Freda Leenders named Erin”™s Citizen of the Year at volunteer appreciation awards night

It was a packed auditorium at Centre 2000 on April 22 to celebrate local “works of heart.”

The night recognized the volunteerism demonstrated by Shamrock Award recipients Diana Critchley, Don Covert, Mélodie Rose, Shirley Emerson, Steve Busby, Susan Powell and Erin’s Citizen of the Year recipient Freeda Leenders.

Rev. Deacon Irene Walback offered the following words to those gathered: “We make a living by what we get … we make a life by what we give.”

Walback asked that volunteers recognize what they give helps their neighbours – known and unknown.

Erin Mayor Allan Alls stated “the Town of Erin is very rich in volunteerism”.

He noted Celebrate Erin received 16 nominations “and we sincerely wish every one of those nominated could have been awarded.”

Alls said, “It’s funny how often people getting these awards don’t think they are deserving … but believe you me, sitting on the (awards) committee it is difficult to choose just a few. We could have handed out 20 awards.”

Citizen of the Year

East Wellington Community Services manager of community and volunteer engagement  Barb Carscadden described Leenders as “a woman who has devoted her life to helping others and who has given so much to her community and those whose lives she touches every day.”

She continued, “Freda has volunteered with East Wellington Community Services for decades … tirelessly filling the role as a volunteer driver since the program began operations almost 32 years ago.

“Freda makes herself readily available when needed – often at the expense of her own commitments.

“From her reassuring smile, warm demeanour and upbeat attitude, clients experience a sense of safety and security while making their way to appointments.”

Carscadden added, “When she’s not driving for EWCA, [Leenders] can be found behind the wheel driving for the Canadian Cancer Society for the past 32 years, taking local patients to places such as Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener.”

Leenders is also actively involved in the Erin Gardening Club, helping to beautify local green spaces, tending to flowers, gardens and planting trees.

She is also a member of the local Women’s Institute.

“Freda is a role model to so many,” said Carscadden.

“Within our town, she is known as someone who will help others so their lives are made more enjoyable. What is remarkable is not just the amount of volunteering she does, but the manner in which she carries out these duties, with her smile and humble, positive, can-do approach. No project ever seems to be too big a task for Freda to take on.”

Carscadden added Leenders is “an inspiration to us all.”

Leenders said she knew she was up for an award “but I didn’t expect this … not the Citizen of the Year. It’s overwhelming.”

She thanked both Carscadden and the staff of East Wellington Community Services.

“Volunteering is a ‘work of heart’ and it seems to come naturally,” said Leenders.