Five local individuals and two organizations were honoured with Community Builders Awards (CBAs) Nov. 3 at The Reach Gallery. The awards were hosted and presented by Archway Community Services.
Three individuals received Community Builder Awards along with four Flood Hero Awards in a special category created to recognize those who stepped up during and after the flood that ravaged the Fraser Valley in the fall of 2021.
“Tonight, we have the opportunity to shine light on some very exemplary, very extraordinary people who strengthen the fabric of who we are as a community,” said Rod Santiago, Archway CEO, in his opening speech.
“Tonight, we have the opportunity to shine light on some very exemplary, very extraordinary people who strengthen the fabric of who we are as a community.”
Community Builders’ Award Recipients
Louise Burns volunteers in the community of Abbotsford seven days a week, including three days each week as a driver for Archway Meals on Wheels. Every day, she picks up food donations from Save-On Foods and prepares meals to give out to marginalized individuals including youth, seniors and those living on the street. She has connected herself with local organizations such as Ground Zero and Archway to support the needs of the community, and she recently took in a Ukrainian couple who fled the war on their country.
“In many ways, Louise is a one-woman force for food security in Abbotsford,” shared Natalia Deros, Archway Senior Services Supervisor, who introduced Burns.
“She is gifted at creating partnerships with organizations and businesses in Abbotsford. People can’t help but be inspired by her enthusiasm for the equitable access of all to good nutritious food.”
Thomas McMillan has volunteered or fundraised for countless organizations for more than 30 years.
He has actively volunteered for the Western Summer Games, B.C. Senior Summer Games; Communities in Bloom program; Ravine Park Salmon Enhancement Society; Fraser Valley University Science Fair; Fraser Valley Heritage Fair; Fraser Valley Institute for Canadian Citizenship, and the Salvation Army Kettle Drive.
Much of McMillan’s volunteer work came about through his involvement with Rotary Club, where he helped financially support the Archway Food Bank and Foundry Abbotsford. Rotary has recognized his exemplary service with their highest award, the Paul Harris Fellow Award, 10 times since 1997.
McMillan credited his mother for teaching him that, “If you don’t assist in community events, volunteer wherever you are able to, and participate where you can, the community cannot grow.”
Gwen Settle is well known in Abbotsford for her hours of community service to various non-profit organizations in Abbotsford with her goal to make our community a better place to live, work and play.
Settle has volunteered her time and efforts with Matsqui Community Hall, Abbotsford Agrifair, Friends of the Abbotsford Libraries; Extended Emergency Support Service; Operation Red Nose; the local Royal Canadian Legion chapter, The Memory Project for Historica Canada, the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, and the Abbotsford Social Activities Association.
Through her involvement with the Abbotsford Farm and Country Market, Settle is the facilitator of the BCAFM Nutrition Coupon Program, where recipients redeem coupons at the market for fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, and meat.
“All I can say is that I love Abbotsford,” Settle said in accepting her award. “I just felt, if you’re going to be somewhere, get involved…. This is a wonderful, wonderful community with generous, heart-warming people and I love being a member of it.”
Flood Heroes Awards
Mayor Henry Braun, in one of his last official engagements, introduced the Flood Heroes category. Braun was also recognized by MLA Pam Alexis for his own “unbelievable leadership” during the flood.
Referencing the pandemic and flooding, Braun said, “It has been during these incredibly challenging times that we were reminded just how important community is, and how much we all need each other.”
“Over the last two years, it has been incredibly encouraging to see how many service groups, businesses and individuals from across Abbotsford stepped up to lend a hand to their neighbours. You saw a need, you acted; you pulled together; changed gears; pivoted to meet the needs of those around you. You worked creatively and tirelessly to support those in our community who were needing it most.”
“It’s actually quite hard to put into words the response I witnessed across the city and the incredible role each of you, here this evening, plays in our community. Your compassion, dedication and your selflessness allows individuals in our community to blossom.”
