Citizens of year recognized

MOUNT FOREST – The Mount Forest and District Chamber of Commerce presented in-person awards to the 2022 Excellence Award recipients at the Mount Forest Legion in October. 

Joe Wettlaufer is this year’s citizen of the year award recipient. He’s been a Mount Forest resident since he was 15 years old. 

Now 45, he’s turned his life around as a recovering addict. 

“I’ve definitely improved my life over the years; it’s good for people to know that you can rise back up again,” he told the Community News. 

Wettlaufer spends around 20 hours each week volunteering with various organizations, community groups and causes. 

He also moderates the active Mount Forest What’s Happening Facebook group.

“My favourite thing that I tell everyone is that, ‘If you’re going to be a part of a community why not get involved and make it the best spot it can be?’” he said.

It feels good to help others, he said, and he hopes to inspire others to get involved in their community.

The nominations are also a source of good feelings, Wettlaufer said. 

He certainly had support from friends, but there were other nominations he wasn’t previously aware of; he called  the experience “humbling.” 

Recognition isn’t the reason volunteers do what they do, but Wettlaufer said it’s a “really good feeling getting a little recognition once in a while.” 

The award itself came as a shock.

“I just wasn’t expecting my name to be called at all,” he said, adding he was rooting for someone else he had nominated for the award.

“I’m glad they didn’t ask me to say anything because I would have been speechless.”

Youth citizen of the year

This year’s youth citizen of the year award went to a brother and sister duo who went above and beyond this summer at the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival.

“Two siblings particularly stand out,” a resident wrote in nominating Nathan and Autumn Warner for the award, adding they “helped at every moment they could.”

“When an entire community was enjoying the event, these youth were putting in community service assisting in parking lots, ticket sales and wristband checks and other duties,” the resident wrote.

Last week, the siblings responded to questions via an email sent to the Community News from their mother, Steph Warner.

The youths volunteered to obtain volunteer hours and to “help the community have a good time after these past few years,” Warner wrote.

Nathan, who volunteered 41 hours over three weeks for the festival, said that receiving the award made him feel happy about himself.

The siblings volunteer when the opportunity arises and say “it teaches us to work hard and to give back however we can.”