The provincial Senior of the Year Award gives us the opportunity to honour one outstanding citizen who over the age of 65 has enriched the social, cultural or civic life of their community. You can find more criteria below.

Click here to nominate a Kitchener senior

On this page:

  1. 2021 Senior of the Year and nominees
  2. Recognition activities
  3. Nominate a senior
  4. Nomination criteria

2021 Senior of the Year and nominees

Please join us in congratulating Donald Hishon for being named Kitchener’s 2021 Senior of the Year!

13 outstanding older adults were nominated for this award in 2021. Use the accordions below to learn about each nominee.

Donald Hishon – 2021 Award Recipient

Donald has been described as a star because he lights the way for others in their darkest times and inspires others to be better versions of themselves. As a 17-year volunteer with the Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVIW), Donald’s contributions can be described as truly outstanding. Ignoring the negative public perception of women offenders, Donald has dedicated his time and efforts to helping them overcome the challenges in their lives. His presence onsite at GVIW as a volunteer, is as frequent as the staff. Donald’s volunteer work over the years has included being Site Champion representing hundreds of volunteers that support GVIW on an annual basis. Donald also has been instrumental in his involvement with weekly on-site Alcohol Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups, leading and mentoring the women who attend. Donald participates in Family Day activities, Health Fairs, Pow Wow’s, Chaplaincy events and is a frequent familiar face at any number of activities such as International Women’s Day and school graduations.  He has participated in Parole Board Hearings and drives new mothers and their children on various excursions through the mother child program. In addition to lending his support to inmates, Donald lends his support to new staff by being by their side for training events, committee meetings, events and programs. It does not stop there. Donald is a trained Escort Volunteer, which enables him to drive inmates to community events and programs as well as taking them home to visit with family members. Every year, Donald completes over 200 Temporary Absences. Temporary Absences are granted to minimum inmates, sometimes from remote areas, to return to their communities for a certain period of time under the strict supervision of either a trained volunteer or a staff member.  Donald has provided the majority of women at GVIW an opportunity to continue their pivotal roles as mothers, caretakers and community members. One such absence supervised by Donald enabled a mother to see her child in a recital.  The mother was ecstatic describing that despite her incarceration being difficult for her family, she was still able to feel like an involved parent all thanks to Donald. Other Temporary Absences may involve assisting inmates to attend a family funeral, often driving many hours away. Over the years, Donald has consistently performed this important task for hundreds of women. Donald understands the importance of helping to prepare women for their release to the community and as such, his volunteer work contributes to the correctional agenda of changing lives. He does this without judgement, by offering an important friendly face, sage advice and a shoulder to lean on, all with a view towards helping to address the risk factors that brought the women into contact with the Criminal Justice System. Donald’s volunteerism helps prepare the women for the rigors of community life and thus directly contributes to reintegration. He has been described as a pillar of strength in the recovery of former inmates. Words used by a former inmate to describe Donald include compassion, support, service, reliable, trustworthy, recovery, role model; and that being in Donald’s presence is empowering and illuminating. Donald’s long-standing dedication to assisting those less fortunate in a correctional environment, which can present its own unique challenges, is truly exceptional. Thank-you Donald for the many successful reintegration stories you have helped make possible by mentoring others to be better versions of themselves, and demonstrating that challenges can create role models!

Glenn Baird

As a dedicated volunteer of Community Support Connections (CSC) for over 20 years, Glenn is described as an amazing person who is always willing to go above and beyond. He has devoted over 5,500 hours with Meals on Wheels, Community Dining, and Transportation programs, including helping in the kitchen and garden. Glenn began volunteering with the Meals on Wheels program, ensuring clients could keep living in their own home by receiving meals delivered to their doors. Newly retired at that time he delivered several times a week. In late 2007, Glenn shifted his role and began helping in the office and driving clients to appointments. He drove for 6 years and at age 79 decided to retire from driving and continued to help in the office. In 2014 when CSC opened their own kitchen to prepare meals, Glenn began volunteering in the kitchen and continues to help on the meal line at age 86 years young! Glenn was also very helpful when CSC started a community garden several years ago and still grows plants for the organization every spring. CSC would be lost without Glenn’s green thumb as he helps to reduce costs for the organization by starting seedlings from scratch, rather than purchasing seedlings. As a longtime volunteer, Glenn has been at CSC longer than some of the staff. He reports that he feels like Norm from Cheers when he enters the office because it’s a place where “everybody knows your name!”. Everyone throughout CSC look forward to seeing Glenn, he has a warmth about him that makes each person feel happy to see him, even through the smallest interactions. Thank-you Glenn for your dedication and selfless contribution in enabling seniors and adults with different abilities to live at home with independence and dignity!

