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Community Builders of the Year 2019

Gala Recipients

Trend-Arlington Community Association and West Carleton Disaster Relief

Community Builder of the Year

In the immediate aftermath of the September 21, 2018 tornadoes, the Trend-Arlington Community Association (TACA) and West Carleton Disaster Relief (WCDR) emerged as trusted advocates for their communities as the response and recovery efforts unfolded. Both groups have become models for how a community can quickly organize themselves to ensure residents are supported, connected, and cared for.

In the days and weeks that passed, the many volunteers that make up these groups became supporters, caregivers, builders, fundraisers, planners, spokespeople, and, most of all, leaders. In the face of devastation, TACA and WCDR volunteers have been passionate, tireless, and dedicated in responding to their new reality. As spring arrives, both groups are ready to rebuild and revitalize their communities, and ensure their neighbours have the support they need to heal.

Working beyond the borders of their own neighbourhoods, both groups became integral members of the After the Storm recovery effort. From day one, they mobilized with the objective of ensuring no one was left behind – by providing basic needs, help with insurance and coordinating with government entities, support groups to give people a sense of normalcy, and much more.

The Trend-Arlington Community Association and West Carleton Disaster Relief are the heart and soul of our city’s post-Tornado recovery effort. They stand with all of us to help those most affected – yesterday, today, and as long as they are needed.

Corey Ellis & Alida Burke: Co-Founders of Growcer


While Corey and Alida were both in school they were a part of the Enactus – a community of entrepreneurial leaders who use business to address social issues. They travelled to Nunavut several times to see how they could help increase the quality of life and standard of living for people living in Northern and remote communities, who often have limited access to affordable, healthy food.

Through community consultation and research, the pair developed Growcer: a hydroponic system that grows fresh vegetables and sprouts, year round, in shipping containers. Each Growcer pod provides affordable food in these communities, and creates local jobs for residents.

Recently, Growcer appeared on Dragon’s Den and were offered $250,000 to bring the product to new markets. Corey and Alida have already captured the hearts and minds of people in Ottawa and beyond – they have not only achieved amazing things early on in their lives, but have the potential to inspire other young people to have incredible impact.

Making Voices Count

Making Voices Count

From Poverty to Possibility

Making Voices Count (MVC) is an initiative of the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres (CHRC) and City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) that works to create a city that is inclusive and representative of everyone.

MVC empowers community leaders, increases civic engagement, and educates residents about issues affecting them at a municipal, provincial and federal level. By working with elected representatives, they aim to advance the social agenda of Ottawa’s marginalized communities.

The grassroots group identifies opportunities for positive change, and strategizes and influences social policy to address the needs of low-income residents. By training residents on how to influence city councillors and candidates, meeting regularly with councillors and staff, engaging local media, and briefing other agencies about key issues, MVC has enabled groups in Ottawa who are often sidelined to speak with a united voice and have their concerns meaningfully addressed by decision-makers.

MVC has built momentum and achieved notable success in the past five years:

  • In 2017, city council approved the EquiPass and $610,000 for community sustainable funding
  • In 2018, city council approved the EquiFare, $325,000 of community sustainable funding and $100,000 one time project funding.
  • In 2019, council also approved $15M capital funding to create more affordable housing.
Costco Wholesale

Costco Wholesale

All That Kids Can Be

Through its Canadian offices, its call centre, and network of four warehouses across Ottawa, Costco is making a difference in the lives of local children. As a long-time supporter of United Way, Costco and its employees have given more than $6.2 million over the company’s history to support vulnerable families in our city, with a focus on supporting at-risk children.

Costco helps children through a variety of organizations, including its long-term support of medical causes. Costco provided the largest-ever gift made through an Ottawa telethon to support children’s medical care at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and has given more than $17 million to the hospital over its history. Costco also gave a record $100,000 donation to DEBRA Canada in honour of Jonathan Pitre, helping children afflicted with epidermolysis bullosa.

Costco employees regularly participate in community events like the HOPE volleyball tournament. In 2018, it submitted six teams that together helped raise awareness for Ottawa-based children’s organizations like Children at Risk Ottawa, that helps families of children diagnosed within the Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Through these and many other efforts, Costco supports Ottawa’s most vulnerable children and youth, to help kids be all that they can be.

United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau

United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau

Healthy People, Strong Communities

The United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa-Gatineau (UMO-OG) is a group of 12 Islamic organizations including the nine largest Mosques in the National Capital Region. It supports collaboration across its membership in the areas of education, social services, charitable work, public relations, large community events and responses to major crisis situations.

The UMO-OG prioritizes contributing its time and resources to help make Ottawa and Gatineau great places for everyone. One of the ways it demonstrates this is by stepping up to help in a variety of local community and national fundraising efforts. UMO-OG continuously participate in the CHEO Telethon and also raised significant amount of fund for the Fort McMurray fire victims.

Most recently, the UMO-OG organized a donation-collection effort for residents affected by the tornadoes that swept through Ottawa and Gatineau in September, raising over large amount of fund, while also mobilizing a team of volunteers to help in the cleanup efforts around the city. It also partnered with humanitarian organizations to provide thousands of hot meals to families who were affected by the storm.

