes sure that her programs feel like home to the children and families accessing them.

When she works with young women and girls, Esther demonstrates they can be leaders by motivating and empowering them. Esther brings joy and dedication to her volunteer work and is a trusted, admirable leader in her community. She is described by her peers as one of Christie Lake Kids’ most dedicated volunteers, committed to helping children believe in themselves and achieve success.

“Thank you for this award; I really appreciate it. I enjoy the work I do at Christie Lake Kids, and I plan on continuing it long into the future.” — Esther

Ciara Wallace Mackenzie. Photo provided.

Ciara has contributed her skills and passion to the Christie Lake Kids after-school programs since 2019. She became a great leader and supporter of youth, always enthusiastic, and took initiative by going beyond her volunteer duties to connect with them. Ciara is an advocate for Christie Lake Kids’ mission to provide a safe and inclusive environment.

Many of the youth she works with identify as various marginalized identities; youth with disabilities, BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+, and Francophone. Ciara has performed mental health check-ins during the pandemic, supported a youth through their gender transition, and engaged in additional training sessions such as anti-racism training to understand how best she can help her mentees.

“Thank you so much for this award, this means so much to me. When moving to Ottawa, I was looking for community. Right off the bat, I found Christie Lake Kids and I’ve been volunteering ever since.” — Ciara

Ciara and Esther are dedicated to empowering the youth they work with and consistently go beyond what is expected in a volunteer role. They exemplify compassion and leadership at Christie Lake Kids. For this, Ciara and Esther are valued members of our community.

Do you know a volunteer who has gone above and beyond to support their community? Our Community Builder Awards program accepts nominations year-round! Nominate a Community Builder Today!