Mel Barrie

Mel is a true community builder who has an innate ability to engage with people. He’s described as a warm and personable individual who never appears to be “too busy” despite his countless involvements. For many years, Mel, as a retired Canadian veteran, served as a volunteer cook with the KW Navy Club, preparing twice weekly dinners and weekend breakfasts, raising funds for a variety of community charities. For the past 6 years, Mel has served as a volunteer leader with the local chapter of Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH). While Mel’s official role is to coordinate the annual live and on-line auctions, his contributions extend far beyond. Along with his wife Terry, Mel assumes oversight of soliciting auction items, promoting the event, displaying the items, and the final onerous task of distributing items and collecting the bids. In addition, he organizes countless mini fundraisers such as a Pancake Breakfast, and Poor Boys luncheon to launch the campaign each fall. The result is that the Waterloo Region HHTH auction is #1 in Canada and has been for a number of years. A testament to Mel’s commitment has been the effort put towards raising funds for HHTH through his residence at Lexington Grand. Despite being constrained by the pandemic, Mel has run virtual 50-50’s and bingos, resulting in hundreds of dollars going to charity partners because Mel knew help was needed more than ever. When Mel and his wife moved to their apartment complex in 2014, Mel felt it was important for people to come together and form a community. He started hosting coffee gatherings twice weekly and also organized a social gathering each month prior to the pandemic, preparing and cooking meals for 40-50 people for $7, enabling everyone to have activities to look forward to each month. Mel has also mobilized those in his building to help give back to the community by collecting 19 cube truckloads of donated items for the Working Centre as well as A Better Tent City. Despite the pandemic, Mel continues to keep residents of his building connected through a daily email. As noted by the HHTH Regional Committee Chair, “’While many folks want to help make a difference, not all of them have the leadership and drive to make something better because they were involved. Mel is one of those folks!” Thank-you Mel for being a true community builder who demonstrates a selfless daily commitment to improving the lives of others.

Larrie Brown

Larrie is described as a kind, humble gentleman who is passionate about helping others and providing food security to families and individuals in Waterloo Region. Every Thursday morning over the past 15 years, Larry has served a volunteer driver, maneuvering the large Food Bank Truck all over the community as he makes deliveries to food distribution organizations and picks up food items from donors. Through this role, Larrie learned about the House of Friendship Emergency Hamper Food Program. Over the past 8 years Larrie has contributed over 780 volunteer hours with the Emergency Hamper Program to pack and sort food items in the warehouse. The hampers Larrie packs and delivers make a huge impact, and as such, he is changing the odds for individuals, families and children living with lower incomes in Waterloo Region. His deliveries also benefit youth experiencing homelessness, as Larrie also delivered food weekly to One Roof prior to the pandemic. Larrie also volunteers with a House of Friendship event called Friendship Golf. This annual event brings together community members for a day of golf, food and friendship. Larrie takes pictures and helps anywhere needed. In addition to supporting food distribution for those in need, Larrie has also been a steadfast, compassionate fixture at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church for over 35 years. He volunteers at the annual Church Camp where he positively impacts children by creating a sense of belonging, connection, and community. Larrie also serves on Church Council, helping to organize fundraisers for local charities and organizations. Larrie has also been a regular blood donor through Canadian Blood Services. Not just a donor, Larrie has also developed a mentoring relationship with a young person there who has experienced a number of personal challenges. Through Larrie’s encouragement, this individual has decided to take additional courses and continue their education. Over the years, Larrie has also connected with a senior at the Food Bank who had just retired and lost his wife. Larrie befriended him and got him more involved with the Food Bank. Larrie’s encouragement and kindness renewed a sense of purpose and connection after tragedy.  Thank-you Larry for walking with those experiencing food insecurity and homelessness, lending a helping hand wherever need and helping to change the odds for youth, families and individuals in the community.

