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Community Builders of the Year 2022

Program Recipients

Gordon Bethune

For more than 15 years, 92-year-old Gordon Bethune has been building a legacy as a strong influence in his community through his volunteer work and dedication to helping others. 

In 2003, Gordon co-founded a non-profit with a mission to help the community in Arnprior and surrounding areas meet residents’ needs. The organization, now known as the NeighbourLink Fountain, expanded in 2009 to provide a community centre, with services such as a thrift shop, an activity room, a community kitchen, and more. Gordon has participated as a board member and a volunteer at NeighbourLink for more than 13 years.  

Gordon encourages and supports many programs and activities through the facility. In NeighbourLink’s early days, he was instrumental in enlisting many like-minded volunteers to join the organization. Recently, Gordon has been involved with a program to deliver meals to seniors and homebound people in the community.  

Amanda Jetté Knox

Amanda is a best-selling author and award-winning advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. They became involved with United Way when their family received support from programs Around the Rainbow, and Camp Ten Oaks. They became involved in advocacy after they supported their middle child Arden, who came out as transgender and later non-binary, and their partner Zoe when she transitioned just under a year later. Their family’s story demonstrates resilience, support, and unconditional love. 

In 2017, Amanda’s family was profiled in our Path to Pride series. Arden says Amanda was supportive with an open mind and willingness to learn every step of the way. When Zoe came out shortly after Arden, Amanda had the research prepared, but had to navigate how to support a partner through their transition instead of a child. 

Learn more about Amanda Jetté Knox.

Patrick Newton Bondo

Patrick is a reliable and motivated individual who cares about his community. He lives by the mentality of “it’s not about leaving a legacy but rather living a legacy.” His passion for diminishing gender-related inequities is what strives his volunteering. Patrick has contributed to several projects dedicated to supporting youth, women, and education.   

Patrick has volunteered with Outreach Social Care Foundation from 2021 to present. Outreach Social Care Foundation—a non-profit organization—supports communities facing racialization, people with disabilities, and 2SLGBTQ+ people. Fellow volunteers describe Patrick as a hero because of his promptness to give his time, skill, and knowledge to the work at hand. 

Learn more about Patrick Newton Bondo.

Romeo Penheiro

In his well-established role as a community leader, Romeo strives to represent the values of inclusivity, equity, and diversity above all else. In 2021, Romeo played an integral role in launching OurShelves, an online book club and curation service. OurShelves creates a support system for youth through literature with a focus on gender-inclusive and diverse characters or families. Fellow volunteers with OurShelves describe Romeo’s best quality as his ability to create a safe space for insightful, educational and inclusive dialogue. 

Over the summer of 2021, OurShelves hosted three virtual events. Participating youth each received a free copy of the reading material to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. These events saw more than 40 youth registrants where they engaged in discussions around gender in an inclusive, informative, affirming, and safe space. 

Learn more about Romeo Penheiro.

Ciara Wallace Mackenzie & Esther Csurgai

Ciara and Esther are both valued members of the Christie Lake Kids team. Christie Lake Kids is an inclusive and diverse environment that brings youth from all backgrounds together to celebrate uniqueness and find common ground. As program leaders, Ciara and Esther facilitate fun and enriching activities for the kids, checking in on them regularly and providing mentorship.  

Ciara and Esther are dedicated to empowering the youth they work with and consistently go beyond what is expected in a volunteer role. They exemplify compassion and leadership for the youth they support at Christie Lake Kids. 

Learn more about Ciara Wallace Mackenzie and Esther Csurgai.

Jamie Topping

Jamie is described as a true leader with a natural ability to put others at ease. After sensing a need in his community, Jamie created the Lanark Village Community Development group on Facebook. Through the group he helped community members organize to facilitate improvements to their village. Jamie began attending council meetings to help spread information through the township and later made his group an official non-profit organization. He embraces ideas from members of his community and helps them organize their own projects in the village.  

