The public face of the community effort to build a new recreation centre in Wellesley, Chris Martin is the township’s citizen of the year. Joining him at next month’s presentation at the Wellesley Fall Fair will be Ali Khan, the junior citizen of the year, and Wendy Richardson, who’ll receive the lifetime achievement award.
All three are being recognized for their volunteer contributions to the community.
Martin has been very visible of late as the chair of the advisory board behind the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre, for which he also leads fundraising efforts. His volunteer efforts reach back years before that, from refereeing hockey and serving as president of the Twin Centre Hericanes hockey club to sitting on the board of the Wellesley Township Community Health Centre.
“It was a very pleasant surprise, that’s for sure,” Martin said of being named Wellesley’s citizen of the year.
“Every year, I read about the people who have been awarded that honour, and I think ‘what I’ve been doing with my time? – look at what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done and what they’ve been involved in.’ I have tremendous respect for them, and then to be put in that class is … I don’t know. Nobody volunteers for the recognition, so it’s not something you think about. And then when you get recognized it is actually it’s a little uncomfortable, to be honest,” he said with a laugh.
All of his volunteer activities, including with the Big Brothers organization, are about either paying it forward or paying it back, he says, pointing to his involvement with hockey as pay back for his time playing as a youth and for the opportunities his own kids had.
“Some people asked me about the hours and hours that have gone into it, but it’s not work if you enjoy it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Wellesley’s junior citizen of the year is much newer to volunteering in the township, but has been doing so non-stop since his family moved to the village six years ago. Ali Khan, who’s heading into Grade 12 at Waterloo Oxford District Secondary School, first got involved with the Wellesley Youth Advisory Council, along with his brother Ahmad, who was last year’s junior citizen award winner.
From there, he quickly took on a variety of volunteer tasks.
He has volunteered helping at youth dances in the village, the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, at PD day camps for younger school children and at the Rainbow Day Camp. He helped the Lions Club with candy distribution at Halloween, along with a long list of other activities.
When he’s back in school next month, Khan says he hopes to be involved there now that activities are set to resume to something like a pre-pandemic level.
“I hope to involve myself in a bunch of extracurriculars at school this year, perhaps DECA because I’m interested in business,” he said.
That’s on top of his usual volunteer activities, including the ABC Fest.
“I really like helping out in the community.
In the awarding of this year’s lifetime achievement award, Wendy Richardson had to take off her organizer’s hat. Given her decades of volunteering in the township, the recognition was inevitable if somewhat awkward.
“That’s kind of what my committee said. I’ve been saying no over the last couple years and this year, well, they have a process …,” she said.
Richardson in fact got the citizen of the year awards rolling, one of her many volunteer contributions. She’s very active with the Wellesley-North Easthope Agricultural Society and its fall fair, which includes her duties with the ambassador competition, the scarecrow contest and the citizen awards.
“When I was 20, I started working with the Cubs in New Hamburg. Then I had children of my own, and when my children were 4-H age… I started leading 4-H so at least that way I would also be involved with my own children,” she laughed, adding her work with the 4-H Club led to exhibits at the Wellesley Fall Fair, where she eventually took over the ambassador program.
“I found that I really enjoy working with young people. From there, we thought Wellesley Idol would make a nice match for our talent part of the of the fair program,” said Richardson of another of the hats she wears.
More recently, she was involved in the Wellesley Township Poppy Project, which saw the creation of hundreds of crocheted and knitted poppies assembled to make a unique Remembrance Day display.
Each of the experiences has been wonderful, she says, noting volunteer work provides great benefits.
“The best thing is I got to meet some really, really neat people, especially being involved in the fair board.”
The awards will be handed out during an in-person event on fair day, September 12, at the Wellesley Community Centre.