Janet Grindgeman

Janet is described as an invaluable volunteer with an open mind and great willingness to learn.  Janet became involved with National Services Dogs (NSD) in September 2020. Knowing nothing about the process of raising a dog, Janet embraced the opportunity to learn and grow as a dog handler and has taken on more dog handling responsibilities with joy and enthusiasm. Currently Janet volunteers as a Doggy Carpool Driver and has further demonstrated her commitment by taking on additional responsibilities with the Dog Sitting Program. As a driver, Janet is responsible for picking up dogs from their raiser’s home on a daily basis and driving them to the NSD University so they can work with the organization’s trainers and become successful Service Dogs. Janet is responsible for handling the dogs with a high level of consistency to ensure dogs meet behavioural expectations. Janet does this and more. She is always open to feedback to make sure she is preparing the dogs for success. Janet makes it possible for the dogs to stay in their raiser’s homes while also learning at NSD University, which is also a large reason why NSD was able to maintain training throughout most of the pandemic. Because of Janet, one of the dogs in the program, Heartly, was able to come to NSD University and subsequently be placed at Fanshawe College as a Canine Assisted Intervention Dog (CAI) to support students’ mental health and mitigate stressors. Since the pandemic, Janet has been a huge support as the organization reimagined their programming due to Covid. Janet’s volunteer role with the organization has become an integral piece of the puzzle when placing Service Dogs with individuals in the community and across Canada. Thank-you Janet for playing such an important role in ensuring Service Dogs receive the training and support required for their life-long role of supporting those who need them!

Wieslawa Hyzyk

Wieslawa is described as a passionate and dedicated advocate and volunteer of the Nation Service Dogs (NSD) organization. She immigrated to Canada 39 years ago and quickly built a life for herself, learning English, and becoming a valuable member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Region. Since becoming a volunteer of NSD in 2006, Wieslawa has helped in a number of areas from the Evening Enrichment Program, Weekend Sitting Program, and now the Adult Raising Program. Wieslawa had a professional career counselling individuals with disabilities so they could reach their full potential. With a huge heart already, she didn't feel like she was giving enough and that is why she got started with NSD. She knew the impact dogs could make and wanted to play a role in getting Service Dogs to community members. Most recently, Wieslawa has stepped up when needed most to welcome Service Dogs in Training into her home, helping with a number of dogs in training.  One very impactful contribution Wieslawa recently made was caring for NSD Heidi during part of the COVID-19 lockdown. Wieslawa welcomed Heidi into her home to help finish her University training, practice her manners and skills, and see Heidi off to her career as a Certified Service Dog for PTSD. With the limitations of COVID-19 restrictions, Wieslawa had to take initiative and get creative to ensure Heidi was getting the training she needed. Wieslawa went above and beyond to safely expose Heidi to people and children in her community when they went on walks and focus on house manners and backyard distractions. Heidi has become a very important member of her new family as they are able to become valuable members of their community again. Wieslawa was an integral piece of the puzzle to get Heidi placed with her family successfully. Wieslawa’ s selflessness to care for so many dogs and then see them off to someone else is truly inspiring. Thank you Weislawa for being not only a great member of the Kitchener community, but also the National Service Dogs community, ensuring Service Dogs are placed with those who need them in our community and across Canada.

