More than 900 people attended this year’s Community Builder of the Year Awards gala at the Ottawa Convention Centre on May 17 to cheer on family, friends and colleagues whose work was being recognized by the Ottawa branch of the United Way.
“We’re celebrating 12 organizations,” said Michael Allen, president and CEO of United Way Ottawa. “This group of individuals and organizations and government departments that we’re recognizing cover the waterfront in terms of the way you can contribute and the way you can move issues along.”
The event was on the same day as the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, honouring, among others, Kanata South Councillor Allan Hubley and the Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN).
Hubley, who lost his gay son, Jamie Hubley, to suicide last year, received the Speak Up Award for his work in raising awareness about bullying and homophobia. In February, Hubley helped to bring together hundreds of people from more than 40 organizations for Ottawa’s first Suicide Prevention Summit.
“Because of Councillor Hubley’s efforts, many local schools and organizations have also established clubs, committees and other supportive forums where young people can discuss bullying, discrimination and harassment and find ways to foster acceptance, compassion and understanding of others,” read a statement from the United Way about the awards.
OSPN received this year’s Take Action Award for their fierce community-building work, which addresses the social, financial and care needs of Ottawa’s queer and transgender seniors. Among other things, OSPN looks at the care and services that these seniors receive — or don’t receive.
“Senior Pride’s goal is to create visibility, support and social inclusion for LGBT elders, both within our community and [in] Ottawa,” said Cathy Collett, whose tireless organizing work with the Centretown Community Health Centre and other community-based organizations made the formation of OSPN possible in 2008.
“We’re old, we're queer and we're still here!” said Marie Robertson, who has been an OSPN volunteer since 2008 and, in 2011, became the group’s community development coordinator. “Many of us have lived through periods of being called sick, criminals, sinners and unworthy of protection under human rights legislation. Our generation is not going back in the closet as we age.”
While both awards were well-deserved, the work of the OSPN has been widely recognized as groundbreaking for the Ottawa community.
“[OSPN] is an organization that has done really tremendous work in what is . . . an emerging area of advocacy work for a part of the LGBT community that heretofore has not had a strong voice,” Allen said.
The 2012 edition of the Community Builder Awards was the 12th annual such event, honouring the volunteerism of 12 extraordinary organizations and individuals working together for a better Ottawa.