Wellington North names Al Leach Senior of the Year, recognizes volunteers

ARTHUR – It’s too late to try and alter the record, says Al Leach, the word’s already out – in front of 225 people, no less.

Leach was named Wellington North’s Senior of the Year at the Arthur and Area Community Centre on April 18.

He didn’t want everybody to know he was a senior, he said into a mic with a big smile to the many gathered at one of the township’s well-attended volunteer appreciation and newcomer welcome events.

The award was “a total surprise,” Leach told the Advertiser.

Part of the provincial Honours and Awards Program, the award provides municipalities the opportunity to nominate a community member over the age of 65 for official recognition.

Wellington North Mayor Andy Lennox addresses a gathering of more than 200 people at the Arthur and Area Community Centre on April 18. Photo by Jordan Snobelen


Leach and his wife Donna purchased abandoned farmland in 1978 and opened Sharmadon Tent and Trailer Park.

Now named Shamadon, the couple sold the park in 1996, after Al’s drive back and forth to work in Toronto became too time consuming.

He and Donna considered leaving the community after moving on from the park, but their roots were already running deep here.

“My wife is such a strong volunteer as well in the community; our ties are very strong here now and I think this is our place,” he said.

Leach joined the Mount Forest Lions Club in 2000 to form connections in town, he said.

He has been volunteering ever since, and over the past 24 years, has found it hard saying no to more opportunities.

The Mount Forest resident also volunteers with Dog Guides of Canada, helped start the Saugeen Valley Children’s Safety Village, serves as the Mount Forest United Church finance chair and sits on the Mount Forest Aquatics Advisory Committee.

“We absolutely love the community of Wellington North,” he said.

Volunteering keeps them physically and mentally active, and they enjoy the social aspect too.

“Without that, I’m not sure what I’d do,” Leach said.

With the new award, presented by Mayor Andy Lennox and Senator Rob Black, Leach said he’s a little closer to catching up to his wife, who was recognized as Wellington North’s Citizen of the Year in 2017.

Local volunteers recognized

Volunteers recognized. Submitted photo

Lennox and Black also recognized seven locals with the Ontario Volunteer Service Award at the event:

  • Janice Benson for her role in the launch of the Raw Carrot in 2017;
  • Paula Coffey because, as the mayor said, “there isn’t much that goes on in Arthur that doesn’t have Paula’s fingerprints” on it;
  • Linda Hruska, as a member of the Wellington North Cultural Roundtable since its inception a decade ago and a “key member” of the Four Corners Quilter’s Guild;
  • Wellington Heights Secondary School students Gabriella Kuhlman and Rebekah McDougall, who have volunteered for the past three years at weekly Mount Forest Lions Club bingo events;
  • Jeff McKee for his efforts with the Arthur Historical Society, Arthur Minor Ball and Arthur’s 150 celebrations; and
  • Daphne Rappard for her many volunteer contributions, including as a dedicated member of the Mount Forest Green Team.