KAGAWONG – Four out of five community nominations for Billings Township’s 2021 Senior of the Year named Jim Chambers. At a special meeting of council on May 27, Mayor Ian Anderson and Billings councillors discussed nominations and ultimately agreed to submit Mr. Chambers’ name to the province of Ontario for the 2021 Senior of the Year award.
“We have no less than four separate nominations for Jim Chambers and one for Charlene (Chambers),” Mayor Anderson said. “In a nutshell, a lot of members of our community, and I know on the council as well, have recognized the efforts of both Jim and Charlene as it relates to our distribution of food items over the course of the pandemic over the past year now and many other things.”
The first nomination for Mr. Chambers highlighted the distribution of food during the lockdown as well as his previous efforts on the Billings recreation committee. The second nominator shared how Mr. Chambers had helped him personally in numerous ways over this past year “as he has many others in my neighbourhood and elsewhere. He never hesitates to respond to a call for assistance, no matter what the problem,” the nominator wrote.
The third nomination noted Mr. Chambers’ help with the food distribution “was above and beyond. He was always there to help with a smile, even if it was behind his mask.” The last nomination was for Mr. Chambers’ outstanding contribution during the COVID-19 crisis.
The fifth nomination was for Mr. Chambers’ spouse, Charlene. “It should come as no surprise that Charlene was nominated as well,” said Mayor Anderson. “She’s been very active in the community since she and her husband arrived in Billings. She has been and remains on many of the council committees. She always seems to have boundless energy and is always enthusiastic and happy as she volunteers in so many ways. Whatever needs to be done, Charlene is there. Before COVID, Charlene was very active in volunteering for many church and township events; however, since COVID has struck, Charlene has still been very visible and helpful when she can, as in regular food distributions to seniors,” wrote the nominator.
Mayor Anderson nominated Jim Chambers in order to start the discussion, because of his four out of five nominations. Councillor Bryan Barker seconded the motion.
Councillor Barker noted the difficulty in making these decisions and pointed to the many wonderful volunteers in the community. “More so in the last couple of years, a lot of people have stepped up but Jim stands out,” he said, adding that during COVID-19, Mr. Chambers was always the first to jump in and volunteer in many areas. “He was walking the trails when we decided to reopen the trails to make sure we had social distancing to make it safe. He was picking up food, organizing food, being at the firehall for distribution. I think given the circumstances that we are in, although we do have lots of wonderful volunteers, Jim goes above and beyond and certainly deserves the recognition.”
Councillor Sharon Jackson has worked with Mr. Chambers on the recreation committee for many years and knows firsthand how dedicated both he and Charlene have been and how they are dedicated to their community. “Jim has stepped up for the food drive and he’s on the fire department. I know one time I happened to be driving downtown to pick up my mail and there were Jim and Charlene shoveling off the snow in front of the firehall. They’ve shoveled in past years at the skating rink and they’re both always there.”
Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack also pointed to his work with the Kagawong Christmas Market in 2020 and other years. “I know how busy Jim was and how involved he was with the recreation committee. I know how helpful he is and I support the nomination 100 percent,” she said.
“He keeps up his energy and enthusiasm no matter what the task is at hand,” added Councillor Michael Hunt. “He was there to distribute food during COVID-19. He shovels snow at the Anglican Church, the firehall and the gym. He keeps up his good humour and smiles under his mask. He is trustworthy, motivated and community minded. Charlene is very good also and is there helping him out all the way,” he said.
Mayor Anderson reaffirmed everything that was said. “I did not know Jim very well prior to what I’m doing right now but I’ve been continuously impressed. Jim thinks long and hard before he speaks and when you have a question that you’re looking for input on, he consistently gives really good advice. It’s been a long haul with our emergency control group (during the pandemic), but I always look forward to input from Jim. Apart from everything else that people have said he has been involved in within the community, he’s also been a great asset to our community on that committee.”
The provincial award honours local outstanding seniors and the contributions they’ve made that enrich the social, cultural or civic life of their community.
Nominations closed May 31. Mr. Chambers will be presented with a personalized certificate from the province of Ontario.