Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 Winegard Award Winners Recognized

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 — News Release by the Volunteer Centre of Guelph / Wellington
A student helping Syrian refugees adjust to life in Canada, a professor who uses his skills in computer science to support food security, and a Physical Resources (PR) manager who teaches adults how to read are the winners of this year’s William Winegard Exemplary Volunteer Awards.
Student Yousr El Sharawy, computer science professor Dan Gillis and PR manager Paul Mesman were honoured at a ceremony at the Gryphon Athletics Centre March 29.
Volunteer award winners (from left) Paul Mesman, Yousr El Sharawy and Daniel Gillis with William Winegard
Established in 2007, the awards are presented each year to U of G staff, faculty and students who volunteer in the community by the University of Guelph, the United Way of Guelph Wellington Dufferin and the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington.

Volunteer award winners (from left) Paul Mesman, Yousr El Sharawy and Daniel Gillis with William Winegard
They are named for William Winegard, former U of G president and former Guelph MP who served as Canada’s first minister of science and as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade.
“I’m not in the same league in volunteering as most of you. In my experience in Guelph, the volunteers are just fantastic. It makes you feel good to see such dedicated people,” Winegard said in a short speech.
Winegard continues to volunteer today as a reading buddy for local schoolchildren.
“Professor Gillis, Paul and Yousr are dedicated volunteers recognized today for their tremendous community spirit,” said Ken Dardano, executive director of United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin.
 “United Way is pleased to partner with the Volunteer Centre and the University of Guelph to present these outstanding volunteers with this year’s Winegard Awards.”
El Sharawy uses her Arabic-language skills to help refugees as a logistics coordinator and interpreter for a private Syrian refugee sponsorship program. She co-founded the campus Migrant Justice initiative and works with other campus groups, and volunteers with the Guelph Refugee Sponsorship Forum.
Gillis co-founded Farm to Fork, which aims to improve the quality and quantity of food donated to emergency food systems. He is also a founder of The Seed Community Food Hub, which helps local partners bring people together to access, grow, cook and share healthful food. He has co-organized the Food Waste Hackathon and the Feeding Nine Billion Challenge, both of which involve multidisciplinary teams of U of G students developing solutions to food problems.
Mesman has been a volunteer tutor at Action Read Community Literacy Centre since 2013. He meets with learners once a week to help them develop practical skills and to build their confidence and self-esteem.
“Our three recipients have shown how volunteers can turn their passions into lasting contributions benefiting people and organizations in our community,” said Christine Oldfield, executive director of the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cassi's Story

Action Read was first recommended to me three years ago by my job coach. Since being here, I have participated in a variety of roles.  I am a learner, front desk volunteer and a learner representative on the Board of Directors. The most surprising experience I had when first coming to Action Read, was how much I enjoy math. I never expected that I would like it let alone find it fun.  It turned out I did! The most rewarding experience I’ve had since coming to Action Read was last year when I won the Doris Middleton Memorial Award. At the time, I had no idea I had won, so receiving the award was an extremely exciting moment. The award is given to women that have overcome challenges in their lives. I am much more outgoing and self-confident.  With the confidence I have gained, I am planning to get my GED to go to school for social work. Currently I share my story at different events in the community. I am also proud to be United Way Agency speaker during their campaign.  My dream is to work with troubled youth to help them see that there’s hope in the future. To help get my story heard, I am currently writing about it to prove to others that there can be a happy ending.                                                                                  


