This evening, three individuals and four projects were recognized for their work to improve safety in Thunder Bay during the eighth annual Mayor’s Community Safety Awards ceremony.
“I wish to offer my sincerest congratulations and thanks to each of this year’s recipients,” said Mayor Keith Hobbs. “They are setting an example through their outstanding efforts to improve our community. Since these awards began in 2011, 45 deserving individuals and projects have been recognized for their hard work and dedication to making Thunder Bay a better and safer place for everyone.”
Sponsors of this year’s event include Mac’s Convenience, Union Gas, Thunder Bay Police Services, the Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council, Matawa First Nations Management, Generator, and Apex Security.
The 2018 Mayor’s Community Safety Award Recipients are as follows:
COMMUNITY HERO: RON KANUTSKI
For many years, Ron Kanutski has inspired countless people to take control of their lives and choose healthier paths. A long-time entertainer and dedicated mental health and addictions consultant in Thunder Bay, Kanutski comes from a place of understanding. Almost 30 years ago he walked a long path of 200 miles as part of his healing to overcome his struggles with substances.
In addition to facilitating numerous healing circles and mentoring youth and social workers, Kanutski has fostered 24 children and youth who need a home and family. He wants everyone to feel they belong—that they are valued, and that they have something to contribute to the community. Kanutski is well known and respected throughout the community as a true friend, family man and mentor.
Sponsor: Apex Security
YOUNG LEADER AWARD: RAHNE MEHAGAN
Rahne Mehagan enrolled in the Thunder Bay Police Youth Corps as a shy 13-year-old who found it difficult to speak confidently in front of a crowd. That quiet girl grew with the organization, and today, five years later, holds the top cadet position, where she leads other cadets to participate in positive activities and organizations in the community.
Mehagan has dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to numerous organizations and community events that serve to beautify and keep our city safe. Many of the initiatives she supports help improve community safety and well-being, and foster pride and respect in our neighbourhoods. Mehagan’s ongoing commitment and willingness to succeed shine though in her outstanding leadership skills and day-to-day core values. Her peers are motivated by her positive attitude and community work.
NEIGHBOURHOOD YOUTH ACTION AWARD: DALTON SHAPWAYKEESIC
For five years, Dalton Shapwaykeesic has stepped up at his neighbourhood community youth centre, Evergreen a United Neighbourhood, to take action to help wherever he can.
Since the youth centre on Heron Street opened, Shapwaykeesic has been there, growing with the organization as a volunteer and trusted friend to his peers. Perhaps his history with Evergreen is why he takes such pride in the place; he has helped shape it into the warm and welcoming environment it is today. He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty—inside or outdoors, as he is a regular keeper of the community garden. Shapwaykeesic sees the garden through the growing season, where he plants, weeds, waters and harvests a crop of healthy vegetables.
When asked how he feels about receiving the award, he remains humble, not fully recognizing how his dedication and commitment is out of the ordinary. But without him, Evergreen, and indeed the Simpson-Ogden neighbourhood as a whole, wouldn’t be the same.
Sponsor: Crime Prevention Council
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY PROJECT: OUT OF THE COLD
Pastor Melody Macsemchuk and her team run the Out of the Cold program at Grace Place. They work tirelessly to ensure that no member of the community is left outside in the harsh elements. Out of the Cold is the culmination of four years of work with community partners to offer temporary emergency overnight shelter to homeless individuals who cannot, for any reason, access any other emergency shelter in Thunder Bay.
Last year, Out of the Cold sheltered between ten and 13 people per night consistently over the winter, keeping them safe and connected to services. The program also provides meals, transportation, clothing and laundry services. Staff and clients work together respectfully to create a sense of belonging, thus improving community safety and wellbeing.
Sponsor: Union Gas
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY PROJECT: STANDUP4CLEANUP
“We’re not cursed by our geography in Thunder Bay, we are blessed by it.”
It’s that positive perspective that turned life around for Joshua Donald Hewitt, who, after experiencing addiction and homelessness, decided he had a greater calling in life. He challenged himself to make a change and to clean up the community in the process.
As a result, StandUp4CleanUp was born, a community initiative that mobilizes volunteers and partners to support Hewitt in his efforts.
In recovery for almost three years, Hewitt finds himself today inspiring others to join his cause. It isn`t uncommon to see him focusing on areas where substance use activity takes place, as he believes this empowers others to take pride in their surroundings and increases safety and inclusivity. Hewitt’s story resonates with many people he meets who feel compelled to join him.
Sponsor: Macs Convenience
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY PROJECT: NEECHEE STUDIO
Since 2013, Neechee Studio has led the way in arts and culture programming for more than 400 Indigenous youth, ages 14-30. Located in Definitely Superior Art Gallery, Neechee Studio provides a safe place, free of stigma and marginalization, for youth to explore art accompanied by elder teachings and protocol. Professional and emerging artists corroboratively lead 8-to-10 free drop-in style workshops throughout the year varying in mediums and activities, both traditional and contemporary.
Neechee Studio is organized by and for Indigenous youth but all young people, of all ethnicities, are welcome. The Neechee Committee understands that Indigenous youth come to Thunder Bay from their home communities for education, and as such, they want to provide the youth with a safe space to belong and deepen their sense of identity and creativity through artistic expression.
Sponsor: Matawa First Nations Management
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY PROJECT: THUNDER BAY SITUATION TABLE
The Thunder Bay Situation Table is a community-led initiative that consists of a team of service providers from the health, justice, education and social service sectors. This initiative is a part of the North West Community Mobilization Network. The Situation Table contributes to community safety by planning wrap-around interventions for people at imminent risk of criminalization, victimization or harm to self or others.
The table collaboratively identifies existing risk factors that might contribute to crime and social disorder and plans an intervention to prevent further negative outcomes. Individuals, groups, families or places with complex social and health needs that cannot be addressed by one service provider benefit from the Situation Table. In its first year, the Situation Table has offered more than 40 wrap-around interventions and has successfully reduced risk of harm in the majority of these cases.
Sponsor: Thunder Bay Police Service and Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council
Each Outstanding Community Project received a $1,000 award from their sponsor to support community safety efforts. The awards were presented at the Committee of the Whole meeting in Council Chambers.