April 17, 2019
Volunteers Changing Lives Award recipients (left to right): Kristen Renaud, Mike Rovers, Basil McLaughlin, Julie Charlton, Maya Mikhael, Janet Kelly, Diletta Bello-Casey, Jeff Casey
Windsor, ON – Local-loving do-gooders were honoured at this year’s Volunteers Changing Lives Awards, which took place Wednesday evening at Ambassador Golf Club and celebrated the outstanding contributions of volunteers in Windsor and Essex County.
The evening’s award recipients include a young person concerned about poverty, a senior helping to feed and care for more vulnerable seniors, a highly skilled and dedicated tutor, a couple dedicating to helping find a cure for cancer, a company which empowers their employees to volunteer for causes close to their own hearts, a grandfather who helps struggling families, and a community club which has been helping to build strong communities for a century.
“You can’t help but see all the LOCAL LOVE that is out there for our community and be inspired when you hear the stories of these volunteers,” says Lorraine Goddard, CEO of United Way/Centraide Windsor-Essex County. “Communities are stronger when we nurture the collective action of local volunteers. Our community is richer because of the contributions of the Volunteers Changing Lives in Our Community Award recipients, and the efforts of so many unnamed volunteers across Windsor Essex County. We thank them for their efforts.”
The awards, which have been presented for the past 20 years, are co-presented with Windsor Star, and Dalia Mazhar, Manager of Local Marketing handed out this year’s honours, alongside Goddard and some of last year’s recipients.
“Windsor Star’s partnership with United Way reflects the belief by both organizations that volunteers make significant and positive impacts on Windsor-Essex and they wholeheartedly deserve this recognition,” says Mazhar.
This year’s recipients are:
- Julie Charlton, Kingsville: Changing Lives by Helping Kids Be All That They Can Be
- Mike Rovers, Tecumseh: Changing Lives by Moving People from Poverty To Possibility
- Jeff Casey & Diletta Bello-Casey, Windsor: Changing Lives by Building Strong Communities
- Maya Mikhael, Windsor: Youth Changing Lives
- Basil McLaughlin, Windsor: Retirees Changing Lives
- Farrow, Windsor: Changing Lives through the Workplace
- Rotary Club of Windsor (1918): Windsor Star’s Civic Beautification Award – In Memory of Bill Higgins
About the 2019 Volunteers Changing Lives Recipients:
Changing Lives by Helping Kids Be All That They Can Be
Julie Charlton has been a committed volunteer tutor for United Way’s On Track to Success program since 2015. Julie has worked with dozens of high school aged youth, helping them study, complete assignments and has given tips and tricks in order to be the best student that they can be.
Julie’s gentle demeanor, approachability and ability to re-focus students have paved the way for countless students to succeed academically. Finding tutors who possess the skills and knowledge to help the older and more academic students is challenging for program staff. Julie spent late weeknights after work in a classroom with the students. Her expertise in math and science subjects has always been in great need. Tutors with these qualities are in high demand by employers and have demanding work schedules too.
Her tutoring goes beyond academics. Julie has a special way of making connections with the students that encourage them. She creates an atmosphere of calm, and students leave with a noticeable confidence after spending some time with her.
Olivia, a student in the program, worked with Julie, her tutor in Math, Chemistry, Biology and English throughout high school.
When Olivia first met Julie, she was at a point in her math class where she felt helpless, believed she was at the point of no return, and that she would fail. Julie saw the way Olivia felt and promised to meet with Olivia every week. In almost four years, she has never broken that promise through snow and rain, after work and nearing the end of her pregnancy. Julie spent countless hours going over questions multiple times if needed. During exam time she met with her two times a week, offering a third day to ensure she would succeed. Julie often sacrificed time with her own family, not expecting anything in return.
On Track to Success staff believe this is because she sensed how much her skills were needed and felt compelled to continue on with these children that she had built trust and relationships with.
