Senior of the Year Awards
Congratulations to Senior of the Year Award Recipients!
Last night at Hamilton’s 28th Annual Seniors Awards and Gala, we announced the winners of the Senior of the Year Awards.
Full list of recipients is listed below.
We are celebrating our 28th year of the Senior of the Year of the Awards, a time to honour seniors who are 65 and older who have made an outstanding voluntary contribution to enrich the social, cultural or civic life of our community.
Do you know a young person that volunteers with seniors in Hamilton? Nominate them for the Youth Supporting Seniors Award.
Senior of the Year Awards
The Senior of the Year Awards recognizes seniors in Hamilton who have made outstanding voluntary contributions to enriching the social, cultural or civic life of our community.
Recognizing and celebrating the 27 Hamilton seniors who are being recognized for their volunteers contributions to the Hamilton community at the 28th annual City of Hamilton Senior of the Year Awards event.
Congratulations to all the 2023 Senior of the Year Award winners!
Dr. Gary Warner - 2023 Senior of the Year
As a dedicated member of the Good Shepherd Centre's Board of Directors since 2017, Gary was an obvious choice to be elected President in 2023. Gary's commitment to the Good Shepherd's mission of hospitality resonates in his friendly demeanour and active participation in events. Beyond his board involvement, his advocacy spans four decades, addressing human rights, social justice, poverty, and global development.
Gary's influential volunteer work extends to vital organizations like the Hamilton Community Foundation, Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, and Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. His enduring dedication was acknowledged with the Order of Canada membership in 2005.
As a transformative leader, Gary shapes Hamilton into a city of diversity, compassion, and resilience.
Margaret Cheyne - Bernie Morelli Lifetime Achievement Award
Margaret joined the Macassa Lodge team as a volunteer when her mother was a resident, and after 35+ years she has never looked back. Her commitment to Macassa and the residents is truly inspirational, averaging 100 hours a month and culminating in 17,000 hours of service.
In her role as treasurer for the Volunteer Association of Macassa Lodge, Margaret works diligently to balance the budget. She also manages to volunteer her time to organize special events and fundraisers. During the pandemic, she was instrumental in purchasing iPads so residents could stay in touch with their loved ones.
Seen as a respected leader, problem solver, and motivator it's clear that Margaret is an integral part of the Macassa Lodge community.
Paul Heimpel – Ron Smithson Leadership Award
Paul is a devoted supporter of the Cancer Assistance Program (CAP), where his leadership, dedication, and involvement have been extremely beneficial to CAP throughout a 29-year period. His leadership and involvement in events in his capacity as Board chair demonstrated a client-focused attitude. He made a significant contribution to several CAP activities and inspired people to volunteer.
He demonstrated devotion during CAP’s growth period as stated by one of Paul’s references, “In resolving organizational issues, promoting growth, and training fresh board members, he was of critical importance.” He is praised for his open decision-making and transformational leadership in a letter from another supporter.
Don Brown – Economic Leadership Award
At 97 years young, Don has voluntarily contributed to various organizations. Over the past 5 years, Don has displayed leadership attributes with Hamilton 350 Elders 4 Climate Sanity by participating in climate crisis demonstrations, distributing pamphlets, and engaging in face-to-face discussions to raise awareness. H
e has facilitated climate crisis presentations at his own seniors’ residence as well as other retirement communities. Don’s goal is to educate people about the climate crisis which includes divesting from financial institutions who support climate-destroying fossil fuels.
In addition, Don has taken his knowledge about the climate crisis and divestment from institutions that support fossil fuels to regular meetings with a small group of members of the Anglican church and executive members of the Niagara Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Through his volunteer work with the Council of Canadians (Hamilton Chapter) for over 15 years, Don has worked tirelessly to educate and advocate for the benefits of using solar power.
Doreen Morita – Diversity and Cultural Award
For more than 23 years, Doreen has been a pillar of support for Momiji Health Care Society in Scarborough, also a partner of Macassa Lodge in Hamilton. Doreen's leadership shines through her involvement in the Community Congregate Dining Program and cultural events like Tanabata and the Japanese Summer Festival. Her dedication extends to exercises, friendly visits, and organizing cultural activities for residents of Macassa Lodge.
