‘Citizen of the Year’ honoured at dinner

Duane Hicks

“Let us have the courage to dream.”
That was the inspirational message of “Citizen of the Year” Joyce Cunningham, who was honoured Friday night at the town’s annual appreciation dinner at La Place Rendez-Vous.
Cunningham was not be able to attend as she was in Sudbury for a meeting of the Ontario Library Service North board, which she chairs, but fellow library board member Mark Kowalchuk delivered her speech on her behalf.
“I see this award not as recognition of my efforts alone, but also for all of those who worked so tirelessly for so many years,” Cunningham wrote.
“In this journey, we have grown, and through collaboration and consultation, our vision of a library has also changed,” she noted.
“Personally, I have come to understand how a library is such an important part of both the social and economic well-being of a community.
“When my friends throughout the province have congratulated me on both the completion of the library technology centre and being named for this honour, I am reminded of all that we have and value in this community,” she remarked.
Cunningham thinks this project has shown that even though we are a small and somewhat isolated community, in working with our partners, using our assets and skills, and having the courage to take some risks, we have been paid amazing dividends.
“I readily admit that I get on my soapbox, often get a bit pedantic, and am unbelievably stubborn . . . but at the same time, my enthusiasm and passion live on,” she said.
“I still get excited about all that we can do and achieve in this town. I see amazing opportunities as we explore the potential of the new library technology centre.
“And so in accepting this honour, I see it not only as recognition of what has already been achieved, but as an endorsement of the importance of our library in the growth of our community.
Cunningham stated she realizes that when she was chosen as this year’s citizen of the year, many would assume it was for her work leading to the completion of the new library technology centre.
“However, as I have often stated, the dream has never been just about bricks and mortar,” she stressed. “It is about having community access to possibilities that we have only started to explore.
“As Shakespeare’s Prospero said, ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on.’
“Let us have the courage to dream,” Cunningham concluded. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Citizen of the Year 2000” Bill Gushulak, who sits on the “Citizen of the Year” selection committee along with Mayor Roy Avis and Coun. Sharon Tibbs, said the committee received very good nominations this year, but it was fitting that Cunningham be honoured at this time.
“This year, as we began to review the various nominations for ‘Citizen of the Year,’ it became quite evident that our eventual selection has made quite an impression on this community and, in fact, throughout the province with quite a variety of individuals, groups, and organizations,” Gushulak noted.
“This great impression was something that did not develop overnight or even over a few years,” he added. “In fact, it was something that transpired over many years.
“Community projects require great leadership, and as we are all aware, do not come together easily. They require a large number of individuals to come and work together from all sides to ensure that realistic goals are set, kept on track, and subsequently met.”
Gushulak stressed no project ever reaches completion without frustrations and challenges, and compared a community project to a great recipe where in order for it to come to the table so that everyone can savour and enjoy it, all the correct ingredients must be there to begin with.
And just like a good recipe requires a good chef to be a success, a community project requires a great leader, he remarked.
“Now it is clear that this year’s recipient knew the ingredients required and although the recipe may have had to be altered here and there, in the end, it has turned out to be quite delectable,” Gushulak lauded.
“Our recipient has dedicated herself to a community project that required a tremendous amount of meetings, presentations, consultations, roadblocks, and did I mention more meetings,” he added.
“Always mindful of what the project could, and would, do for all age levels within our community and surrounding district, our recipient persevered.
“She dedicated herself and through this dedication was able to attract and inspire a strong committee to get the job done.
“Many would, I am sure, agree that it takes a strong individual to not simply throw up their arms and turn away when presented with challenge after challenge,” Gushulak said.
“She continued on, using her knowledge, her experience, her contacts within and outside Fort Frances, and her leadership skills to bring to completion a facility that will service not only this generation, but future generations for years to come—the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre.”
Mayor Avis also felt Cunningham was deserving of the recognition.
“She did a remarkable job with the library,” he remarked. “Even when obstacles seemed insurmountable, Joyce never wavered.
“At council, we witnessed her passion and determination,” the mayor noted.