Bruce MacNeil

Bruce has an illustrious history of volunteering in our community. His knowledge, experience and willingness to share makes him a very valued member of any organization he supports. Bruce has been a Board Member for the Kitchener Horticultural Society (KHS) for almost 25 years, as such he has held roles as President, Vice President, Treasurer for multiple terms. Under Bruce’s guidance the KHS has grown to be the largest in Ontario. He also produces a quarterly newsletter and provides gardening articles for several publication, as well as providing seminars on many outdoor topics, and guided tours of Rockway Gardens. Members of the KHS often challenge him to name that plant…he never loses! In addition, Bruce served on the Kitchener Public Library Board for 21 years 2 of which as Chairperson. Bruce has been a member of the Kitchener Master Gardeners for over 25 years where he served two terms as Coordinator of the group. He also developed and currently runs the therapeutic program using horticulture for patients at Freeport Hospital as well as Winston Park Long Term Centre and has been supporting this effort for the past 16 years.  Bruce’s additional volunteer contributions in the community include:  Ontario Council of University Libraries, services to students with disabilities - 4 years, Mayors Advisory Council for Kitchener Seniors - 6 years, Kitchener Public Library Foundation - 4 years, Grants Committee (City of Kitchener) - 6 years,
Kitchener in Bloom - 4 years, Ontario Horticultural Association Board District 19 - 1 year, and Master Gardeners of Ontario Inc. District 4 Director - 3 years.  Bruce is a leader by example.  He is always willing to share his experience, knowledge and understanding.  He listens to ideas and opinions from others and offers suggestions, insights and experience to support innovation and sharing. He inspires others to step up through his example.  As an avid photographer, Bruce shares his photos on Facebook, engaging the public in learning and encouraging viewers to guess the species of various plants. There is a theme to Bruce’s volunteerism, promoting and supporting peace and tranquility through love of nature and of learning. Thank-you Bruce for donating thousands of hours of your time, knowledge and passion to enrich the lives of others by letting them see the beauty all around through your seminars, garden tours and photography.

Bill Martin

Bill is described as having a passion for healthcare and as having the ability to make anyone’s day he comes into contact with. Bill has been volunteering at Grand River Hospital for years and began donating his time to the Grand River Hospital Foundation in March 2020, when the lockdown began in Waterloo Region. Unable to continue serving at the hospital, Bill wanted to ensure he was making a difference in the community through a safe solution. On a weekly basis, Bill donated Our Heroes Wear Scrubs signs and t-shirts to community supporters and assisted in the delivery of over 7,000 signs and 8,000 t-shirts.  From March – September 2020, Bill ensured that the Foundation’s community of donors delivered their orders in a safe, enjoyable, and quick manner. He volunteered over 500 hours of community service, serving the Grand River Hospital Foundation for a year. In his spare time, Bill also drove seniors in this building to their weekly appointments. In October 2020, Bill was recruited and trained as the Grand Venture Store Volunteer Lead.  This role involved picking & packing, organizing, and facilitating volunteer drivers for over 3,500 online store orders during his time of service. Bill donated over 30 hours weekly to ensure that operations and logistics ran smoothly, and that the staff team were not overwhelmed during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Without Bill, the store could not have launched multiple items and collections including an internal scrubs line and would not have delivered over 4,000 staff appreciation gifts, making every single donor smile. Bill was also responsible for handwriting thank you notes to all donors who donated over $50 to the Surprise, Delight and Overdeliver campaign. This initiative lasted for four months, during which time the Foundation received continuous emails and calls of gratitude and delight.  Bill truly embodied every single one of the Foundation’s values. He continually communicated with a level of professionalism, respect, and gratitude, which inspired staff in the way they wished to work. Thank-you Bill for always taking the time to ask how others are doing, for your understanding of the trials and tribulations of working in the healthcare industry during a pandemic, and for always making the extra effort to ensure each individual feels seen and cared for.

