Distinguished Citizen Award: Ross Whalls with wife, Barb
When Central Elgin withdrew from participating in Communities in Bloom, they decided
to invest that money into annual Growing Together and Volunteer Service awards to
recognize the valuable contributions individuals make to the quality of life in
this municipality. On October 16, 2013 they held their annual awards dinner at the
Sparta Church Museum & Cultural Centre.
"This evening is the highlight of my year," said Councillor Russell Matthews, Chair
of the Central Elgin Growing Together Committee, "because this is when we come together
to honour citizens of our municipality for their contributions that make Central
Elgin a great place to live and work."
The absolutely delicious dinner was catered by Emily Glover and the Sparta Historical
Society, and Quai du Vin Winery provided a refreshing burgundy grape juice for the
The Growing Together awards come out of the former Community in Blooms and have
much the same categories and same criteria. The Volunteer Service awards are for
at least 10 years of volunteer service to the community. The Distinguished Citizen
Award is for a lifetime of service to the community.
So, let's start with the most important award first, the one which is the municipal
equivalent of the Lieutenant Governor's Heritage Award - the Distinguished Citizen
Award. This year that award went to Ross Whalls for his work with the Port
Stanley Lions, the Festival of Lights, the Ball Diamond lighting (in Selbourne Park),
Skating Club Carnival, Community Policing, Port Stanley United Church Council, Port
Stanley Arena Board, the Port Stanley Business Improvement Association, as well
as all the teams he sponsored over the years as the owner of Elgin Electric. So
what kind of person gets this award? The kind that says without the support and
assistance of his wife, Barb, he could never have participated in all that volunteer
Growing Together Awards
Tidiness: Vera Martin who has made a years-long habit, every time she goes for a
walk in Sparta, of picking up the garbage other people throw around.
Forestry - KCCA: Elizabeth Thompson who has planted over 10,400 trees on her property
and planted another 2,500 native Carolinian trees this year. She has retired 30
acres from agricultural production and created 2 large wetlands as well.
Forestry - CCCA: Tom Martin & Diane Dubois who have 45 acres of managed forest
in production, and are enhancing drainage and water quality while reducing erosion.
They have created ponds and reforested new lanes of habitat between the ponds for
Environment: Parkside Collegiate Institute for their Green Initiatives program (horticulture
& green industries for Grades 11 & 12 students).
Landscape Floral Residential: John & Diane Verbruggen who, over the last 25
years, have created a landscape wonderland of trees and gardens on their property.
(I always wondered what was behind that wall of evergreen trees.)
Landscape Floral Commercial: Andy & Siska DeVries for the landscaping and concrete
garden sculptures Andy creates at his business, Concreations. Evidently the sculptures
started with Andy being given an alligator/crocodile mould and discovering he had
a talent for this kind of thing.
Farming Excellence: Quai family of Quai du Vin winery for the development and expansion
of their vineyards and winery business.
Volunteer Service Awards
Suzi La Porta was honoured for fundraising more than $98,400 for the Port Stanley
Festival Theatre and for her work with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.
Gloria Smith was honoured for her work with the VON Middlesex-Elgin Seniors Maintaining
Active Roles Together program, which is evidently extremely popular.
Rosemary Damman (Choir Master) and Heather Telford (accompanist) were honoured for
their work with the Port Stanley Community Choir. Heather signed on as a temporary
position some 20 years ago and the choir members won't let her leave. That's a long
"temporary" haul. The choir members will tell you that Rosemary is the soul of the
choir and the glue that holds it together.
Port Stanley Lioness Club was honoured, in celebration of their 50th anniversary
this year, for the work they have done in and for the community over that 50 year
Port Stanley Volunteer Gardeners, accepted on their behalf by Lisa Nagy and Linda
Graham. This group maintains a number of beautiful gardens in Port Stanley and as
Lisa said, Jeanette LaRocque is the driving force behind the group and the master
organizer who makes sure everything gets done. She's always watching the weather
channel to plan the group's activities.
So there you have it, some of the best and brightest stars in the Central Elgin