Through Lanark Village Community Development, Jamie has facilitated several much-needed improvements in his community. This has included a total clean-up of the main street, assisting in clean-up after acts of vandalism, installing planters in front of city buildings, restoring photo-history boards in front of the post-office and more. 

Learn more about Jamie Topping.

Karen Williams

For more than 10 years, Karen has dedicated her time, talent and treasure to her community through United Way. Since joining United Way in 2010 as a volunteer, Karen has held various positions including Board Chair, Chair of the Governance Committee, and Chair of Community Services Cabinet, and more.

She joined at a time when United Way was transitioning from its long history as a federated fundraiser to an impact organization. While the road was challenging at times, she offered unwavering and solid leadership during the transition. From her time on Community Services Cabinet to amalgamation to her more recent work on the Governance Committee, she has helped further accelerate United Way toward an impact organization.

By day, Karen is a savvy business leader holding senior-level positions across very well-known companies. From Cognos to IBM, to Halogen, to Saba, and to her most recent role at Cornerstone OnDemand where she is the Senior Vice President of Global Customer Service.

Learn more about Karen Williams. 

Donald Neville

Donald Neville has more than 25 years of experience volunteering within our communities. He became a volunteer for the National Defense Workplace Charitable Campaign (NDWCC) in 2000, where he wore many hats. From canvasser to team captain, Don has dipped his toes in all aspects of the campaign. Since 2010, he has been a team leader for one of the biggest groups in the Department of National Defense, but the NDWCC team still considers him a part of their team. The NDWCC continues to be one of the largest and most successful campaigns within the broader Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC), which benefits United Way and Health Partners.

During Don’s many volunteering experiences, he developed and delivered a modified version of the Health and Safety Awareness training program for youth with developmental challenges. He then went on to work with other social support organizations and adapted his presentation to serve youth experiencing homelessness and social injustices, as well as newcomers looking for employment.

Learn more about Donald Neville

Marie Thérèse Wang

Marie Thérèse Wang is described as a very friendly person whose dedication to reducing food insecurity is nothing short of extraordinary. Marie is a director and financial officer for Food For Thought Café, a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide meals to people in need. People who access food banks are often given food to fill their cupboards, but they may not have access to the equipment needed to prepare their daily meals. Food For Thought Café provides hot, nutritional meals to those who cannot cook because of age, disability, or other circumstances.

Marie’s dedication to keeping the organization intact is seen by every volunteer who has ever offered their time to the cause. Marie organizes events, takes care of the bookkeeping and inventory, and bakes delicious desserts with each meal. She’s been known to never miss a day and will even bike to work when she’s not needed to lend a hand.

Learn more about Marie Thérèse Wang

Melody Lachance

Melody is a whirlwind of energy, positivity, and enthusiasm for helping people within her community.  For more than eight years, she has been dedicating her time to helping out her community, as well as volunteering with local pet rescues. Melody created Barrhaven and Area Empties, a community of people committed to supporting local animal shelters. Barrhaven and Area Empties raises funds through collecting empties, pop cans, and much more for local animal rescues to give them the ability to provide quality care to animals in need.

In 2020, one empty wine bottle and beer can at a time, Melody raised more than $25,000 dollars. She played a crucial role in getting pet microchip scanners for her area, so lost pets could be reunited with their families faster. She has also purchased live traps so that lost and scared pets could be brought in from the cold and then identified with the microchip scanner. 

Learn more about Melody Lachance

Guy Dancause

Guy is a down-to-earth, positive, and caring individual. He puts his heart and soul into working hard to support the Indigenous community within Ottawa. Guy has been volunteering for more than 10 years, and has created numerous programs and networks that support Indigenous communities and entrepreneurship.

A large portion of his volunteerism has been with the Indigenous Peoples Network (IPN), where he has served as a board member and crucial part of the network’s ongoing success. IPN was founded in October 2010 and is a volunteer group comprised of Indigenous professionals, students, and community members. It’s a safe space for members to have positive networking experiences and a place to share information within the community, such as events and resources. Before the pandemic, Guy would meet every month with other volunteers to organize monthly networking evenings that included guest business speakers.