Bill Pegg

Bill is described as a warm, engaging, and seemingly tireless volunteer who fills his days, weeks and months with countless hours dedicated to helping others. For the past six years, Bill has served with the Kitchener Waterloo YW Family Relocation program, securing storage space, free furnishings and other supplies for women moving to new homes after leaving violent living situations. Bill’s behind the scenes work and fundraising efforts make this project possible. Bill has also been a member of the Rotary Club of Kitchener-Westmount for the past 7 years. His role in raising funds for the Club has resulted in grants being available to assist local charities in providing needed community services. In addition to coordinating bi-weekly bingos and serving as the treasurer for the Club and the organization’s Foundation, Bill generously provides in-kind printing through his business, enabling the club to eliminate almost all costs associated with printing. His willingness to volunteer without the traditional “tap on the shoulder” has influenced other members to step forward without being asked. Bill has also served as a member of the Kitchener Sports Association (KSA) for about 20 years. During this time, he has served as KSA president for several terms, coordinated biweekly fundraising bingos, and currently serves as a board member and the association’s treasurer. For more than 25 years, Bill has also served in various volunteer roles with the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, including programs and events offered by the organization. Bill is also the President of the Panthers, a not for profit community owned baseball team operating in Kitchener.  He volunteers a great deal of time to ensure that the Panther Game day experience is excellent for fans of all ages. Bill is always one of the first to arrive at the ballpark, and the last to leave, long after the game has ended. Bill is also heavily involved with the Kitchener Junior Panthers in his long-term role as treasurer and director, spending hundreds of hours throughout the year running charity bingos to help finance the local team. Thank-you Bill for your endless energy and tremendous commitment in supporting multiple organizations, thus impacting the lives of so many in the Kitchener community.

Jim Romahn

Jim is described as an inspiration to those around him and as someone who is always happy to help others, particularly newcomers to Canada. He has been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Waterloo Region for 15 years in 3 different capacities – build site construction, kitchen salvage team, and partner in family interviews for prospective families looking to purchase a Habitat home. Along the way, Jim has become friends with many of the families moving into their new homes and has contributed many volunteer hours to help them obtain a home that would not otherwise be affordable. He has received many volunteer awards for his contributions to Habitat for Humanity. Jim has also volunteered for 4 years with Waterloo Mennonite Church with their Learn English, Make Friends program for newcomers to Canada. This program currently meets weekly on Zoom for English conversation with refugees and immigrants to Canada. Jim has made many friends through the program and has helped a few of them purchase household supplies and furniture while getting settled in Canada. Before participating in this program formally, Jim befriended and assisted countless people as they started their lives over again in Canada. He is known as “Papa” or “Dad” to many newcomers, as he eagerly offers support, explains processes, provides links to resources, takes people grocery shopping, introduces them to local parks or tourist areas such as Niagara Falls, and helps with English. Jim is also known as the Trash Man of Lackner Blvd.  Each day for the past 12 years while walking or jogging a 5km route, Jim has picked up every piece of litter and recycling along the way. He has been acknowledged by the local radio station and residents for helping to keep the city clean. Thank-you Jim for supporting so many new and long-time residents of the Kitchener community and helping to improve their day to day lives.

Florence Simiyu

Florence is described as described as a pillar and role model who is often sought out by others to provide advice and guidance based on her own life experiences. Florence has worked at Village of Winston Park since 2012, supporting seniors at the residence. In her free time, Florence dedicates her time to enabling new immigrants to feel welcome in the Kitchener community. Prior to coming to Canada, Florence had a challenging time in her country of birth. She came to Canada in 2011 and had limited knowledge of English and did not have the required certification to enable her to get into professional employment.  With the help of counsellors in Kitchener, Florence took on the challenge of polishing her English and going to college. At the time, Florence was already a senior, and through hard work became a personal support worker, and started working at the Village of Winston park.  At work, Florence is viewed by others as a pillar and consequently colleagues seek her out for guidance and advise. Without being aware, she is a role model, always encouraging others. Florence recalls not always getting adequate guidance as she began a new job in a new community and decided that she would be a supportive mentor by going the extra mile to jump in and help when others struggle. Florence has supported single immigrant mothers, taking time to help them with their child care needs while they perused employment. In this capacity, Florence plays the important role of supporting intergenerational learning and transfer of knowledge especially within the African immigrant community. Drawing on her own experience as a mother of 6 daughters, Florence provides social connections, hope and encouragement to young girls and young mothers, demonstrating how new immigrants can thrive in Kitchener. She is always ready to respond to questions and requests for support and warmly embraces others into her family. Thank-you Florence for positively impacting the lives of others with your gifts of encouragement, kindness and compassion. 