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Be Good to Yourself

by Joanne Morant, Action Read Tutor-Learner Coordinator

The days get shorter and the sun hides behind the looming snow clouds.  It is a busy time of year as we prepare for the holidays. During this time, like a lot of people I tend to socialize more, spend more, eat more, do more and sleep less. By the time January comes around I feel exhausted, and by the time February arrives the winter blahs have settled in.
Self-care doesn’t come naturally to me.  I still insist on putting everything else before my own needs. I go into over-serving mode during the holidays to make sure everything is ready, and everyone has the “best holiday ever”.
So what steps do I need to take now to help me through the holidays and winter months until spring arrives?
Everyone has different ways and ideas to help with self-care. These are a few of mine for this holiday season!
  1. Get more sleep – 8 hours is my goal. Turn off the TV and sit quietly with a cup of herbal tea for a half hour before bed.
  2. Read – my pile of unread books seems to grow each month! Losing myself in a good book will take my mind off all the holiday preparation.
(Let's hope Joanne's pile of books isn't as big as the donation we received from the Retired Teachers this year!)
3.      Make and stick to a budget – not the easiest for me. The best places I have found to shop during the holidays are the used book stores, second hand stores (so many interesting and unusual things I could spend hours just browsing), Christmas church bazaars and the grocery store.  My sons have always appreciated a nice bottle of olive oil or specialty vinegar at this time of year and it doesn’t cost a lot.
4.       Smile – the more I smile and laugh, the better I feel.
5.       Bake – this always put me in the holiday spirit especially listening to music I enjoy. It feels great to share with others some tasty treats.
6.      Un-schedule – so many people to see and things to do in a short period of time. Instead of rushing around here and there I will set some time aside in January to visit friends and family. There will be more time to spend together and less stress for everyone.
7.      Ask for help – this year when my family gets together it will be pot-luck instead of preparing everything myself. What I always seem to forget is how much others like to cook, experiment with a new recipes and enjoy bringing a dish that they made to share. It is about being together during the holiday.
8.     Finish a project (or start a new one) – it could be a craft or an art project. Mine is a needle point I began 3 years ago. Take time out to do something I enjoy!

Give yourself permission to engage in activities that make you feel happy and less stressed during the holidays. Make time to go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, volunteer or just sit down with a good book.
I am going to tape my list to the fridge and it will stay through January, February, March………
Miriam, Gabe and Deb showing us how to kick back by channeling their inner rock stars!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Andrew's Story

I first came to Action Read to upgrade my skills to get my high school diploma. My girlfriend, at the time, already attended Action Read and recommended that I come check it out. Several years later I am still enjoying the community and learning experiences each week. I was asked if I would like to participate in an art event called “Talking Trees”. I had to pick a quote from Shakespeare that I could relate to and read it out loud. It started my journey of learning and loving Shakespeare! I am so grateful to have Action Read. I now have a better understanding of the world around me. I also appreciate the amount of times that is put into various projects at the centre.  I am most proud of my new skills and abilities to write stories. Using my imagination in unusual ways helps me express myself differently that I would have thought of before. I have already written two books and hope to write a sequel to one of them creating more bizarre animals and strange worlds. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Amanda's Story

I wanted to work on getting my GED and I heard about Action Read from a friend. I always thought that it took me a long time to learn something new, but to my surprise I have been working through the GED material quickly. The best part of coming to Action Read is how friendly and accepting everyone is. It is a great learning environment.  Being able to read is a huge gift. It gives me the ability to navigate day to day life.  Not everyone is as lucky. I write a lot of poetry about empowerment, especially for women. I think it is important for them to know that they don’t have to stay in a cycle of unhappiness and abuse.
For fun, I also really enjoy writing lists and indexes. My long term goal is to complete my GED, and then continue to post-secondary education to study art – which is my passion! If I were to write a book about anything, it would include sci-fi/mythology stories with vampires and lots of other frightening creatures and characters.    

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Learner Story Series


This spring, Action Read staff and board members had the great fortune to be able to participate in a job coaching project with Royal Roads University graduate students.  It was a very intensive process, which produced some interesting results.  At the end of the project, the coaching team provided Action Read with numerous questions to help our team focus on how we can grow and develop as an organization.  An area of particular concern to all of us was how to develop and communicate our mission and vision to members of the public.

