Billings council selects its Citizen of the Year recipients

Man holding up a gold trophy cup with abstract shiny background, copy space for text

KAGAWONG—Four young siblings and two adults who all help with many activities in the Billings Township community have been recognized as citizens of the year by Billings council.

Starting this year, there are two categories for the award: one for those under the age of 18 and one for those residents over 18 years. “I really think that decision was a good thing,” said Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting last week, when nominations were discussed by council members and recipients of the 2022 awards were chosen.

There was only one nomination for the under 18 age category and it was for the four Joyce siblings. “I would like to nominate the (Catherine and Ross) Joyce family kids from Pleasant Valley,” the nominator wrote. “David and Sarah helped hide Easter eggs for the hunt in April and David so kindly gave a plastic shell to a friend (who had fewer shells than he did), knowing it held the ‘Golden ticket’ for a basket of goodies. David (11), Sarah (9), Tommy (7), Joshua (four) participated in the Island-wide clean up hosted by Manitoulin Streams between April 24 and May 9. They covered more than 10 kilometres of roads (in the township), collecting many bags of garbage along with bins of bottles. They donated the bottle return money to Gore Bay Bruins hockey even though none of them play hockey (but their friends do).”

“The Joyce family is an example of paying it forward and have shown how they go above and beyond for their community,” read Mayor Anderson. “I think everyone would agree with this but the question is, would you extend this award from one person to four in one family?”

“Obviously, it would have to include all four children,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. Councillors Bryan Barker, Sharon Jackson and Michael Hunt all agreed in turn.

The township received three nominations for the over 18 years category and the decision was between Andrew Preyde and Diane Larocque. Mr. Preyde was nominated for his commitment to the new rink, which “has been an inspiration to a lot of younger families in Billings Township to get involved in their community,” wrote the nominator. “The rink is now a hub for winter activities. I know a lot of people were involved in this project, but I also feel that if Andrew had not started to keep the old rink cleaned off, we would not have what we have now.”

Ms. Larocque was nominated twice. One nominator wrote, “Dianne has been active in our community since moving here full-time just less than 10 years ago. She has been on several committees of council as a volunteer. They include the ad-hoc rebranding committee; economic development; parks, recreation and wellness, and most recently, the museum board. Diane does more than just attend meetings. She decorates the village at Christmas time, helps St. John’s Anglican Church doing outreach in the winter month, volunteers at the annual yard sale and barbecue and organizes the annual Christmas in Kagawong market.”

A second nominator wrote that Ms. Larocque “has been involved in our community helping, organizing, stringing Christmas lights, hanging Christmas decorations outside in frigid weather. She has put up scarecrows and then taken them down, all for the community. Diane is a member of St. John’s Anglican Church and whenever they have an event, Diane is involved in some capacity, helping them fundraise.”

“Diane has sat on the library board. Diane sits on the Billings museum board and is a committee member of Billings’ economic development board (committee),” the nominator continued. “When Diane joined EDC, she volunteered to help in many capacities. She is the sole person who canvassed our businesses for money for gifts for our community children for one of our Christmas Santa events. She collected $500, and for many years she was the person responsible for organizing Christmas in Kagawong.”

The writer seconded many of the other nominator’s words but also pointed out that Ms. Larocque has cooked turkeys and meat pies, washed dishes, sold hot chocolate, coffee and hot dogs at a Christmas in Kagawong event. She sold her sister-in-law’s hand-made signs because the money was to be donated to a cat and dog rescue. In 2019, the nominator wrote, “she decided that all the township’s decorations need to be organized and with Kathy’s (clerk/CAO Kathy McDonald) permission, she bought totes and organized them for the township.”

“Our community has benefited for her commitment to us,” the writer concluded.

Counsellor Jackson suggested the recognition should go to both nominees for their community efforts.  Councillor Alkenbrack agreed as did Councillor Barker. “Volunteers are very important in the community,” Councillor Barker said. “I’m happy Councillors Alkenbrack and Jackson agree they are both very deserving.”

Councillor Hunt was also emphatic in his agreement that both should be recognized.

Council passed motions in favour of the four Joyce siblings receiving the citizen of the year award for under 18 years, and for both Diane Larocque and Andrew Preyde to receive the award for those 18 years and older.