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Community change-makers honoured at 11th annual Pillar Community Innovation Awards

Attendees take part in the boisterous Heads or Tails fundraiser at the 11th annual Pillar Community Innovation Awards.
Attendees take part in the boisterous Heads or Tails fundraiser at the 11th annual Pillar Community Innovation Awards. Jess Brady / 980 CFPL

Wednesday was a night of honouring those who make a difference in the London area.

Nearly 1,000 Londoners gathered at the London Convention Centre last night to celebrate community innovation and collaboration at the 11th annual Pillar Community Innovation Awards.

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“We had a huge crowd, [they were] very excited. I think everybody walks away feeling like they were recognized, which is exactly what this is all about,” said Michelle Baldwin, executive director at Pillar Non-profit Network.

According to Pillar’s website, the awards celebrate non-profits and charities and the individuals, businesses and government organizations who work with them to make the community better.

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the award recipients in the four categories of innovation, leadership, impact and collaboration, as well as a new category, community choice.

“I think what you’re seeing the themes are a lot of diversity with Indigenous communities, young people, collaborations coming together, and things that connect back to nature. It’s pretty cool to see the community come out in this way and celebrate a diversity of thought and action,” said Baldwin.

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Winners include, (+) Positive Voice at Nokee Kwe for community innovation, Justin Tiseo for community leadership, Community Engaged Learning at Western University for community impact, and Baby’s Book Bag: Literacy Right from the Start for community collaboration. Childreach’s WILD CHILD Outdoor Playgroup was chosen for the community choice award.

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“Tonight was about [showing] that every person in this room can do one small act for social good that will make a difference in our community. Anybody who was here, anybody in the community can step up and make a difference. From small acts to big innovations, there’s something for everybody to do,” said Baldwin.

Below is a full list of award recipients and their respective initiatives:

Community Innovation: (+) Positive Voice at Nokee Kwe — a program created to support urban aboriginal women in creating positive narratives and community connections.

Community Leadership: Justin Tiseo — leader and creator of JP2 (John Paul II Catholic Secondary School) ONERUN, turning a one-day fundraiser for cancer patient care into a city-wide, week-long initiative engaging high school students and raising over $260,000 to date.

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Community Impact: Community Engaged Learning at Western University — The courses and programs aim to help students strengthen their sense of civic responsibility and understanding of social justice, while giving students the hands-on experiences to connect what they’re learning in the classroom, to what’s happening outside of it.

Community Collaboration: Baby’s Book Bag: Literacy Right from the Start — Created by London’s Child and Youth Network Literacy Team with help from Kiwanis Club of Forest City-London, this initiative provides new and expectant parents in London with a free literacy bag containing practical, hands-on tools and information to use as soon as their baby is born.

Community Choice: Childreach’s WILD CHILD Outdoor Playgroup — an effort to motivate children and families to immerse themselves back into nature and outdoor activities, to improve the social, emotional, and physical well-being of children that comes from outdoor play.