Learn more about Guy Dancause

Helen McIntosh

Helen embodies the qualities of a great leader, and fellow volunteers and coworkers admire her work ethic and warm-heartedness. With more than 11 years of volunteer experience under her belt, she has always supported people in unforeseen circumstances with both her words and actions.

Until recently, Helen was the chair of United Way East Ontario’s Lanark County and Smiths Falls Advisory Council, which works to meet the unique needs and established priorities of the area. Helen is described as a great listener, because she quietly takes in all the information and takes time to create thoughtful responses. She also crafts solutions or ideas into relevant proposals that are in line with the needs of her community.

Learn more about Helen McIntosh

Jean-Marie Guerrier

Jean-Marie is described as a passionate person who puts 110 per cent commitment into anything he does. His humor, patience, and creativity shine no matter what type of work he is accomplishing. Currently, Jean-Marie works at Flo’s Seniors Health and Care Programs Network and is the treasurer for their board. He has more than 16 years of volunteering experience and started his community work back in Montreal during 1989.  

Jean-Marie started his work within the community while employed at CHAIS (Centre haïtien d’animation et d’intervention sociales) for five years. CHAIS is an organization that works to actively promote and improve social services for people and families within Montreal communities. After his time with CHAIS, Jean-Marie moved to Ottawa around 1998 and became a member of Black History Ottawa. When BHO was struggling, Jean-Marie stepped up to the plate to provide stability and direction to keep the organization afloat. In the process, he inspired people to keep BHO going until a new team joined and relaunched the organization. His passion for Black History Ottawa hasn’t gone unrecognized. 

Learn more about Jean-Marie Guerrier

Dr. Warren Clarke

Dr. Warren Clarke is the founder of The Afro-Caribbean Mentorship program (ACMP) at Carleton University. This mentorship program helps graduate and undergraduate students in racialized communities build confidence within themselves and provide mentorship opportunities so that they can strive towards their educational and professional goals. Dr. Clarke’s leadership in diversity and inclusion is impressive and has touched many young African, Caribbean, and Black men’s lives throughout their schooling. During his mentoring and financial literacy work, he brings in professionals within the Ottawa community to ensure these students are getting enrichment throughout the program.  

Learn more about Dr. Clarke.

Daljit S. Nirman

Daljit Nirman is a lawyer and president of Nirman’s Law Professional Corporation and has experience as a sessional lecturer. His law practice areas include Canadian immigration, human rights, and corporate and property laws. 

Daljit weaves volunteering into every aspect of his life, and now has more than 15 years of volunteer experience. He is the founder and co-chair of the board of directors for Cooking Up Community Services. This federal not-for-profit organization is a free breakfast used to raise awareness and funds for charities in Eastern Ontario. Daljit always puts others before himself.  

Learn more about Daljit.

Thirteen: A Social Enterprise

Thirteen: A Social Enterprise is an entrepreneurial program of the Parkdale Food Centre that provides youth who are facing barriers to employment with mentoring and real-world experiences to set them apart when entering the job market. The program has mentored youth in accounting, social media, marketing, production, safe food handling, sales techniques, public speaking and market etiquette. It provides skill sharing and education to youth while also creating everlasting relationships with mentors, which makes an indelible difference in their lives. Community leaders work with Thirteen: A Social Enterprise to provide their time, resources, and expertise to ensure youth are set up for success.  

Learn more about Thirteen: A Social Enterprise and their impact.

David Chun Yu Lao

David is heavily involved in providing his time to many non-profit organizations in various roles. He has accumulated more than 700 hours of volunteering and has raised awareness and thousands of dollars for research including Prostate Cancer Canada, Arthritis Society, Brock University, and the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.  

David dedicates a large portion of his time and effort to work with student organizations, universities, public service recruiters, and CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) representatives. David actively mentors more than 100 CPA students in Ottawa and has created a well-known writing approach for the CPA exam that Canadian students use as a study guide.  