Changing Lives by Moving People from Poverty To Possibility
As Religion Department Head at St. Anne’s Secondary School for over 30 years, Mike Rovers demonstrated his concern for the poor by organizing frequent food drives, coat drives and walk-a-thons to raise money for various local charities. As a role model, Mike encouraged his students and fellow staff to volunteer at food kitchens, raise money for the Mission and participate in community events to assist those in need.
During this time Mike also volunteered at the Windsor Jail. Through St. Vincent de Paul, he assisted the families of the inmates with essentials as food, clothing and payment of phone and electric bills.
In 2009 Mike founded Second Chance Ministry, a registered non-profit charity. From Monday to Friday each week of the year, Mike along with a volunteer group of 40 board members, field workers and mentors visit homes of clients to listen and assist with their most pressing needs. Mike and his volunteers do not get paid; they donate their efforts in the spirit of helping others. This includes extensive fundraising each year for donations as well as Pasta Nights, Fish Frys and an annual Golf Tournament. There is no office associated with Second Chance Ministry, so Mike’s house has become the meeting place for volunteers to get organized, and for donations to be dropped off.
The Ministry’s clients are typically recently released from jail, the hospital, the Welcome Centre, or Hiatus House. Over 40 people per day call Mike. They are responded to within 24 hours. Mike and the volunteers help with food vouchers, clothing, care packages - with basics like toiletries, bus tickets, or items like eyeglasses and dentures. Each Wednesday Mike and a team pick up donated furniture, couch, chairs, lamps, mattresses and beds and deliver these items the same day. As a retired Catholic Deacon, he is often called upon to conduct memorial services or preside over funerals when a client passes away, providing dignity after death for those who cannot afford to pay for such a service.
At 77 years old Mike and his wife Mary of 50 years have 6 children and 14 grandchildren to keep them busy. With boundless energy that extends beyond his family life, Mike puts his efforts towards giving people hope that someone is looking out for them when they need it the most.
Changing Lives by Building Strong Communities
Jeff Casey & Diletta Bello-Casey are involved in many different initiatives in the community. They are passionate and driven to provide support to cancer research in our community.
Most recently, Jeff & Diletta organized a large hockey tournament including Detroit Red Wings alumni players to come to Windsor to raise money for cancer research. This tournament, Play for a Cure, raised $262,000 for cancer research. Dora Cavallo-Medved, professor at the University of Windsor, said the new research fund will help support cancer research projects, purchase equipment, train students and more at the Windsor Cancer Research Group.
Jeff, a cancer survivor and activist, and his wife Diletta have been raising money for cancer research for many years. In 2009 Jeff sold t-shirts to raise $9,000 to help start a Learning Resource Centre at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre.
Jeff is also a Rotarian member with Windsor Roseland Rotary Club where he helps to organize events and projects to help those in our community.
Jeff is also a founder of the 100 Men Who Give a Damn group which provides funding to local charities through member donations.
Jeff started in philanthropy by creating a scholarship project called Attitudes for Education which gave over $700,000 to local kids.
Diletta is also a member of United Way’s Women United group and is dedicated to supporting women and children in our community through her donations to On Track to Success and her involvements in the Women United program. Diletta is also a member of 100 Women Who Care which is the female version of 100 Men Who Give a Damn.
Youth Changing Lives Award
Maya Mikhael is a 13 year old from Windsor. At the age of six, Maya created Maya’s Friends to coordinate youth-run events to feed the hungry and homeless in the Windsor-Essex region and help to eliminate poverty.
Since 2012, her annual lemonade stand has amassed canned goods and thousands of dollars for local food banks. Through other initiatives like charity walks, she has raised awareness and financial support for the sick, the elderly and people living in poverty.
She has many other accomplishments that she is very proud of. At the age of eight Maya carried the Olympic torch at the 2013 Children's Olympics here in Windsor (she was the youngest to ever carry that torch in the history of the Children's Olympics). She also won the Ontario Leadership Girls Building Communities Award in 2016, as well as the Canadian Compassion Award in 2017. Lastly, she is currently the Junior Ambassador for the Downtown Mission!
