Peace­ful com­mu­ni­ties

Amherst ad­vo­cates re­ceive YMCA Peace Medals

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRISTO­PHER GOOD­ING christo­pher.good­ing@amher­st­ twit­ter: @ADNchris

The Cum­ber­land YMCA hon­oured a pair of com­mu­nity ac­tivists with its Peace Medals dur­ing Peace Week ac­tiv­i­ties on Wednesday.

Veron­ica Richards looked across the Cum­ber­land YMCA’s meet­ing room and smiled at Bill Schur­man. She had nom­i­nated Amherst’s recre­ational di­rec­tor for the YMCA’s Peace Medal.

Schur­man re­turned her gaze and also smiled, proud for the poverty ac­tion ad­vo­cate whom he knew was nom­i­nated for the same award.

Both were un­aware they were about to ex­pe­ri­ence a lit­tle small town magic.

This marks the 30th year of the YMCA Peace Medals, and friends and col­leagues gath­ered at the Cum­ber­land YMCA on Nov. 22th to watch the an­nounce­ment.

As Richards read­ied to read her nom­i­na­tion to the au­di­ence, it was for­mer Cum­ber­land North MLA and le­gal pro­fes­sional Terry Far­rell who was called to the podium to read his nom­i­na­tion for Richards.

“Over the last four years, in my life and in my work, it has not al­ways been easy,” Far­rell said. “There have been some very dif­fi­cult times and it seems when things got the hard­est or when I was at the low­est the door would open and she would come in. She al­ways had choco­late and wis­dom. And it came from the heart.”

Richards is a poverty re­duc­tion ad­vo­cate, Far­rell said, and ded­i­ca­tion to change goes with­out rest. From pe­ti­tions to let­ter cam­paigns, work­ing with Coats for Cum­ber­land, the com­mu­nity health board SOAR and Em­pow­er­ing Be­yond Bar­ri­ers, she works, Far­rell said, with a smile.

“There are lots of peo­ple whom this award could be given,” Richards said. “Some­times I ask my­self why is it I do what I do… I think that you got to do who you are. And I think some of these things are by the grace of God where I am.”

The event did not end with Richards’ acceptance speech, how­ever. Cum­ber­land YMCA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Trina Clarke would call her back to the podium be­fore she could re­turn to her seat.

“For the first time in the 30 years of award­ing the peace medal­lion, one of our re­cip­i­ents ac­tu­ally nom­i­nated some­one, so we could not let that go un­re­marked,” Clarke said. “It was just an amaz­ing co­in­ci­dence that this hap­pened.”

Clarke tasked Richards with fol­low­ing-up with her nom­i­na­tion, and re­veal who she nom­i­nated and will share be­ing a Peace Medal re­cip­i­ent this year.

“I am very in­spired by and I think many, many peo­ple in Amherst are in­spired by Bill Schur­man,” Richards said. “I think for me and many peo­ple, Bill is one of the most en­cour­ag­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, up­beat and re­al­is­tic per­son who sees the good in other peo­ple and sees the good and po­ten­tial in Amherst.”

Schur­man came into his role with the com­mu­nity in 2014 af­ter be­ing the ath­letic di­rec­tor at the Univer­sity of Prince Ed­ward Is­land. Be­fore that he was the recre­ation di­rec­tor for Sum­mer­side, gen­eral man­ager of the Red Ball In­ter­net Cen­tre in Monc­ton and was a gen­eral man­ager of the Monc­ton Wild­cats of the QMJHL.

It’s his work as a cham­pion for the com­mu­nity, how­ever, that be­came the ba­sis for his nom­i­na­tion, which Richards says in­cluded many peo­ple help­ing her put Schur­man’s name for­ward.

Schur­man was quick to share the award with his co­work­ers and com­mu­nity lead­ers he has worked with in his three years in the Amherst.

“We try to show you what a lucky and flour­ish­ing com­mu­nity we are,” Schur­man said.

Na­tion­ally, the third week of Novem­ber is YMCA Peace Week. Since 1987, more than 1,900 in­di­vid­u­als and groups across Canada have been rec­og­nized for their work with YMCA Peace Medals.

Christo­pher GooD­iNG/Amherst News

There was a sur­prise in store for Veron­ica Richards and Bill Schur­man when they vis­ited the Cum­ber­land YMCA Nov. 22. Both were named re­cip­i­ents of the YMCA Peace Medal.

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