Mayor McCharles Celebrates Volunteerism

Posted: February 21, 2018


 Petrolia, ON- Mayor John McCharles and Town of Petrolia staff were pleased to honour all Town volunteers tonight at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.  Seventy-five people attended the event at the Petrolia Legion and were treated to dinner and an evening of celebration of their efforts for the Town.   The value for every one hundred volunteers is just over the equivalent of $350,000.00 in man hours. 

                Service Club Presidents, Town Committees, Victoria Playhouse Petrolia volunteers, and many other groups were recognized at the event.  The evening culminated with Mayor McCharles awarding the Volunteer of the Year Awards in four categories, two special recognitions, and a posthumous recognition.  The four main categories have been designed to cover as many of the volunteer categories as possible, with a criterion set for each one to assist the selection committee in making the final decision.

                                The ‘Volunteer of the Year 2017 – Sports and Recreation’ was not presented at the event as the recipient was unable to attend.  This award will be presented at the March 26, 2018 Town Council Meeting at Victoria Hall at 7:00 p.m.

                The ‘Volunteer of the Year 2017 – Community Service’.  This award looks at an individual who has many different volunteer interests.  The recipient was Dave Tetreault. 

Some facts about Dave Tetreault:

–          Rotary Club of Petrolia member

–          Volunteer driver for patients travelling to London for treatment

–          Board member for the Lambtonian Apartments and expansion project

–          A volunteer for the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia as an usher, greeter, and at will call

–          Active with St. Philip’s Parish

–          A very active volunteer in many facets of Petrolia

The ‘Volunteer of the Year 2017 – Community Partnership’ was presented to Earle Woolaver. 

Some facts about Earle Woolaver:

–          Member of the Petrolia and Enniskillen Agricultural Society Board

–          Volunteer Usher for the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia

–          Member and volunteer at the Petrolia First Baptist Church

–          Volunteer with Petrolia Scouting as a leader

–          A very active volunteer in many facets of Petrolia

                The ‘Volunteer of the Year 2017 – Arts and Culture’ was not presented at the event as the recipient was unable to attend.  This award will be presented at the March 26, 2018 Town Council Meeting at Victoria Hall at 7:00 p.m.

                A special recognition award was handed out to a long-standing volunteer in the town of Petrolia.  The recipient was Linda Smith.

Some facts about Linda Smith:

–          Volunteer with the Petrolia Legion

–          Volunteer for Red Weekends

–          Victoria Hall Art Advisory Committee Chair

–          Victoria Playhouse Petrolia usher, greeter, will call volunteer

–          Ontario Contact Volunteer

–          Volunteer with Peacekeeper Park

–          Works to keep Victoria Hall festive by assisting with the Christmas Décor

A second special recognition award was given out to the “Petrolia Cookie Lady” Karen Wilson.

A short story Mayor McCharles read about Mrs. Wilson:

“The Petrolia Cookie Lady

The first Christmas that Karen was working as a cashier at our Local Independent Grocery Store, she was surprised at the generosity of the people of Petrolia. One of the cashiers’ brother was deployed in Afghanistan and wouldn’t be home for the holidays. So many people were bringing presents into the store for Melinda to forward onto her brother. Karen asked Melinda if she could include a can of her shortbread cookies.

When she inquired how all the gifts were going to be sent and realized the postage was going to be paid for by Melinda, Karen got permission from her boss and she designed with her husband, M.B., made up “Support Our Troops” buttons.  They sold 80 buttons and raised $160.00 to cover the postage. When they found out that Canada Post will ship to Belleville for free over the Christmas season they decided to use the money to send cookies to other deployed soldiers.  With the help of social media that first Christmas Karen baked 100 dozen cookies and sent them to 8 soldiers.

From there the word spread … more buttons sold … more cookies baked … 8 years and 3 stoves later and over 90,000 cookies sent she is still at it but a slower pace now as it is hard to get soldiers names due to privacy.

She was named The Petrolia Cookie Lady by the soldiers, notes of thanks would arrive at the post office just addressed to the Petrolia Cookie Lady, no street address, just Petrolia, Ontario and the post office knew who she was.

