From lending a hand to the St. John’s Ambulance Dog Therapy Program, to countless hours spent ringing the bell for the Salvation Army Kettle Drive, to quietly placing benches along Aurora’s trails in memory of area residents lost to COVID-19, realtor Eric McCartney prefers to do his work with little to no fanfare.
But the proverbial trumpets sounded loudly when McCartney was named Aurora’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.
McCartney was honoured in a virtual ceremony on May 31, one which spilled over to an impromptu – and distanced – celebratory gathering on the surprised resident’s front lawn.
Just moments earlier, he was hailed by Mayor Tom Mrakas for his contributions to the community.
“The Citizen of the Year Award exemplifies an individual’s constant dedication, passion and enthusiasm for volunteering and making a difference in Aurora,” said Mayor Mrakas. “Volunteers are the heart of our community. Without the time and support from our volunteers, we as a town would not be able to run as many programs, services and events for our community.”
Among the volunteer work of Eric’s highlighted at the ceremony include the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the St. John Ambulance’s Dog Therapy Program, the Salvation Army Kettle Drive, the Canadian Red Cross, the York Region Real Estate Board, McDonalds McHappy Day, the Toronto Real Estate Board, the Aurora Artists’ Studio Tour, the Ontario Real Estate College, and the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, [Eric] has been passionate about helping his neighbours with grocery shopping, driving them to appointments, shovelling their driveways and putting out their garbage,” Mayor Mrakas continued. “He has provided assistance at COVID-19 vaccination clinics and recently purchased numerous commemorative benches along Willow Farm Trail, one of which is in memory to the people who died from COVID-19 and to the dedicated health-care workers who are there to care for them.
“Eric’s compassion, dedication, commitment and vision for our town is inspiring. His continued efforts have made a positive impact on our community. Eric has a network of strong supporters and neighbourhood connections that are always eager to be in his presence. Thank you, Eric, for serving our community and generously giving your time to Aurora. Your passion for everything about Aurora, especially during this pandemic year, serves as a reminder to provide hope and support for others through adversity and times of trouble. It will also inspire our local residents to give more, do more, and help others in our community and within our social circles. Your work in Aurora is truly indicative of your love for this town and our residents.”
His contributions to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce were recognized by Sandra Ferri, the chamber president & CEO. She praised him as one of their “‘go-to’ volunteers” who “continually offers his time and help without any hesitation.”
“Eric has volunteered for a number of years at the Aurora Chamber Home Show – assisting vendors during their set-up and tear-down – and on more than one occasion when the weather had not been ideal, he always showed up with a smile and ready to help. He has also supported the Aurora Chamber Business Excellence Awards for many years, spending time reviewing nomination submissions and interviewing businesses.
“Eric is someone that can always be counted on – whether it is standing in a snowstorm assisting our Home Show vendors or being outside in the hot sun assisting our street festival vendors!”
His work with the Aurora Studio Tour and the community at large was also celebrated by tour co-founder Christine Valentini who hailed McCartney as “a truly extraordinary fellow.”
“Eric is a passionate, efficient, and knowledgeable advocate for community service and is undoubtedly one of the most helpful, socially-conscious and caring persons we know,” she said. “For many years, while walking his dog, he adopted three parks in our neighbourhood and regularly ensures that they – and the boulevards and walkways – are kept safe and litter-free. With his dog, Porter, he was a St. John Therapy Dog volunteer with over 1,000 hours of donated time, as well as OSPCA and CHATS until Porter died. Now, he is patiently training his new dog, Bro, to take to Porter Place (shelter) and walks the neighbourhood daily with him. He shovels snow, looks after homes, picks up medications and food for others who are unable to do so for themselves and watches over our neighbourhood like a hawk.”
Added Councillor Harold Kim: “The main attribute that impresses me the most about Eric is his love of people and community; his desire to speak on behalf of people who cannot speak or are afraid to speak up for what is right. Eric is not intimidated by anyone. He will take on anyone and any corporation that is causing the problem or is holding up the solution.
“His skills do not end with committee and community volunteer work. He also projects a warm, cheerful attitude in our meetings and wherever he goes. I have seen him resolve conflicts with remarkable patience and admirable tact. In the community, he goes out of his way to help people in need by organizing charity drives each year, and participating in the Therapy Dog Program. He loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around him.”
This was a sentiment McCartney shared after receiving the award.
“When I am asked to assist with different things, I do my best to and I think it is personally important just to be kind and thoughtful to anyone you meet,” he said. “If they need assistance – or the community – do what you can. We want this pandemic over with, so let’s pitch in and do what we can.”
Brock Weir is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at The Auroran