Flood Heroes Award Recipients
One of the flood heroes, Alison Arends, has been actively supporting people affected by floods since the first days through a variety of ways. Arends opened her doors to the community and operated the Crossroads Food Hub out of her barn. The hub offered crockpots of food, warm coffee, free equipment rentals, donated clothing and tools, non-perishable food items, freezer meals, along with a listening ear and a warm smile. She was giving out up to 70 meals a day at the height of the flooding crisis.
In her acceptance speech, Arends thanked all the volunteers and organizations that helped her run the Crossroads Food Hub.
Yves Trudel, a regional director at United Way BC, who introduced Arends, said their notion of a community champion has been totally redefined and a standard they didn’t know was possible was created.
Gateway Community Church has played an instrumental role in flood-relief efforts. They provided a food pantry, coordinated donations and connected families to lodging. More than 75 volunteers poured countless hours into helping the community recover and rebuild. They started the Abbotsford Disaster Response Coalition (ADRC) which has raised more than $1.3 million to help meet gaps for flooding victims and they continue to operate a Crisis Response Centre.
“The real heroes of this flood are the victims,” said ADRC Program Coordinator, Milt Walker as he talked about their resiliency, humour, faith in the community, and unbelievable appreciation for the community in their time of need.
Carol Conway, Tracey Tuin, Milt Walter, and Keith VanDelft of Gateway Community Church
Ryan Boese and the team at Clearway Car & Truck Rentals were also recognized for their role in organizing and delivering food to isolated communities during peak floods. Donations were initially delivered by helicopter, and then they sent thousands of pounds of foods via truck, after obtaining approval from the provincial transportation ministry.
The Clearway team also organized food donations to the Sumas First Nation Band and helped a Sumas Prairie family move out of the affected flood zone.
Boston Bar residents with food delivered by Clearway Rentals.
When introducing Victoria Kuit, Richard Aikema, Archway Director of Facilities reminisced about how everyone pitched in during the flood. He noted that “everyone did their part, however there are people like Victoria who did far above and continue to do far above their part.”
Kuit put her bookkeeping business on hold and opened up her home to establish the Yarrow Food Hub on No.3 Road. She helped hundreds of people, had thousands of visits, and helped given away tens of thousands of dollars of appliances, tools, coffees, warm meals and frozen dinners. She spent long hours every day for months giving back to the community and providing a listening ear.
“When I opened my heart and home to my friends and fellow farmers, I had no idea, that almost a year later, we would have all become so close, and now we are like a family,” shared Kuit. “We all came together as one big community, regardless of race, religion or social barriers and now we know that we have so many support networks to lean into.”
“I will continue to help and support my new family throughout the recovery and resilience process, for as long as it takes.”
Pamela Chatry, Archway Board Member and CBA Chair recognized that there were many other flood heroes not officially recognized with an award and thanked them for their service.
MLAs Pam Alexis (Abbotsford-Mission) and Bruce Banman (Abbotsford South) surprised all recipients with certificates of appreciation from the B.C. Legislative Assembly.
Banman noted that while he and Alexis are on opposite teams, “the one thing that unites us all is when there is a tragedy of this magnitude.”
In his closing remarks, Santiago reshared sentiments that had been spoken throughout the evening include the theme of community and that “as a team we’re stronger.”
MLAS Bruce Banman and Pam Alexis with Gwen Settle (center)
L-R – Archway CEO Rod Santiago, CBA Chair Pamela Chatry, Archway Board President Steve Carlton, MLA Pam Alexis, Louise Burns, Gwen Settle, Thomas McMillan, Tracey Tuin, Carol Conway, Milt Walter, Keith VanDelft of Gateway Community Church, Victoria Kuit, Alison Arends, MLA Bruce Banman, Velma Braun, Mayor Henry Braun. Not pictured is Flood Hero Clearway Car & Truck Rentals