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'Making the world better:' Pickering College awards 'changemakers'

'Members of the Lions Club are not used to being recognized by the community itself .... we do our work quietly,' says Newmarket Lions Club member on receiving agent of change award

Families and friends gathered at Pickering College to applaud this year’s "changemakers" in the community at an award ceremony in Newmarket on May 15.

Several organizations and individuals were honoured at the second instalment of the awards for their contributions to alumni keystone and agent of change categories. 

“Last year, the changemakers event was the first time we ran the event and it was my favourite event of the year because it’s actually about the core mission of the school, making the world better in our own small ways but collectively in a large way,” said head of school Cinde Lock.

Ian Proudfoot, president of the board of directors for the Sharon Temple National Historic Site and Museum, accepted an agent of change award on behalf of his organization.

“It’s a great honour. I think it is wonderful Pickering College hosts an event like this and recognizes, whether it’s individuals or organizations, for making communities more complete and a better place to live,” said Proudfoot.

Proudfoot orchestrated a collaborative artwork installation with Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, Anishinaabe artist Donald Chrétien, and sculptor Shane Clodd that symbolizes the temple’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

A 12-foot-tall sugar maple tree has been carved into a female hand, gracefully holding an aluminum feather engraved with Indigenous pictographs. It was developed after Lori Woodyatt, executive director, thought that rather than discarding the tree, they could preserve it in the form of a sculpture. The 200-year-old tree fell to the ground at the Sharon Temple in 2021.

“This came about as a result of the awareness of residential schools,” said Proudfoot. “Many Canadians weren’t aware of the depth. We saw an opportunity and moved on it. For Sharon Temple and our community, it is our step of going down the path of Truth and Reconciliation.”

Plaques in the space will educate visitors about the relationship with local First Nations groups and the importance of preserving and passing down Indigenous knowledge.

“We’re now working on a garden around the tree and it will be called the Hope and Truth reflection garden,” said Proudfoot. “At the centre of it will be the sculpture. It is a place to gather and reflect.”

Proudfoot also spearheaded the Lafontaine-Baldwin Youth Leadership Conference, engaging 100 York Region students on leadership, Truth and Reconciliation, and democratic thought.

Students from Pickering College, York Region District School Board, Indigenous students from Georgina Island, and independent schools attended the event. Guest speakers included Indigenous chiefs.

“It was an opportunity to share the ideals of responsible government, which Lafontaine and Baldwin were the fathers of, along with the governance models of the Anishinaabe,” said Proudfoot. “In the afternoon, students took time to share their thoughts on democracy and governance.”

The Newmarket Lions Club was recognized as an agent of change for serving the community to address systemic issues. For over 90 years, they have developed numerous initiatives to serve the community.

“It was a great surprise, first of all, to find out we were being honoured in this way,” said Lion Rick Metcalfe, “Generally speaking, members of the Lions Club are not used to being recognized by the community itself. It has always been our way of operating, that we do our work quietly. We don’t blow our own horn.”

The Lions provides programs that assist low-income families and individuals, support those experiencing food insecurity, support those with disabilities, physical or mental illness, health-care support, the environment, and children and youth.

The club’s Santa fund program continues to support families in need by providing more than 1,000 people with food vouchers to John’s No Frills on Yonge Street.

“Every Christmas, we get a list of families and children who are in need from the Salvation Army and a group of women who do the holiday drive. We get up to about 300 families, we do 1,200 to 1,500 individuals altogether and we provide food vouchers for the people for Christmas. That includes lunch with Santa.”

The Coats for Kids and Adults program, in conjunction with the North Newmarket Lions Club, provided over 800 winter coats to families in need in York Region and beyond.

“With the influx of refugees coming to our community, they don’t come prepared for winter,” said Metcalfe. “Our organization has provided now for a number of years during the winter months and fall, coats and other garments for winter for anybody, but refugees make a big part of that.”

The following individuals and organizations were also recognized as agents of change with the awards last night: 

  • Dr. Felicia Marie Knaul, health economist, director of the University of Miami Institute for advanced study of the Americas, and professor at the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.
  • Pauline Muthoni, The Small Project, Kenya
  • Robotics Rock, STEM Youth Association