In addition to all these achievements, she is an honor roll student which will help her achieve her lifelong dream of going to Harvard University and studying psychology. After finishing her studies, she would like to become a politician; her dream is to be Prime Minister of Canada. As Prime Minister, she wants to end poverty in Canada and make our country a better place.
Retirees Changing Lives Award
Basil McLaughlin has been volunteering for the Victorian Order of Nurses Meals on Wheels program for 27 years, accumulating a total of 16,875 volunteer hours – that’s over 600 volunteer hours per year. Basil delivers meals to seniors in the Windsor community and checks on their safety as well. Through volunteering, Basil advocates for seniors and ensures their needs are met. He has been proudly serving his community every day regardless of weather and never seems to need to take a break or call in sick.
Basil is an old fashioned gentleman who greets everyone with a smile and is inclusive of all. At 93, he is an inspiration to not only his friends but to people of all ages. He retired from his career at Ford Motor Company over 40 years ago as an engineer, and he wanted something worthwhile to do and get him out of the house. He is not shy about recruiting friends and family to volunteer for VON.
What is outstanding about his achievement is that he does not falter or complain – he brings a positive light to all who meet him. He does not seek to be acknowledged. He volunteers because of a simple thing…he can, and he knows the importance of giving back to his community – it’s the right thing to do.
Changing Lives through the Workplace Award
At the heart of Farrow’s company culture is desire to give back to the communities where their employees live and work. With 100-plus years of unwavering support and dedication to employees, clients and communities, Farrow provides all employees across their Canadian and U.S operations up to two (2) paid volunteer days to volunteer with agencies in their local community. To further support employees in volunteerism, Farrow offers an interactive web portal, designed for their employees to submit request, track volunteer history, review opportunities and charitable events and become more involved and excited about serving in their communities.
You will find Farrow employees quietly volunteering for causes they care about – from the annual Coats for Kids drive, stocking shelves at local food banks, planting in community gardens, to preparing lunches for United Way’s Summer Lunch program and so much more. The company even kicks off National Volunteer Week with a special message from the CEO and an employee lunch for offices reaching 35% volunteer participation.
We congratulate Farrow for continuously enabling and inspiring employees to do the right thing.
Windsor Star’s Civic Beautification Award – In Memory of Bill Higgins
The Windsor Star Civic Beautification Award in Memory of Bill Higgins recognizes the voluntary efforts that contribute to the civic beautification of public spaces through visual, artistic or environmental improvements, resulting in beautiful shared spaces for the residents of Windsor and/or Essex County.
This year’s recipient is the Rotary Club of Windsor (1918) The creation of the Rotary Club of Windsor (1918)’s Centennial Plaza is a significant legacy project in honour of the Club’s century of service locally and around the world.
Three years ago, the Club’s Centennial Legacy Committee began a quest to determine suitable projects to commemorate the 100th anniversary. Projects were identified through a collaborative process and supported by the membership of the Rotary Club. The Legacy Committee wanted to ensure that this milestone was memorialized in a way that was suitable and sustainable.
The Club approached the City of Windsor to see if a joint project was possible. City Administration identified waterfront property that was part of a long-range development plan and the partnership project was launched.
Many community partners stepped up to add their expertise, energy and enthusiasm, working behind the scenes to design the Plaza’s many features.
The end result is a destination that is the focal point for the waterfront and draws Windsorites and visitors to the area.
The centerpiece of the plaza is a seven-foot high kinetic, geodesic light sculpture created by artist/sculptor Nicolas de Cosson, which is visible from Riverside Drive East and across the Detroit River. Special features of this unique public space include a specially designed trellis, attractive landscaping and walkways, swings, benches under the trellis and scattered throughout the park, picnic tables, and a concrete ping pong table - all donated to the project.
Interpretive signs outline the club’s history and humanitarian service locally and internationally, and entry markers welcome visitors in 40 different languages and recognize the donations of the Plaza partners. Added this Spring are two picnic tables and oversized picture frames where visitors can take photos with Windsor or the Detroit skyline as a backdrop.