Citizen of the Year and special recognition announced

Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Two special announcements were made at Monday night’s town council meeting to recognize individuals who have made a difference in Fort Frances.

As part of the town’s regular Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor June Caul announced the winner of the 2020 award, along with a special recognition for another deserving volunteer in the community.

“This is one of the exciting parts of the job that I get to do, is to actually finally announce the Citizen of the Year,” Caul began.

“It gives me great pleasure this evening to announce that our citizen of the year for 2020 is Gabby Hanzuk. This year the Citizen of the Year committee decided to give a second recognition as well. There was a young man who still goes to high school this year and is very involved in the community at a young age, and we felt that he needed to be recognized as well. This young fellow’s name is Ray Calder.”

Hanzuk was nominated by Dale Gill, and Caul read a portion of the nomination letter that was submitted to the committee for consideration that highlighted just some of the efforts Hanzuk has given her time to in the past.

“Without Gabby’s 30 years of service to Special Olympics, Fort Frances probably wouldn’t have a contingent of athletes,” Caul read from the nomination letter.

“Our athletes think the world of her, and she is always their go-to person. As a valued leader of the Voyageur Lions Club, Gabby is always there for meetings and fundraisers. She has been president, treasurer and secretary of our club. Gabby has also been awarded the Melvin Jones award from Lions Club International for her dedicated humanitarian services, as well as a Medal of Hope from the Lions Foundation of Manitoba and northwestern Ontario for her work in the community that gives hope to the lives of the less fortunate.”

In addition to her work with Special Olympics and the Voyageurs Lions Club, Hanzuk was also recognized for her time on the board at the Volunteer Bureau and participating in the tax clinics there, as well as her efforts volunteering at the Family Centre. Hanzuk is also the co-ordinator of the Meals on Wheels program, and though that is a paid position, Gill’s letter noted she performs her job well above what is required of her.

“She makes sure that our seniors who can’t cook for themselves get a healthy meal every night, even if she has to deliver them by herself,” Caul relayed to council.

“Not to mention every one of them get a Christmas goodie bag from her every Christmas. Along the Christmas line, Gabby has volunteered for the Community Christmas dinner for many years.”

Caul then took a moment to speak from her own experiences of working alongside Hanzuk, agreeing that she has been a vital part of the Community Christmas Dinners for years.

“I know that she is one of the members of her church choir, and that takes added work as well, and that’s all volunteer work,” Caul said.

“She also sings on the Choraliers choir at Christmas time every year so, on top of all the things Dale mentioned about Gabby, those are a few extra ones that I know she’s also involved with. So Gabby, it gives me great, great pleasure to name you the Citizen of the Year for Fort Frances 2020.”

Calder’s nomination was submitted by a group consisting of Kim McKinnon, Cathy Gagne, Julia McManaman and Erika Handberg, whose letter to the Citizen of the Year committee highlighted the work he did in the early days of the pandemic.

“Due to COVID, Canadians were asked to isolate in our homes to protect ourselves and others in our community,” Caul read from the nomination letter.

“Only one person per household was allowed in stores to shop for groceries. There were long lineups outside of stores and people were encouraged to wear a mask. Everyone was on edge about how COVID would affect our lives. Ray Calder saw an opportunity to support members of his community. On March 13, 2020, he realized there was going to be community members that due to age, illness or fear, would not be able to get their own groceries. He took initiative to reach out to potential volunteers and organized a Facebook group.”

Calder was 16 at the time he created the Rainy River District COVIDelivery Facebook group that served to connect those who were in need of groceries but unable to go to the store themselves, with a volunteer who would pick up their food and drop it off, in one of the earlier examples of contactless delivery in the area. The group would eventually expand to more than 25 active volunteers and complete more than 100 orders in the district.

“While working his job as lifeguard at the arena, Ray facilitated the Facebook group to help his local community,” the letter read.

“Just a high school student, Ray balanced all the phone calls, messages and organized all the volunteers. Ray helped many community members during a fearful time.”

Caul noted that she had a personal connection to Calder that stretched back to before her time as mayor.

“When I was still teaching, Ray was in my junior kindergarten class,” she said.

“I knew then what a wonderful young man he is and that he will do great things in his life. He is polite, he is kind, he is generous, and he’s just an all around wonderful young man. So congratulations to Ray.”

Both Hanzuk and Calder will be officially recognized and presented with a plaque and certificate respectively at a later date.

“Once again, congratulations to Gabby and to Ray, our two recipients for this year,” Caul said.

“Thank you again to both for all that you do for our community.”