Amid the pandemic, Doreen's resourcefulness came to the fore as she advocated for resources from the Japanese Canadian Survivors Health and Wellness Fund.
Her kindness, inclusivity, and advocacy have left a lasting impact, enhancing services for seniors, and fostering a sense of community.
Mike Ryan – Mary Smithson Compassion and Companionship Award
Mike has positively impacted various organizations over many years through his compassionate service alongside his therapy dog Kaeko. For five years at Hamilton International Airport, Mike and Kaeko have provided comfort to travelers, fostering a welcoming atmosphere. As the Unit Coordinator for St. John Ambulance Dog Therapy for the same duration, Mike oversees handlers and dogs in Hamilton by extending their services of 17 dogs to 21 facilities. Mike's efforts at Zachary Paws for Healing encompass hospital visits to St. Joseph's mental health hospital and Juravinski Hospital's Elder Life ward, supporting patients with dementia and mental illness.
For over 10 years, Mike has also dedicated his time to the Hamilton Burlington SPCA. His roles within the SPCA led him to adopt Kaeko, and their journey evolved into a profound therapy partnership. Through countless hours of service, Mike and Kaeko have exemplified unwavering dedication, bringing comfort and solace to countless individuals in various settings.
Helen Downey – Cathy Kohler Healthy and Active Living Award
For over 20 years, Helen has been an unwavering force in education and community sports. As the President of Sport Hamilton, she has spearheaded events like the Breakfast of Champions and Volunteer Sports Appreciation Dinner. Helen's determination has led to the creation of free grassroots soccer programs at Tim Hortons Field, catering especially to marginalized youth after the Pan Am Games.
Her commitment to advancing sports and physical literacy is evident in her work, including organizing the Physical Literacy Summit which has fostered increased participation across age groups and abilities in Hamilton and Ontario.
With her motto "sports for all," Helen's tireless efforts have significantly impacted the community and fostered active lifestyles for everyone.
Greg Poehlman – Behind the Scenes Award
Greg's exceptional dedication, transitioning from a distinguished career at Staples to impactful volunteerism embodies the Seniors Awards’ spirit. His role at the Cancer Assistance Program (CAP) exemplifies his commitment to preparing equipment for cancer patients and matching them with drivers through CAP's Drive Desk.
Greg's technical skills and collaborative leadership are evident in his unwavering contributions to community projects. His positive attitude, work ethic, and dedication have not only enriched CAP's services but also inspired his family's philanthropic involvement.
Greg reflects the essence of volunteerism by making a profound difference in both the cancer community and beyond.
Margaret Bennett – Innovation Award
In 2019, Margaret created the “Golden Hearts Food Cupboard”. Struggling with agoraphobia, she turned to healing others in her building of 300 by cooking healthy and fresh meals for seniors. Margaret contributed over 20 hours a week by preparing meals and supporting others, while helping to expand the food cupboard of fresh produce.
During the pandemic, Margaret prepared and hand-delivered meals door to door, and by the end of the pandemic, a staggering 2100 meals were delivered. Nothing stopped Margaret from ensuring all tenants had access to healthy food during turbulent times. She encourages tenants to be leaders by facilitating game and social nights along with offering a full breakfast once a month.
Recognizing and celebrating the 10 Hamilton seniors who are being recognized for their volunteers contributions to the Hamilton community at the 27th annual City of Hamilton Senior of the Year Awards event.
Congratulations to all the 2022 Senior of the Year Award winners!
Rose Sands - 2022 Senior of the Year
For the past 16 years, Rose has provided client services for the Cancer Assistance Program (CAP) by supporting wig and mastectomy fittings for clients experiencing cancer diagnosis and treatment. She also helped to grow the wig and prosthesis program and genuinely cares for those she supports by providing a safe, welcoming and private space.
Approximately five years ago Rose and other CAP volunteers also established the “CAPitalizers”, a group that dedicates their time to fundraising, such as gift basket raffles to help support CAP’s overall fundraising efforts.
Rose is described by her nominator as having “a magnetic touch, flair for beauty; people come to her with sadness and leave with confidence.”
Rose has been a member and volunteer of All Saints Church for 25 years where she coordinates the altar for weekly services, as well as being a Sunday school volunteer.