Larry Simpson

Larry is described a consummate volunteer who leads from behind the scenes to support young people. For nearly 50 years, Larry has served in various capacities with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kitchener Waterloo including as a Board member, capital fundraising committee Chairperson, President/Chair of the Board of Directors, and as a key catalyst in making Camp McGovern available to as many as 500 youth each summer.  Camp McGovern is a summer residential camp, initially operated through the Big Brothers organization. The camp faced a number of challenges over the years, including having to find a new location after the original location was expropriated by the Niagara Escarpment commission. In 2008, when Big Brothers was no longer able to sustain running the camp, Larry became a key advocate for the continued operation of the camp. He was a lead figure in a feasibility study and played a significant role in the capital fundraising campaign. In 1999, the camp was moved to a 120-acre property near Hanover. Larry’s efforts are in no small measure responsible for the Camp going on to become its own incorporated registered charity with a broader mandate of serving children from several United Way agencies across Southern Ontario. When the camp relocated, Larry took the initiative to obtain a forestry management plan with the Ministry.  Each spring for 20 years, Larry has ordered seedlings, and organized volunteers and local Scouts to plant over 3,000 seedlings. In 2013, Camp McGovern conducted a major capital campaign to raise funds for significant upgrades and again, Larry was a part of this successful effort. Larry continues to be an integral member of the Board of Directors for Camp McGovern, tirelessly devoting his time to fundraising efforts such as serving as the Chair for 15 years of the annual Poker Run for Classic & Prestigious Vehicles which has raised over $380,000 for camp operations and subsidies for young campers. Much of the camp’s ongoing maintenance is done by volunteers. Again, Larry is always eager to help shingle a roof or mow the grass. Many young campers who endure the uncertainty of an unstable home life have found a supportive summer camping program at Camp McGovern. Thank-you Larry for your dedication to both Big Brothers Big Sisters and Camp McGovern, and for being a significant influence in providing life changing experiences for underprivileged youth.

Erik Westermann

Erik is described as Trinity Village’s number one horticulture volunteer, helping to ensuring all residents and visitors benefit from the beautiful flower and food gardens. Erik has been dedicated to volunteering after he retired from farming at 55 years old. He initially kept busy by joining the St. Jacob’s Lions Club and volunteering weekly at the local cemetery. Erik moved to Trinity Village Studios in August 2017. He continued to volunteer at the local cemetery, but his passion and dedication of farming turned into keeping the 11.5 acres of land at Trinity Village beautiful. His quiet contributions are felt by the community throughout the year. He volunteers beside the Horticultural Manager daily, supporting the horticulture program at Trinity Village in many visible and invisible ways. The cutting garden, community garden and small greenhouse are all areas Erik helps to maintain.  He assists with horticulture, growing flowers and looking after several gardens, all while supporting other residents with his ever-gregarious smile and conversation, as he walks the grounds daily in the morning and afternoon. His gentlemanly support is constant and full of kindness. This year Erik has over 500 pansies in two large grow towers and 20 hanging baskets with plans to start his gardens early so people have flowers to enjoy.  During the growing season, Erik can often be found mulching raspberries, or composting and picking rhubarb, ensuring all residents benefit from the rhubarb pies/tarts baked in the kitchen. Erik works well with other volunteers and staff and demonstrates how to help without intruding and how to support without overwhelming. Erik is also a Philatelist with over a million stamps in his collection. He is in touch with many other stamp collectors and regularly receives and sends stamps from that community all over the world. Erik’s kindness and gentleness are evident in how he treats fellow residents and visitors with whom he constantly interacts and goes about growing flowers and fruit for others to enjoy. Thank-you Erik for hard work and dedication to ensuring the Trinity Village grounds are always beautiful and welcoming for all residents and visitors.


Recognition activities

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Nominate a senior

We accept nominations year-round. We're currently accepting nominations for the 2022 award.

Click here to nominate a Kitchener senior


Nomination criteria

Nominees must:

  • be 65 years of age or older
  • be a current resident of Kitchener
  • not be an earlier recipient of award or current member of the Mayor's Advisory Council for Kitchener Seniors (MACKS)
  • be an individual (you cannot nominate couples or groups)
  • give permission to be nominated and agree to submission information

Selection process

Nominations will be reviewed by a panel made up of:

  • volunteers from the Mayor's Advisory Council for Kitchener Seniors (MACKS)
  • members of council
  • staff members
  • a representative from the Volunteer Action Centre of K-W