Learn more about David.

Dr. Mohd Jamal Alsharif

Dr. Alsharif is described as a “super volunteer” and has more than 16 years of volunteer experience. Dr. Alsharif is currently the Humans for Peace Institution president, a volunteer-based non-profit promoting global peace. He has a PhD in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and volunteers to work internationally to perform surgeries for children in developing countries.  

Over the last two years, Dr. Alsharif saw the impact the pandemic has had on the most vulnerable, and took it upon himself to organize almost 200 volunteers in Ottawa and Gatineau to deliver food and medication to more than 800 seniors and people in need.  

Learn more about Dr. Alsharif.

Top Shelf Distillers

Top Shelf Distillers is a community driven business in Perth, Ontario that actively seeks to build and support its community. The company has been an active community leader and supporter since its inception in 2014,recently launching TOP SHELF CARES, which actively promotes their community initiatives. 

Throughout the pandemic, Top Shelf went into overdrive to support the community by overhauling their production line to create hand sanitizer that was in scarce supply, learning how to make it as they went. They then gifted large quantities of sanitizer to those who needed it most, like frontline workers and vulnerable community groups. .

Learn more about Top Shelf Distillers and their impact.

Dominion City Brewing Company

Dominion City Brewing Company was founded in 2014, and has made it a priority to invest back into their community. They have consistently demonstrated that they believe in purpose before profit, and they make sure it’s a principle they live out every day. Since opening, Dominion City employees have dedicated time and effort to volunteering, creating atypical partnerships, raising awareness on local issues, fundraising for neighbourhood charities, and planning events.  

A champion for equity and diversity, they created a diversity in brewing scholarship which supports a person with a background underrepresented in the beer industry with a contribution toward their tuition, and a paid eight-week internship at Dominion City upon completion of study.   

Learn more about Dominion City Brewing Company and their impact.


Dwayne Brown and Anita Ruivo have consistently contributed to our region by being the founders and artistic creators of loveOttawa. loveOttawa experiences is a unique online initiative that celebrates Ottawa and its rich and dynamic community, highlighting everything from culture to culinary, business to education, and lifestyle to tourism. Dwayne and Anita have lent their expertise in countless ways by offering help and support to people, families, and small businesses. 

Dwayne and Anita have spent many years offering their time and photography skills to young mothers completing their high school diplomas at the Youville Centre. Every year since 2010, they take portraits of Youville’s moms and babies leading up to Christmas, and they do so free of charge.  

Learn more about loveOttawa and their impact

Hélène Ménard

Hélène Ménard is a person of possibilities. With over 16 years of volunteer work in her repertoire, she’s continuously finding ways to support the professional and personal development of vulnerable populations within Ottawa, through advocacy, fundraising, and financial literacy education. In 2012, Hélène noticed a hub of people, organizations, and government agencies who are all working towards providing financial health and wellbeing to vulnerable populations. When she looked into it, she realized that they weren’t working together and, in fact, were sometimes working against each other. 

That’s when Hélène stepped up to the plate and became a founding partner of a collaborative network called Financial Literacy Action Network of Ottawa, or FLANO. In a space where community organizations often are forced to compete for resources, Hélène recognized the real need was to bring people and initiatives together.  

Learn more about Hélène Ménard

Omar Al-Dib

Omar has been actively advocating and contributing to the Ottawa and Carleton University communities. He’s dedicated to engaging youth through team-building efforts, which prompted him to create a philanthropic, student-run organization called CU Smile. Over the years, Omar has implemented over 50 CU Smile initiatives which have inspired more than 100 youth volunteers to make an impact in Ottawa.

Operation Lunchbag is one of the most recurring CU Smile initiatives in which Omar has participated. This initiative consists of providing students with a platform to prepare and distribute lunch bags to those in need. Students would raise funds for a week, then use the money donated to purchase food items and ingredients to make lunch bags for people experiencing homelessness.

