Melissa Schneider

St. Thomas-Elgin Weekly News, Aug 20, 2016

Building a caring, welcoming and inclusive community is the aim of the St. Thomas-Elgin Local Immigration Partnership (STELIP).

The agency will be holding their second annual Newcomer Champion Awards ceremony during Citizenship Week in October, and are currently accepting nominations.

There are three award categories: Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion award for an individual or a group or organization and the Newcomer Community Leader award. Nominations will close Friday, Sept. 30.

STELIP Project Coordinator Petrusia Hontar explained nomination forms are available either online at, or at their office at the YWCA at 16 Mary St. W.

“The reason we’re doing this is we’re trying to build awareness to first give thanks to the people who are supporting the newcomers, then to the people that are coming to the community and doing a lot to give back and make Elgin County great.”

Last year’s winners were Mennonite Community Services (group), Joyce Jeffreys (individual) and Lady Stevens (newcomer leader award). Mennonite Community Services won for what Hontar calls their innovative ideas and fulfilling community needs. This includes opening De Brigj Radio so Aylmer residents could receive settlement information.

Jeffreys won for doing things above and beyond her duty of work when it came to supporting newcomers. Stevens won for her volunteer efforts within the community as part of multiple local groups.

Anyone nominated last year that did not win can be re-nominated.

This year’s event will fall in October instead of February, to celebrate Citizenship Week and is open to all residents of Elgin


“Because Elgin County has a lot of volunteerism, we want to make sure people are aware of these awards,” Hontar said.

Hontar explains the application is not a ‘blind’ one, advising if you nominate someone you need to inform them. “It’ll be a surprise who wins, but not who gets nominated.”

The Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion awards are for those who work with the community to address the needs of newcomers by recognizing and responding to the needs in the community. It’s also for those who volunteer to support diversity and advocate for inclusion. The Newcomer Community Leader award is for people who work to build positive changes and give back to the community.