CHESTERVILLE — The Chesterville & District Rotary Club recently conferred the Paul Harris Fellowship on three locals for their volunteerism — Elka Brown, Shirley Coons, and John Stewart.
Recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow is an honour granted to individuals who exemplify the Rotary motto of “service above self,” and it’s not restricted to club members. Stewart was the lone Rotarian among the trio recognized at the special June 27 evening.
“The award is the Rotary Club’’s way of expressing its appreciation, for outstanding commitments, made by members of our community,” explained Rotarian and awards announcer Betty Vanden Bosch from the podium.
Named after the Chicago lawyer who founded Rotary in 1905, it’s “the highest honour a Rotary Club can bestow on an individual,” she pointed out.
In front of club members as well as friends and family, the latest recipients received their Fellowship certificate and pin from outgoing Chesterville Rotary President Nelson Zandbergen.
Elka Brown was cited for volunteering with Carefor Nor-Dun Seniors Support since 1998 and her role as Chesterville coordinator of Meals on Wheels deliveries since 2006. Vanden Bosch estimated that Brown was responsible for assuring the delivery of thousands of meals each year, prior to her recent retirement.
“Elka … rest assured that your volunteer work with Carefor will not be forgotten. Your work has made Chesterville a better place to live, especially for older people and for their families’ peace of mind,” she said.
Shirley Coons was heralded as a volunteer who leads by example, motivating others in the process. “Time and time again, we have all seen Shirley organize projects so effortlessly that, when finished, no one realizes just how much effort she has put into it,” said Vanden Bosch, listing off the former Chesterville deputy reeve’s work in local politics, business and continued involvement with the local fair board’s homecraft division over the past half century.
She was further commended for rolling up her sleeves as a key member of the village-beautifying “Green Action Gang.” If not carrying a watering can for the group, you’re just as likely to see her toting a sewing machine someplace, according to Vanden Bosch. To ensure adequate homecraft displays at each Chesterville Fair, Coons “continues to enter flowers, baking, crafts and any needlework she has made in her spare time.”
She also finds time to volunteer for the Canadian Cancer Society in-patient services and has helped to serve countless lunches as a dedicated member of the Anglican Church, noted Vanden Bosch. Highlighted, too, were the recipient’s fundraising efforts for the then-new Chesterville Legion and, more recently, Flynn Park.
A soldier, contractor and civil servant with the Department of National Defence for a remarkable 53 years, Rotarian John Stewart is finally set to retire next spring. It was during his military career — which took him from CFB Borden to CFB Petawawa and CFB Kingston, then to postings in Germany before returning to Canada — that he got involved with volunteering in various capacities.
Stewart served as president of the Chesterville Club in 2002-2003, four years after joining.
Vanden Bosch listed off highlights of his presidential year, which included capturing the trophy for best display at the district conference in Plattsburgh, NY.
A fixture on the club’s behalf at the gate of the Glengarry Highland games, the registration desk at the annual local Terry Fox Run, and in the kitchen during the club’s annual Breakfast with Santa event, Stewart (and wife Beate) have more recently immersed themselves in ticket sales for the club’s annual rubber duck race.
Vanden Bosch also drew attention to the Stewarts’ affinity for international projects. Their committee work connects them with three projects completed this year in coordination with other clubs in the region: a public health centre in Kenya; computers for a school on the Isle of Dominca in the Caribbean; and a sanitation project in Ghana.
“John, wear your pin with pride,” she said.
Paul Harris recognition is intertwined with Rotary International’s concern with problems in the developing world. For each fellowship, the local club pays the Rotary Foundation $1,000 U.S., allowing unpaid Rotary volunteers, Vanden Bosch emphasized, to assist with improvements on the ground worldwide. Ongoing efforts range from Rotary’s cause celebre to completely stamp out polio continues to the building of schools and the provision of clean water and more.
The evening also served as the traditional “changeover” of the Chesterville Rotary board. Joe Cass became president — his third stint at the top— with David Black moving into the vice presidency. Black’s previous role as secretary was assumed by stalwart longtime member Vanden Bosch.