Jennifer Bieman

St. Thomas Times-Journal Sunday, July 24, 2016

The St. Thomas Elgin Local Immigration Partnership (STELIP) is celebrating its newcomer crusaders.

The regional resettlement agency is now taking nominations for its Newcomer Champion Awards. The second annual celebration recognizes individuals and groups who have helped make Elgin county more inclusive and welcoming for immigrants.

“We’re looking for people who go out of their way to support newcomers … that go beyond their call,” said Petrusia Hontar, STELIP project coordinator.

This year, there are three awards up for grabs in two distinct categories. The first, STELIP’s Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award, recognizes an individual and an organization that have made tremendous efforts to welcome and support newcomers in Elgin county.

“We’re looking for anyone who’s going above and beyond what they should be doing … anything that would really help the newcomers settle in the community,” said Hontar, adding building a welcoming community can take many forms.

Whether it’s a business offering support and employment to newcomers, a community organization that has listened to the needs of immigrants or individuals who volunteer their time to understand and support a newly-arrived family, Hontar said all are important pieces in building an inclusive Elgin county.

The second award, the Newcomer Community Leader Award, celebrates a recent immigrant who has shown initiative, inclusiveness, leadership and dedication to building a strong and welcoming community.

“It’s just acknowledging the newcomers in our community that come here and give back,” said Hontar.

“Anyone who does a lot of volunteering or who does a lot to support the community … We’re really looking for someone who’s an exemplary citizen, they just weren’t born here.”

Once all the nominations are in, the award recipients will be decided by a STELIP selection committee. The winners will be announced at a celebration during Citizenship Week which starts Oct. 10. The nomination deadline for this year’s awards is Sept. 30.

Application forms for both awards are available at the STELIP website, Completed nominations and can be dropped off at the YWCA St. Thomas Elgin at 16 Mary St. or emailed to Rachel LeClair at

2015 Newcomer Champion Award Winners

Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Award Individual – Joyce Jeffreys Organization – Mennonite Community Services in Aylmer

Newcomer Community Leader Award Lady Luisa Escover Stevens