UMO-OG’s leadership helps bridge the gap between the faith community and the social services sector, and its contributions are indispensable efforts of building a safe and healthy community for everyone.

Erin Benjamin

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Live Music Association


Erin Benjamin has made Ottawa her home since 2003. Throughout her career as a leader in the music industry, she has been a determined advocate for women, and has worked hard to promote equality and inclusion across her sector.

Erin has served on a long list of local, provincial, national and international non-profit boards, steering committees and working groups that aim to strengthen arts and culture, build relationships and networks, and champion mentorship, leadership and inclusivity within the music industry.

In addition to this, Erin gave her time, energy and effort to help those most in need after the devastating tornadoes that rocked Ottawa and Gatineau last September. She became a significant catalyst for change, reaching out to her friends and colleagues in the music industry within hours of the storms.

With her strong leadership, Erin brought together numerous partners to host CUPE Local 503’s annual benefit concert in support of After the Storm. The tornado relief concert, held on November 10, 2018 at TD Place, brought 5000 people together and raised more than $55,000 for residents hit hardest by the natural disaster.

This act was one of many that demonstrates Erin’s true character: someone willing to go beyond the call of duty for our city and its people.

Hydro Ottawa

Hydro Ottawa

Community Impact

Hydro Ottawa has been an exemplary community builder, and has demonstrated its value in helping Ottawa recover from crisis.

In the past year, Hydro Ottawa employees went above and beyond the call of duty to help people in need. In the aftermath of the spring ice storm and the series of tornadoes that struck Ottawa in September, Hydro Ottawa staff worked long hours to ensure power came back on as soon as possible for affected residents.

Hydro Ottawa demonstrates leadership in sustainability by reducing its impact on the environment and by improving performance and efficiency. It actively encourages customers and community leaders to learn about electricity conservation and renewable energy opportunities.

Hydro Ottawa’s employees prioritize volunteering for local agencies, hospitals, and many other organizations and causes. In addition, they provide their ongoing support for those in need in Ottawa by giving through United Way, with personal contributions to their workplace campaign and at local events. Hydro Ottawa also generously loans employees to United Way Ottawa to support campaign activities, demonstrating its commitment to giving back to the community.

Program Recipients

Doug Pawson

Doug Pawson works actively to fight the root causes of poverty—with the goal of achieving a better future for everyone. Doug’s work spans across the Causeway Work Centre, the Centre for Social Enterprise Development, the Alliance to End Homelessness, United Way East Ontario (including the Employment Accessibility Resource Network), and into his own co-founded not-for-profit Financial Literacy Action Network of Ottawa (FLANO). Doug has constantly fought to make Ottawa a better place and has worked tirelessly to ensure his neighbours and fellow community members had what they needed to succeed regardless of the socio-economic boundaries they may have been limited by—he is someone who truly “walks the talk.” Doug has recently moved to St.John’s, NL, to become the Executive Director of End Homelessness St. John’s but his passion and dedication to Ottawa’s most vulnerable will not be forgotten. Learn more about Doug.

Merrick Palmers

Understanding the importance of community and local love is at Merrick Palmers core. From being one of the top basketball trainers in Canada to becoming president of Sickle Cell Action Network (SCAN)—Merrick does it all! He is also the founder of Capital Courts Training Centre in Ottawa where he has trained over 200 youth on the technical skills of basketball as well as having a positive attitude on and off the court. Not only has he been an inspiration and role model for countless youth but he has also committed himself tirelessly to SCAN. After Merrick’s daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell disease in 2003, Merrick has given countless hours to the organization and it has become a very meaningful initiative for his family. Merrick is dedicated to making Ottawa a great place for everyone and through supporting vulnerable youth and sharing his own life story, he has done just that. Learn more about Merrick.

Steve Mongrain

Steve Mongrain has dedicated hundreds of hours to maintaining the Jules Morin rink for his local community. He has spent countless weekends, holidays, and time off preparing a safe place for his community to have fun. Working in frigid temperatures while the majority of his neighbours are still cozied up in their beds, Steve prepares the local rink for a day full of fun. Through his dedication to creating and maintaining community spaces, Steve has also inspired a new generation to value them as well. Steve’s young son and many other local youth have helped care for the rink, teaching them important life skills. Steve is also a long-time supporter of United Way and has helped develop and execute many engaging charitable campaigns for the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign. He is an active and engaged member of his community that goes above and beyond to create a safe space for all. Learn more about Steve.

Maxine Grant

As the current president of the St.Vincent & The Grenadines Association of Ottawa, Maxine Grant is a pillar in our community. Maxine oversees programs and initiatives, scholarships, and coordinates forums, showcases, socials, and banquets. Maxine’s contributions bring Vincentian nationals and our entire community together to celebrate and connect with the Vincentian culture. In addition to this work Maxine also helps organize the summer Unity Picnic, and is involved with many other local organizations such as Carivibe, Walk for the Cure, the Black Health Forum, and has volunteered in several elections. Maxine is committed to bettering the lives of her community members through culture, inclusivity, and celebration and she works hard to ensure that all members of the community feel safe and heard. Thanks to her hard work, more people can now be a part of  a community that they may have never known was available to them.