Seven of the very best celebrated. Mayor calls them the “backbone of the city”.

News 100 redBy Staff

May 20, 2014


Some 300 people gathered at the Convention centre last Thursday, to witness the awarding of Burlington’s BEST awards to seven people who were chosen by their peers as leaders in the community.

There were 29 nominees in the 49th annual awards event that recognized Citizen of the Year; Senior Person of the Year; Junior Person of the Year; Heritage Person of the Year; Arts Person of the Year; Community Service Award and the Environmental  Award.

Mayor Goldring put it perfectly when he said: “Volunteers” are the backbone of our community, and add tremendous value to Burlington.”  The men and women who are received the awards were recognized by their friends and colleagues as putting forth an extraordinary effort to make Burlington a better place.”

The Burlington’s Best Awards are managed by a citizen’s committee established in 1965 with the mandate of recognizing Burlington residents who bring honour to the city and make a difference in their community.

The Heritage Person of the Year Award is sponsored by Heritage Burlington, a City of Burlington citizen advisory committee.  The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the preservation of Burlington’s heritage, and has volunteered his or her time to support the preservation of Burlington’s heritage.


If it had to do with either heritage or history Les Armstrong was at the meeting – usually with the late Jane Irwin.  To have lost both of them in such a short period of time.

The award, quite rightfully, went to Les Armstrong whose service to Burlington covers many decades. He was a longstanding executive member of the Burlington Historical Society.  His most recent accomplishment was organizing the Friends of Freeman Station. Burlington truly is a better place because of Les Armstrong and his efforts to preserve Burlington’s history for today and tomorrow; his death late in January lessened all of us.

Community Service Award is sponsored by COGECO, the local cable company and

is given to a Burlington resident who volunteered in the areas of public relations, marketing, communications or special events during the previous calendar year. Nominees will have promoted Burlington’s sense of community by sharing good news or encouraging others to contribute their time, talent and enthusiasm.

The nominees for this award in 2013 included: John Ives, Tomy Bewick, Friday Night Community Team at Wellington Square United Church, Les Armstrong, Gordon Cameron, Trent Schwartz and Beth Hudson

Trent Schwartz and his family sparked the imagination of the city when they decided  they would embark on 100 local adventures in 2013. Schwartz tirelessly promoted Burlington by helping to get the word out to everyone about all the fantastic events and activities in our city. Schwartz has been a Burlington ambassador who continues to encourage and inspire local people and tourists to experience the great things the city has to offer while promoting Burlington’s sense of community. 

Environmental Award Sponsored by Newalta – a leader in rediscovering resources and changing how industry perceives waste by partnering with its customers, helping them to meet their environmental objectives.  The nominees were: Ken Woodruff and Paul Toffoletti

The Environmental Award went to Paul Toffoletti, a dedicated environmental protection advocate who has volunteered with the Bruce Trail Conservancy since 1996 and has been a member of the Burlington Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) since 2008.

As a board member of the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, Toffoletti spent a significant amount of time monitoring this ecologically significant parcel of land to ensure that Burlington’s natural heritage features continue to be protected. As vice-chair of the SDC, Toffoletti helped raise the committee’s profile by organizing speakers’ series in Burlington on issues that include climate change, local food and environmentally friendly gardening. He was instrumental in leading the review of development applications and routinely delegated to City Council on environmental matters. Toffoletti has played an active role on the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan Stakeholders Review Committee and continues to serve on the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark Management Committee.  Other environmental initiatives Toffoletti has supported include the Earth Day Hamilton-Burlington Eco Festival and various nature walk events. His dedication and enthusiasm for the environment has raised awareness and inspired others in Burlington to reduce their carbon footprint. 