Rose has also dedicated 20 years to the Church of the Resurrection where she is a volunteer for the annual rummage sale and is a famous meat pie baker who helps with fundraising for the church.
Wendy McKee-Jackson - Leadership Award
Wendy is an animal welfare role model who inspires commitment from others, contributing more than 4,000 hours in 10 years to the Hamilton Burlington SPCA. In this role, she helps with planning and facilitating events and fundraisers, provides customer service to donors and sponsors as well as administrative support and is a Board committee member.
In 2022, Wendy was the recipient of the Dr. Jean Rumney Award, one of the first female veterinarians in Canada and the first female graduate from the Ontario Veterinary College. Wendy was recognized with this award for her outstanding commitment and dedication to animals in the community. Wendy also dedicates her time to fostering pets.
As shared by her nominator, “Wendy has a steadfast commitment to animals and their people.
Robert Thomas - Innovation Award
For 13 years Robert has contributed countless hours in various roles to the Waterdown Legion, including coordinating several initiatives and events.
Currently, he is the lead to move Waterdown District High School's history museum to the Waterdown Legion. It will have a permanent display of the thousands of items donated by local veterans. As past chair of the Poppy Committee, he coordinated the annual “Poppy” campaign, which included him visiting local schools wearing his veteran uniform and riding his vintage army motorcycle with the goal of helping children to understand the importance of Remembrance Day.
Robert also established and is an active member of the Waterdown Legion Riders, a group that assists the local Legion and other community groups by raising funds to support veterans. He also created and continues to organize RED Friday (Remember Everyone Deployed), a free event dedicated to local veterans, military and first responders to give the community a chance to thank them for their service.
As the branch service and veteran officer, Robert helps veterans requiring financial assistance access support through the “Poppy” fund, Benevolent Fund and Veterans Affairs Canada.
For 30 years he’s volunteered for the Canadian Forces Military Police Academy, acting as a liaison with veterans and the academy by encouraging veterans to donate items of historical importance to be shared with future generations.
Additionally, close to five years of Robert's volunteer work with the Flamborough Archives has focused on researching people from the Flamborough area who served in WWI and WWII.
One of Robert’s references shares that he has an “infectious positivity, unparallel dedication and is the light that brings others together.”
Valentino Gabriele - Behind the Scenes Award
Valentino has been a dedicated and valued member and volunteer of St. Margaret Mary Parish for 15 years as a greeter and usher at church services, as well as providing support for various church events. He also volunteers his time by driving seniors and those with disabilities to and from weekly church services.
He’s also volunteered for the Alpini Association of Hamilton, helping to facilitate events which help to raise funds for those less fortunate in the community. As a part of this work, he dedicates his time to visiting members who are in the hospital, supporting elementary school fundraisers like pancake breakfasts and assisting with first holy communion and confirmation celebrations.
Valentino’s nominator shares that, “his small acts of kindness make a big difference.”
Deborah Morin-Farraway - COVID-19 Resilience Award
Deborah has been a dedicated volunteer for Neighbour to Neighbour (N2N) for close to 10 years. She’s provided counselling and system navigation for vulnerable citizens, as well as delivered food boxes to those less fortunate in the community. She also leads the bingo program which raises $10,000 annually. She also leads the registration team for the annual “Walk-a-thon” fundraiser.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Deborah was one of the first to move from her regular volunteer roles to the Emergency Food Department as a Home Delivery Driver. She also continued to support vulnerable citizens through counselling and system navigation but pivoted to phone calls versus in-person visits.
Outside of this volunteer work, Deborah also contributes her time to the Women’s Centre of Hamilton where she virtually facilitates financial presentations to women who are experiencing violence. She has also supported women at both Mary’s Place and Martha House by preparing meals for them.
One of her references shares that she is a “stern and steadfast advocate who puts the needs of others first.”
June Noonan - Compassion and Companionship Award
June has a history of dedicating her time to many organizations in the Hamilton area, some of which include Mission Thrift Store, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dundas Community Services, the Good Shepherd Men’s Adult Centre, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Dundas Salvation Army Food Bank, Ancaster Senior Achievement Centre and the City of Hamilton’s Senior Advisory Committee.
