The novel coronavirus pandemic prevented an in-person gathering, but Pillar Nonprofit Network’s 14th annual Pillar Community Innovation Awards still brought the community together, albeit online.
The ceremony was held Thursday evening and began with music from DJ, host and community organizer Zahra Habib. It followed by a Land Welcome from facilitator and emerging leader from Delaware Nation, Sam Whiteye, whose welcome also included a slideshow of her landscape photography. Slam poet and author Fauzia Agbonhin then performed two of her poetry works, one of which included a video adaptation by an online community of local creatives called the See Collective.
Then, the awards were handed out in the categories of Innovation, Leadership, Impact, Collaboration and Community Choice. As part of the virtual ceremony, when winners were announced, attendees “heard the moving stories of their impact in community.”
“While it is up to each of us to decide our role in shifting the broken systems that have brought us to this moment, I hope all of us here tonight walk away with renewed energy and focus to see what is possible,” Pillar Nonprofit Network executive director Michelle Baldwin says.
Pillar says hundreds attended virtually to congratulate the winners — chosen by a group of community volunteers — two of whom were honoured for their work related to COVID-19.
The Atrium Project won the community innovation award for its work as a “website and phone service that connects volunteers to individuals unable to access groceries and supplies on their own due to increased risk of infection or other obstacles.”
The collaboration award went to Free Rides for Essential Workers, a collaboration between Big Bike Giveaway and Squeaky Wheel Bike Co-op that provides refurbished bicycles for low-income essential workers to allow them to safely commute to work.
The leadership award went to Coun. Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman and one of the youngest people elected to London city council, Pillar says. She is also an active public speaker, mentor and community activist, and has served as a board member for many local organizations.
“Arielle is invested in making London a more inclusive, diverse and welcoming community and is a champion for underserved Londoners, including low-income and racialized communities. Her voice and leadership contributed to London’s recognition and condemnation of racism in our city, and the commitment of council to make anti-racism a strategic priority,” Pillar says.
The impact award went to Dribbling Down Barriers, a training program that “uses basketball as a platform to promote diversity and inclusion.” The program was inspired by “the prematurely stunted professional career of the program’s co-founder, due to an unjust ruling against hijab-wearing.”
Andrew’s Legacy was the recipient of the community choice award. The charity works to get automated external defibrillators (AEDs), into schools, sports fields and recreation centres. It was created in memory of 15-year-old Andrew Stoddart of Thamesford, who died after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest while playing soccer in May 2015.
“To date, they have helped with the installation of 55 AEDs in London and have driven policy change. As of 2020, all schools in the Thames Valley District School Board will be outfitted with AEDs. The charity, in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, helped ensure the passing of Bill 141, which will see an AED registry developed for Ontario,” Pillar says.
— with files from Global News’ Matthew Trevithick.