A trio of people who have spent the past two and a half years helping Port Alberni’s most vulnerable people through the pandemic have been named citizens of the year at the annual Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce’s community excellence awards gala.
Michael Ramsay, captain of the Salvation Army in Port Alberni (2020), Ellen Frood from Sage Haven Society (2021) and Colin Minions, also with the Salvation Army and formerly Bread of Life (2022) all accepted their awards during a gala outdoors at McLean Mill National Historic site on Friday, June 10.
Three years’ worth of awards were also handed out in a number of business categories. The chamber decided to forego virtual ceremonies and wait until COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings were lifted so they could present the awards in person.
“This is an extraordinary honour,” Frood said. “I am humbled by the support of this community and thankful for their trust in me.”
Frood is executive director of Sage Haven Society (formerly ACAWS), and former co-chair of the Community Action Team. She guides the team that organizes the Coldest Night of the Year event, has lobbied to bring a sexual assault response team to the Alberni Valley and has pushed for new housing for women and children leaving abusive relationships.
Ramsay captains the Port Alberni branch of the Salvation Army, which also operates the community food bank. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ramsay was part of a group of organizations that quickly mobilized into the COVID-19 response team in the Alberni Valley. Ramsay was often the face of the group, which included Bread of Life, Canadian Mental Health Association and Port Alberni Shelter Society, among others.
Receiving the Citizen of the Year award for 2020 “means everything,” Ramsay said. “This is such an amazing community. The people that were all here winning this award…we’re just part of this amazing community of volunteers and people who are coming together and helping out.”
Ramsay and his daughter Heather accepted his award; Ramsay credited the many volunteers who helped serve or deliver well over 320,000 meals in the past two years.
“We’re just one part of a big team. It’s such a blessing,” he added. “I think of all the volunteers that have been helping all through the pandemic, and I think this was really a testimony to them.”
Minions has worked closely with Ramsay on the COVID-19 response team, first with the Bread of Life and now with the Salvation Army. Minions was presented with the Citizen of the Year award for 2022.
“This is such an incredible honour. It couldn’t possibly happen without the great volunteers and donors, and support of my co-workers and colleagues,” Minions said.
He called Ramsay “a mentor, a friend and an incredible boss” in a social media post following the awards gala.
“Everything we do is for the love of our community and everyone in it,” he said.