She has received many notes, cards and even gifts of aprons and mugs.  She has been awarded a plaque from the London Military Family Resource Centre, and a Spirit of Military Families Coin and she has also been presented the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award by MPP Bob Bailey.

Karen is an active member and supported by the Petrolia Lions Club and she also does grocery shopping for our seniors by volunteering with Lambton Elderly Outreach.” Submitted by Karen’s husband, M.B. Wilson.

Finally, a special posthumous recognition was presented to the family of the late Sylvia Fairbank in recognition of her passion for Petrolia.  Mayor McCharles welcomed a dear friend of Sylvia to read to a short speech and then to invite her brother Charlie Fairbank, sister-in-law Pat McGee, daughter Caitlyn, and son Michael to accept the recognition in her honour.

Gleeson spoke from the heart, and conveyed the following, “Being asked to present this award is one of the greatest privileges of my life.  Sylvia was the sister I never had, and her family my own.   She was a true friend– I could always count on her counsel, tho’ she was never above speaking sternly to me.  “MP don’t get a dog!” she shouted waving her finger in my face. So, I got a dog and she was thrilled.  She and Laika were patient friends, kind and even unruffled by Molly’s exuberant destruction of two screen doors. 

“Call Sylvia!” was a cry we all will miss.  No matter the task, no matter the occasion, Sylvia could be counted on to help out.  She sold a million beer tickets at town events; made certain everyone was welcomed at Art in the Park; worked tirelessly on behalf of her church; made us howl with laughter when she appeared in PCT productions—usually as a gin soaked broad or a hilariously mad woman; and opened her home to strangers. 

This is just a partial list of Sylvia’s involvement in our community:

·         Tour guide for Petrolia, on foot, in costume, by motor coach, horse and buggy and at Doors Open Events

·         Community Services Advisory Committee

·         Charlotte’s Task Force for Rural Health

·         Victoria Playhouse Petrolia volunteer usher, billet, greeter, will call

·         Victoria Hall Art Advisory Committee member and Christmas tree decorating supervisor

·         Ontario Contact Volunteer

·         Christmas Victorian Home Tour Chairperson

·         She spearheaded our bringing a Syrian family to town and cared for them in her motherly way

·         Petrolia Community Theatre, crew, board member, committee member, wardrobe coordinator

·         Santa Claus Parade Committee Member – and still the band always seemed to stop playing just as it hit Greenfield street.

·         Victorian Porches and Verandas volunteer

·         Christ Church Anglican Bell Ringer

·         Billet for the VPP cast and crew, and Rotary Exchange Students

·         Supported senior neighbours with snow removal, weeding, gardening and personal care


I feel like I could go on forever, as I’m sure you do too!

It is this time of year when I will miss her most.  It’s tax season, and for years Sylvia would arrive prepared to rearrange the furniture in my kitchen, organize my receipts, scold me when one was missing and then settle down for a spaghetti dinner and a bottle of wine.  Tax season made fun!

What stories we could tell, eh?

I never heard Sylvia say, “I don’t have time, or I can’t do that.”  She set an example for all of us.  She set an example of friendship, generosity, neighbourliness, community spirit, community action. Her remarkable kindness and honesty will be missed. She has left the bar set very high, but she will always be someone to look up to.  Thank you, Caitlin, Michael, Charlie, Pat and Laika for sharing!”

                Mayor McCharles couldn’t say enough to thank each of the volunteers saying “You are all at the heart of Petrolia.  You are all important to us in so many ways – you greet our visitors, you make sure that even when our streets are empty they are still alive with flowers, you carry our heritage and you cultivate the arts, you help us plan our towns future, you lend a hand to help us celebrate our present, and for all of this, and more, WE are thankful.  We cannot express our gratitude enough, thank you for all that each of you do to make Petrolia THE GREATEST TOWN ON EARTH!”

Volunteers of the Year 2017 Image wo 2                Each of the honourees was awarded a framed certificate from the Mayor, and a glass award with the Town’s clock tower on the face, and bouquets of flowers.