For 10 years, her time has been spent at both the YWCA Senior Active Living Centre and St. Joseph’s Urgent Care Centre in Stoney Creek.
Five years of her time has also been dedicated to the Victorian Order of Nurses, making phone calls to isolated seniors experiencing chronic illness or injury.
June has also been affectionately referred to as the “Famous Cake Lady”, baking and delivering numerous cakes to firefighters at the Dundas Fire Station as well as to the emergency services and nursing staff at the Urgent Care Centre on Main Street for the past two years.
June’s nominator shares that she has an influence to “expand people’s capacity to get more from their own lives.”
Len Varrasso - Lifetime Achievement Award
Len was an integral part of the establishment of the Cancer Assistance Program (CAP) almost 25 years ago.
As a retired teacher, principal, superintendent and Director of Education, his expertise in leadership, financial management, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and human resources made him a valuable member of CAP as a Board President and committee member.
He has also participated in countless fundraising events, including 44 golf tournaments. As an educator, Len also exposed youth to the value of volunteering by creating the “Junior CAP Board” to give youth valuable governance experience.
As described by his nominator, “Len exemplifies innovative humble leadership that can help cancer victims lives with dignity”.
For the past 25 years, he has also been an Extra-Ordinary Minister for Sts. Peter and Paul’s Church, including his time as a choir member for 10 years.
For 19 years, he’s also committed his time to the Canadian Cancer Society as an executive committee member and canvasser.
As described by his nominator, “Len exemplifies innovative humble leadership that can help cancer victims lives with dignity”
In his spare time, Len has shared his passion for basketball, dedicating eight years to the Blessed Sacrament Elementary School basketball program and five years to Cathedral High School Boys basketball.
The 2021 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Jeanne Mayo - 2021 Senior of the Year
- Dr. Bill Evans - Innovation Award
- Gene Fama – Behind the Scenes Award
- Dr. Al Fernandez – Compassion and Companionship Award
- Patti Idenouye - Healthy and Active Living Award
- Mathew Kavanakudy - Economic Leadership Award
- Dr. Kanwal Shankardass - Leadership Award
- Helena Streun - Lifetime Achievement Award
- Kiara Mech - Youth Supporting Seniors Award
The 2020 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Ica Smith - 2020 Senior of the Year
- Dave Davey - Behind the Scenes Award
- David Dedrick - Innovation Award
- Margaret Harris - Lifetime Achievement Award
- Jean Lethbridge - Economic Leadership Award
- Lee McKay - Compassion and Companionship Award
- Archie McQueen - Healthy and Active Living Award
- Dr. Sri Gopal Mohanty - Diversity and Cultural Award
- Penelope Petrie - Leadership Award
The 2019 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Roy Jones - 2019 Senior of the Year
- Florence Binkley - Bernie Morelli Lifetime Achievement Award
- Ken Dolbear - Ron Smithson Leadership Award
- Gunther Kraft - Economic Leadership Award
- Albert Graham - Innovation Award
- Shuja Qureshi - Diversity and Cultural Award
- Rick James - Behind the Scenes Award
- Walter Decker - Healthy and Active Living Award
- Pat Simpson - Mary Smithson Compassion and Companionship Award
- Maryam Butrus - Youth Supporting Seniors Award
The 2018 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Betty Kobayashi - 2018 Senior of theYear
- Sylvia Parr - Lifetime Achievement Award
- Carolann Fernandes - Leadership Award
- Gary Gibson - Economic Leadership Award
- Patricia Smith - Healthy & Active Living Award
- Leo Dunn - Behind the Scenes Award
- Molly Chang - Diversity & Culture Award
- Karina Kane - Compassion & Companionship
- Chris Kruter - Innovation Award
- Ben Weingartner - Youth Award
The 2017 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Lillian Wherry - Senior of the Year
- Jake van Mil - Lifetime Achievement Award
- Ruby Sarmiento Amog - Leadership Award
- Wilfred Arndt - Economic Leadership Award
- Mary Lou Collett - Healthy & Active Living Award
- Bob Harris - Behind the Scenes Award
- Mohammad Heidary - Diversity & Cultural Award
- Myrtle Inwood - Compassion & Companionship
- Shirley Kitchener - Innovation Award
- June Pearce - Compassion & Companionship
The 2016 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Edward Dunn - Senior of the Year Award
- Anne Washington - Mary Smithson Compassion and Companionship Award
- Mary Kiss - Economic Leadership Award
- Marg Cheyne - Behind the Scene Award
- Andrew Tallach - Healthy and Active Living Award
