Expanding a citizen of the year award to encompass all of Wellesley Township, a new organization has picked three people for its inaugural outing. Miranda Schultz of Wellesley village is the Junior Citizen of the Year, Linwood’s Dennis Schultz is the Citizen of the Year award recipient, and Wellesley village’s Esther Wagner was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement award.
The awards are handed out under the auspices of the Wellesley Township Fall Fair committee, expanding on a longstanding program coordinated by the Wellesley Board of Trade that was more focused on people in and around the village.
“This is the first year for a township citizen of the year. Wellesley had its own habits on citizen of the year but that was just for the village, basically, and the outlying areas,” said Wendy Richardson, who headed the new committee.
While the awards were originally meant to be handed out in conjunction with the fall fair earlier this year, the pandemic put those plans on hold, as well as cancelling the fair itself.
Mayor Joe Nowak joined fair president Karen Schlueter-Pilecki on November 12 to present plaques to the three recipients. There’s also a plan to place a large plaque at the township office in Crosshill.
The awards committee includes Terry Koudis, Lori Sebben, Shelley Wagner, Deb Harte, Sharon Runstedler, Sally Draper and Richardson.
The first class of recipients of the new awards is made of three deserving people, said Richardson.
“[Miranda], she’s done so much for our community here around Wellesley. Citizen of the year Dennis Schultz was nominated several times in Linwood, he’s very well respected. And Esther Wagner, she had quite a few nominations – she’s in her 90s and it’s really wonderful to see her get those nominations and to be able to present it to her. She’s thrilled.
All three were caught by surprise when notified of the awards.
“It was really nice. It’s also really surprising – I wasn’t expecting anything like it… it was just very gratifying and very humbling to be honoured in such a way,” said Miranda Schultz.
“Its humbling, unbelievably humbling,” concurred Dennis Schultz.
Wagner, a longtime member of the horticultural society and the Wellesley Fall Fair, said she was simply volunteering to do what needed doing.
“I didn’t even realize or think that I was really doing anything. I was just doing something I enjoy.”
Her fellow recipients were equally humble about the work they do in the community that garnered them this year’s awards.
“Grade 10 in high school is when I started getting more involved, obviously, for the community hours you need to graduate. But from there, it kind of just turned into a whole lot more. I really enjoyed helping with that,” said Miranda Schultz, a member of the Wellesley Youth Advisory Council. She has also spent time teaching skating lessons and volunteered with the fair board in different capacities, serving as the fair ambassador in 2016-2017. She also helps run the annual scarecrow competition.
In the case of the citizen of the year, Dennis Schultz has long been known as an unsung hero. A volunteer firefighter with the Linwood station for 37 years, he also lent his support to community activities such as Snofest, Sunfest and Cruising With The King.
“I’m involved with G2G trail on behalf of the Lions, cutting the grass and creating the trail. And we started up a memorial forest just in town besides the trail there,” he added.
For Wagner, the volunteer activities such as 35 years helping with the fall fair just came naturally.
“When those days come up, I just automatically feel happy to be part of that and helping wherever I can.”
The first year of the new awards now in the books, Richardson said the committee is already looking forward to next year and the nominations that will come in.
“You don’t have to live in the township to nominate and, actually, the person you’re nominating doesn’t even have to live in the township, as long as they have an impact on their community, which would be in the township,” she said.