The K.W. Irmisch Arts person award went to a woman who took a big chance and brought one of the most imaginative cultural events to the city when she held the “No Vacancy” installation at the Waterfront Hotel.  The nominees were: Selina Jane Eckersall, Christopher Giroux, Tomy Bewick and Jonathon Filipovic

Cirque - cropped front of VS model

Selina Jane Eckersall looking over a model of Village Square – the location for her next “installation art” event.

 She is an entrepreneurial collaborator whose goal is to support and encourage a thriving contemporary art scene that extends beyond the gallery walls and into the hearts and minds of the city’s residents, artists and businesses.

Junior Citizen of the Year
Since 1875, B’Nai Brith has been respected for its groundbreaking work on matters relating to anti-Semitism, racism and human rights, as well as for its strong advocacy and the important social services it provides. Each year, local B’Nai Brith groups across the country reach out to those around them, helping to fund and organize activities that meet the special needs of communities.

The Junior Citizen of the Year Award is given to a secondary school student 18 years of age or younger, who, through devoted and energetic service to worthy causes, has been an example to the community.  The nominees for 2013 were: Chad Buisman, Connor Withers, Curtis Kelly and Connor Fraser, Gabriella Paniccia, Justin McNerne

Chad Buisman has been volunteering with the Friday Night Community Dinner at Wellington Square United Church since its inception. He helps to feed more than 200 men, women and children each and every week with varying social, physical, social and emotional needs by supporting the dinners with set-up, food preparation and clean-up. He also organizes crafts for young children and shares his gift of music by playing musical instruments for the enjoyment of guests. Buisman is a volunteer with the church’s weekly children’s ministry program, Ryerson Camp and the City Kidz Foundation in Hamilton. He is a young role model who has spent more than 1,000 hours serving the Burlington community with a genuine humility that is beyond his years.

Senior Person of the Year
Canadian owned and operated, Schlegel Villages’ mission is to provide holistic health care in a home environment, located within an internal neighbourhood design that promotes a caring community, with an emphasis on optimal health and life purpose for each resident. The Village of Tansley Woods Long Term Care Home, the sponsor of this award, offers a rich selection of programs and activities year-round. The home is designed to build community while serving personal needs.

The Senior Person of the Year Award is given to a Burlington resident aged 60 years and over, who, through voluntary actions, has made a significant contribution to the city and its residents.  The nominees for 2013 were:  Michael Hourigan, Maggie Wheeler, Arnold Koopman, Thelma McGillivra

Maggie Wheeler
Wheeler is a cancer survivor who tirelessly serves the Burlington community. She collects non-perishable items for food banks and crochets hats, blankets and prayer shawls for cancer patients, women in crisis and disabled persons. When she travels to Mexico in winter months, she donates suitcases of school supplies and volunteers with her husband to support local food banks, schools and seniors’ homes. Within Burlington, Wheeler is also a volunteer with the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and Sew on Fire Ministries in Burlington. She is truly a selfless, charitable person whose heart touches each person she meets, with never a thought for herself.

Citizen of the Year Award
This award is brought to us by the service clubs of Burlington.

The world’s first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed on Feb. 23, 1905. Since then, the club has grown to include 1.2 million Rotarians belonging to more than 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries. Service above self is Rotary’s guiding principle.  The 2013 nominees were: x Bev Jacobs, Judy Gerdes, Denise Davy, Jean Longfield and Beth Hudson.  Of interest and of note is that all the nominees were women.

The Citizen of the Year Award is given to an individual who, through devoted and energetic service to worthy causes, has been an example to the community.

Jean Longfield has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people through her “Gift of Giving Back” program. Beginning in 2007, the annual food drive program has now collected more than 770,000 pounds of food with a collective value of $1.89 million to help less-fortunate people in Burlington and the surrounding communities.

Eagles at city hall March 17-14

The Burlington Eagles at a city hall event.


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1 comment to Seven of the very best celebrated. Mayor calls them the “backbone of the city”.

  • Donald

    Probably the best event I’ve been to in years. They really ramped up numbers this year and put on an oscar style event.