- Claudette Joseph - Diversity and Cultural Award
- Gerry Polmanter - Leadership Award
- Dr. Lester Krames - Innovation Award
- Frank Sullivan - Bernie Morelli Lifetime Achievement Award
The 2015 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Fred Miscio - Senior of the Year Award
- Jan Lukas - Bernie Morelli Lifetime Achievement Award
- Jean McEachern - Mary Smithson Compassion and Companionship Award
- Lou DeStephanis - Healthy and Active Living Award
- Chester Faulknor - Leadership Award
- Dave Watts - Behind the Scenes Award
- Michael Edward Grant - Diversity and Cultural Award
- Bob Thomson - Economic Leadership Award
- Emmy Weisz - Innovation Award
The 2015 Senior of the Year Awards winners are:
- Patricia Saunders - Senior of the Year Award
- Lois Goodale - Bernie Morelli Lifetime Achievement Award
- Julian D’Angela - Innovation Award
- William Grahlman - Behind the Scene Award
- Gail Rappolt - Diversity and Cultural Award
- Al Gordon - Leadership Award
- Frank Ernest - Compassion and Companionship Award
- Margaret Robertson - Economic Leadership Award
- George Wallace - Healthy and Active Living Award
Senior Centre Board
City of Hamilton
Seniors Advisory Committee
The Senior of the Year Award is given to one outstanding Hamilton resident each year who, after the age of 65, has voluntarily contributed to their community. Many different areas include the arts, literature, community service, education, fitness, sport or humanitarian activities.
Additional Recognition Awards
Those nominated for Senior of the Year are also considered for these awards of achievement. Please ensure your submission includes a detailed description of the nominee’s accomplishments that pertain to any of the additional awards.
The Leadership Award recognizes a senior volunteer who acts as a role model and inspires commitment from others to reach goals and accomplishments. This volunteer is passionate about serving others and demonstrates skills in service to both internal and external customers. This individual also possesses outstanding attributes, including strong communications skills, resourcefulness, creativity and reliability. This volunteer sets a high level of integrity by leading through example.
The Compassion and Companionship Award recognizes a senior volunteer who demonstrates fellowship and friendship through verbal and nonverbal behaviours. This volunteer actively listens to others demonstrating empathy and concern and is someone who advocates and supports the most vulnerable within the community.
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a senior volunteer who has demonstrated excellence in long-term service, commitment to the community and dedication to volunteerism.
The Innovation Award recognizes a senior volunteer who has been instrumental in the creation of new or different programs or services that have had a significant impact on the community and/or lives of seniors.
The Diversity and Cultural Award recognizes a senior volunteer who has assisted in the development of creative and effective programs to bring diverse cultures together. This volunteer helps to expand public recognitions and elevates awareness of common values including respect for all citizens.
The Economic Leadership Award recognizes a senior volunteer whose financial management, leadership, and/or fundraising efforts have contributed to the financial goals of an organization.
The Healthy and Active Living Award recognizes a senior volunteer who has assisted a community or sport organization by promoting healthy and active programming and/or living for all ages.
The Behind the Scenes Award recognizes a senior volunteer who is not highly visible but is always willing to assist where possible for the betterment of an organization and/or their community.
The Youth Supporting Seniors Award recognizes a youth volunteer who is a role model for other young people by dedicating a significant amount of time to helping seniors or to an organization who provides programs and/or services for seniors.
Eligibility Criteria for Senior Nominees
- Must be 65 years or older
- Have contributed to the enrichment of the social, cultural or civic life of the Hamilton community
- Has made this commitment without thought of personal and/or financial gain
- Is not a previous recipient of the award
- Has resided within the City of Hamilton for at least five years prior to nomination
- Must be a current resident of the City of Hamilton
Eligibility Criteria for Youth Nominees
- Must be 15 to 24 years of age
- Has made this commitment without thought of personal and/or financial gain
- Has provided the special work or service during/ after required hours for high school
- Must be a current resident of the City of Hamilton