Achievers in spotlight
South Glengarry's 2017 Citizen of the Year was instilled with a strong sense of community and the importance of social justice at an early age.
“When my sister, Irene and I were very small...we were forced to participate in the Salad Bowl strike by boycotting iceberg lettuce salad in our home to support Cesar Chavez and the farm migrant workers,” recalled Apple Hill area resident Eleanor McGrath during this past Saturday's South Glengarry Business and Community Awards gala at the Tartan Hall/Char-Lan Arena.
“It was the time of the Vietnam War and our parents were like many, active in social justice work, and we were along for that ride.”
That commitment to social justice and community, cultivated over a lifetime of volunteering and hard work, contributed to her selection as Citizen of the Year.
“Eleanor has made a measurable impact to South Glengarry through her involvement with agrotourism and is a passionate advocate for Canadian British Home Children,” said the evening's MC Rick Marvel.
South Branch Road resident Bev Runions, winner of the Community Services Award, spent more than two decades as secretary-treasurer of the Williamstown Fair Board.
“Over the past 25 years, I've had two families in my life,” said Mrs. Runions.
“I've had my Fair Board family, whom I've had the great privilege of working with, and my personal family. It was 25 years ago this month that (husband) George told me, ‘Bev, go ahead and do this. You can do it.’’
Mrs. Runions also pointed out, with pride, how the couple's daughter Karen, her husband, Neil, and grandchildren Melanie and Andrew have, over the years, become members of the Fair Board as well, the latter two as junior directors.
Erin McCready of Bainsville, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Holy Trinity Secondary School, was chosen as this year's Youth Merit Award winner.
Mr. Martel recalled how Miss McCready, through her participation as a youth counsellor over the past four years at the local Camp Sparks, “has grown into a young woman with confidence and strong leadership skills.”
Cory Hagen, whose Glengarry My Home clothing line helps support local community initiatives through the sale of Glengarry branded hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts and tank tops, is the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year.
“I did not expect to be here,” said Mr. Hagen upon accepting his award. “But the hard work paid off.”
Julie Viau Therriault, who operates Viau Ladies Wear in Green Valley, was honoured with the Special Business Achievement Award.
Mrs. Viau Therriault told the crowd that half the credit for the award should go to her mother, Colette, who opened Viau Ladies Wear in 1967 at the location adjacent to the CPR tracks where it still stands.
She explained that her mom “did the first 25 years and now I've done 25 years, too.”
CMG Innovation Ltd., a Summerstown-based company that provides a variety of services, primarily asbestos and mold abatement and remediation to a growing number of industrial and food factories, hospitals, and logistic facilities, is the 2017 Business of the Year.
While company co-founder Courtney Wheeler was thrilled to take home the honours, he expressed regret that a major player in the firm's success wasn't there to celebrate the win.
“In 2018, my business partner, Ron Van Riel, unfortunately, passed away,” said Mr. Wheeler, his voice filled with emotion.
“This company is based on family, and I lost a family member. He meant a lot to me. His drive to make this company work was equal to mine.”
Mr. Wheeler spoke of how the modest business venture he and Mr. Van Riel founded almost 20 years ago has grown and flourished.
“We started off in 2001 working at Domtar. At that time, we were a small crew of four men...and we've gone from that to 25 men now,” he said.
“The business has brought us all over the country. We’ve just successfully completed a two-year contract in Iqaluit (for asbestos abatement). Who would have thought that a small company from Summerstown would bring a crew up to Iqaluit?”
Raisin River Farms Inc., a large, local dairy operation that owns over 1,000 acres throughout South Glengarry and which recently constructed and expanded a multi-million dollar barn on Boundary Road, was chosen as the 2017 Excellence in Agriculture Award winner.
The business is owned and operated by the Grant family.
“Any successful farm stands on the shoulders of its previous generations,” said Rod Grant.
“My grandfather worked every day to pass his farm on to his sons and I have the dream of passing the farm on to my son.”
AWARDS: Here are the winners from Saturday evening’s South Glengarry Business and Community Awards Gala. Antonella and Courtney Wheeler (Business of the Year), Cory Hagen (Entrepreneur of the Year), Eleanor McGrath (Citizen of the Year), Erin McCready (Youth Achievement), Rod Grant (Excellence in Agriculture), Bev Runions (Community Service), Julie Viau Therriault (Special Business Achievement.)