One particular question the coaching team asked Action Read was: how can we leverage the power of stories to build excitement and cohesion around our literacy mission? With that in mind, we have been looking at different ways that we can tell the incredible stories of courage and strength that we witness each day at Action Read.  We want to communicate things like – what brings our learners into Action Read?  What have they achieved?  What have been the most surprising / rewarding / challenging parts of their learning journey? What are our learners’ long-term goals and dreams?
Over the coming months, we will answer these questions by periodically posting stories shared (with permission of course) from our learners.  We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we enjoyed gathering them! 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Recognizing the Achievements of our Members!

Each year at the Annual General Meeting, Action Read recognizes the contributions and achievements of individuals who have made a particular difference to our community and our mission over the past year. Choosing recipients is very difficult as there are always so many deserving candidates. Here are the recipients for 2015-2016:

Betty Bean Kennedy Award for Outstanding Volunteer

Like many of our learners, Emmett O’Neill quit school at the age of 16. He later returned to school where he came to love learning and eventually became a high school teacher for over 25 years. Retired from teaching, Emmett was keen to continue to help others to improve their skills.
Over the past 3 years, Emmett has worked intensively with two Action Read learners. Both have made amazing progress, benefitting from Emmett’s significant talent as an educator and his immense dedication and experience. Emmett’s unwavering patience, flexibility and encouragement are particularly appreciated by learners and staff alike.
Last year, Emmett faced a life threatening illness. During all the treatments and surgeries, he remained fully committed to his tutoring. When feeling well enough, he arranged to meet his learner whenever possible. Emmett continues to inspire us all with his passion and enthusiasm for lifelong learning. Our sincere thanks Emmett!

The Doris Middleton Award

Deb Donaldson
This award is given to a learner who exemplifies the dedication to learning, spirit and humour of the woman who inspired it. Without question, Debbie Donaldson is one such woman! Deb’s commitment to learning and to growing as a writer can only be described as exceptional. Deb came to Action Read to work on her computer skills, but “stumbled across” poetry in the process.   Deb graces the centre with unwavering focus,  dedication and a sunny attitude. Recently, Deb found the courage to speak publicly about her difficulties with learning in her life. She touched many people when she performed her spoken word poem at our 2016 fundraiser. Since coming to Action Read Deb has written and self-published 3 poetry books. She states “I feel capable, empowered, self-confident and enthusiastic about my progress”.  We are proud of you Deb and look forward to more poetry!

Shirley Almack Award for Learner Leadership

Shawn Knight

Shirley Almack was an Action Read Member who inspired many people around her with her courage, strength and leadership.
This year’s award goes to Shawn Knight. Shawn has made leaps and bounds in his reading and writing abilities, and his passion for personal growth and organizational governance is truly inspiring. Last year, Shawn’s newfound self-confidence in his skills meant that he felt ready to take on the responsibility of a   Learner Position on the Board of Directors. In this role, Shawn has continually demonstrated focus, commitment and a collaborative spirit. He has contributed his insights and opinions, and has listened intently to those of others with kindness and openness. Shawn also leant his support to our annual fundraiser by gathering donations for the silent auction and helping with ticket sales. Shawn is always eager to learn or to quietly lend a hand, and is a valued member of the Action Read community. Congratulations Shawn!

The Action Read Community Award 

Art Kilgour of WriteDesign
We are happy to give our 2016 Community Award to Art Kilgour of WriteDesign.  For many years, Art has supported Action Read through gorgeous design work, as seen through our logo, brochure, several of our books and signs.  Art just ‘gets’ Action Read - has always   understood what we stand for and the importance of Clear Language and Design in our work. Furthermore, WriteDesign has generously and consistently supported our fundraising efforts in a variety of ways over the years. He and his partner Nichola have attended events, and have shared contacts and connections to promote the work of Action Read in the community. For these reasons, and many more, we are grateful to count you as a friend Art, and delighted to publicly recognize your longtime contribution to Action Read’s growth and evolution.




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