by Skye Walker
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.
What kind of person starts to mobilize a group of volunteers to achieve big goals a mere month after moving into town? A community builder, that’s who.
Lesia Gilbert moved to Ottawa’s Riverside South community in October of 2007 and by November she was the Riverside South Community Association (RSCA) Volunteer Coordinator. In the decade since she arrived, Lesia has been an integral part of the RSCA—showing her local love by serving as the Treasurer, Volunteer Coordinator, Event Coordinator, and Director.
One of her greatest achievements? Distributing thousands of toys to children in need around the city through her team’s Toy Mountain Christmas campaign.
It was fitting then, in the lead up to the holidays that she be honoured for her contribution.
So as the snow fell on November 5, Lesia gathered with her fellow RSCA members to celebrate achievements and look forward to the next project. During the cozy dinner, Lesia was awarded a United Way Community Builder Award.
Her cohort of partners-in-volunteering chimed in with laughs and cheers throughout the presentation as Dylan Black (of BOOM 99.7) talked about Lesia’s positive impacts on her community.
As a United Way recognition team member, Black has met many local volunteers.
“Lesia has been an integral part of her local community association in Riverside South,” says Black. “Her commitment to local impact is truly remarkable.”
Other volunteers say Lesia helped her community association achieve new goals with Toy Mountain. Where once they collected 150 toys each year, last year the RSCA collected over 1,000—that increase is due in large part to Lesia’s tireless approach to volunteering. She says her passion for making sure the holidays are a joyous time for as many children as possible drives her to new heights each year.
Scott, a fellow volunteer at the RSCA, is thankful to have Leisa.
“With Lesia, we have someone in our community that really goes above and beyond,” he says.
But Lesia doesn’t only give time to the RSCA. She volunteers as the treasurer with Children at Risk, a local organization which supports families of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The organization prides itself on its programming for children on the autism spectrum and the in-person, one-on-one support it is able to provide. Additionally, Lesia finds time to raise funds for March of Dimes, an organization that provides services for people with disabilities.
In 2017, Lesia received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. The medal recognizes, “A Canadian citizen who has made significant, sustained and unpaid contributions to their community,” and it is the only medal for volunteering in Canada awarded by the Governor General. Her tireless contributions to making Ottawa a better place made Lesia the perfect candidate for the medal, and for the United Way Community Builder Award too. Lesia is the kind of person who shows us what it truly means to build community.
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.