Learn more about Omar Al-Dib

Kelly MacNaull

Kelly is dedicated to carrying out her philanthropic vision through her support of many foundations and charities within the province. In pursuit of contributing to her community, Kelly has participated in initiatives for the Canadian Cancer Society, Curling Canada, and the Ottawa Food Bank.

In the Ottawa region, Kelly is best known as the event founder and coordinator of Curling for a Cause, an annual charity bonspiel to support local community causes and organizations.

This event consists of 24 teams made up of participants from across the National Capital Region, who participate in activities like curling, raffles, silent auctions and a buffet dinner. Overall, the annual charity bonspiel highlights Kelly’s support for community causes, as well as her passion for curling.

Learn more about Kelly MacNaull

Jennifer Sondergaard

Jennifer Sondergaard has been an active volunteer in the National Capital Region since she moved to the area in 1999. With more than 100 hours of yearly community service, Jennifer has lent her time to many local non-profits. Her community involvement began with United Way 20 years ago and has evolved tremendously since then.

Jennifer’s passion for empowering women and volunteering within the community has led to being involved in many leadership roles. She is currently serving as a board member for the Canadian Resident Matching Service, the Ottawa Community Loan Fund Organization, and the Ingenium Foundation. Through these organizations, Jennifer has created a direct impact through fundraising events, including raising more than $250,000 for the Ingenium Foundation.

This foundation facilitates opportunities for people to experience and learn from the Agriculture and Food, Science and Technology, and Aviation and Space museums—regardless of their background, education, location, physical, cognitive and financial abilities.

Learn more about Jennifer Sondegaard

Phyllis Bergmans

Phyllis Bergmans is known for thinking big and being a dedicated, high-energy leader who can motivate any volunteer who works with her. She is the president of the City of Ottawa Ringette Association (also known as CORA), a volunteer-run not-for-profit.

CORA promotes inclusivity and offers ringette programs for girls ages four to 19. Phyllis is passionate about advocating for youth participation in sports, and for them to benefit from an active lifestyle. She’s particularly invested in girls getting the opportunity to participate since female teams are often underrepresented. During her time at CORA, the group has launched multiple programs to benefit youth, including Breaking Down Barriers, which is the first of its kind in Canada. The program helps children, primarily girls, from families who can’t afford to participate in ringette or who are newcomers to Canada with no background in any ice sport.

She continues supporting her community no matter how big or small the ask. Whether it’s advocating for ringette to have more ice time, sorting used gear, driving around and dropping off donated gear, or offering to store bags of equipment for families who don’t have the space to store it themselves.

Learn more about Phyllis Bergmans

Maz Karimjee

Maz Karimjee is described as very humble and passionate. He has been at the forefront of creating various programs that have had a significant positive impact on families, youth experiencing homelessness, and vulnerable people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Maz worked with Equal Chance to launch a bicycle and discussion program for vulnerable youth living in temporary housing. The Legacy Builders Bike Club currently helps 50 children have access to a bike during their time in temporary housing. Thanks to him, children living in difficult situations can enjoy riding bikes with their friends.

During the pandemic, Maz took it upon himself to help kids in low income situations who were struggling with virtual school. While visiting a housing complex, he heard about a young boy being asked to move to another room because his background noise was too loud for online learning. The eight-year-old didn’t have the option to move since he shared a one-bedroom apartment with his five family members. This motivated Maz to collect headphones for families in neighbourhoods experiencing similar situations. In combined efforts of people across Canada, Maz collected and distributed 1,067 sets of headphones to families and schools in Ottawa.

Learn more about Maz Karimjee

"Wall of Inspiration" locations

Past Community Builder Award recipient names are listed on plaques at the following:
Ottawa: Jean Pigott place, Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 1J1   
Lanark County: Council Chambers, 99 Sunset Blvd, Perth, ON, K7H 2Y4
Renfrew County: United Way Office, 130 Pembroke St W, Pembroke, ON K8A 5M8
Prescott-Russell: 59 Court St, L’Orignal, ON K0B 1K0