Written by Nicole Kleinsteuber, InQuinte

Tenacious and passionate leaders who go above the call of duty to help others were honoured as community champions Wednesday evening.

The Enrichment Centre For Mental Health in Belleville awarded its inaugural Mark and Maurice Rollins Workplace Wellness award to Mystical Distributing and Electro Cables Inc.  It presented the first-ever Mike Letwin Board Leadership award to Steve Halloran and Darrell Smith.  The second annual Connie Carson Community Champion award was also given to five deserving recipients: Jennifer Ferrill, Ruth Estwick, Margie Burness, Liz Lehtinen and Lynn Olsen.

“What they continue in the names of Connie Carson, Mike Letwin, Mark and Maurice Rollins is unmeasurable,” said Sandie Sidsworth, executive director for the centre.  “We were only able to give them small tokens of thanks but we are just so pleased that they are here…There truly are amazing people and our community is so much better for all of you for being in it.”

Mark Phillips of Mystical Distributing and Chandy Davis of Electro Cables were each awarded the workplace award in honour of the late Maurice Rollins and his late son Mark for investing time, resources and time to create mentally healthy workplaces.

Rollins and his son Mark were tireless advocates for mental health awareness in the community.

Mark Phillips, Mystical Distributing

A humbled Phillips said he and his staff are honours to receive the award.

“We have a fast-paced, very active workplace and I am proud to say our company has a very inclusive environment,” he told those gathered virtually at the centre’s Annual General meeting.  “We have a pretty good mix of people that work well together and understand that it is important for all employees to feel safe and respected when they come to work.”

Phillips said his company has mandated policies that promote mental health in their workplace and they do this through education and awareness.  He said they understand that workplace accommodation occasionally requires employees to adjust their work hours to fit their home life and they find it relieves a lot of stress for these particular people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to work. 

Managing stress levels at work support mental health and this is one of their priorities, he said.  Their managers are trained to guide employees who need help to the correct resources and supports that are available in the community including the Enrichment Centre for Mental Health.  Their dedication to the mental health of their employees is not a 9 to 5 responsibility and often needs to be addressed on weekends.

“We have gone through a wide variety of issues because we own ourselves up to a variety of people when we are hiring,” he said.  “It’s a testament to the caring environment that we try to foster within our organization.” 

Chandy Davis, Electro Cables Inc.

Davis has been working on wellness and mental health for the past eight years at her family business.

“It’s something that I’ve always tried to focus on,” she said.  “It’s been a real struggle during COVID. Trying to figure out other solutions to get more help because we have just seen people really struggling in the HR field.”

Steve Halloran

Halloran who was nominated for his work with the Trenton Golden Hawks and Gleaner’s Foodbank said it was an honour to receive the board leadership award in honour of his dear friend Mike who passed away last year.  Letwin was the vice-president of the mental board and sat on countless boards and committees throughout the region.

“He was a big guy with a big heart and he left big shoes for us to fill in this community,” said Halloran.  “I am deeply honoured and I recognize the abilities, commitment and courage it takes to get up and get involved. Taking that first step is the most important step.”

Darrell Smith

Smith, the former chair of the Trenton Memorial Hospital Foundation board worked on the Big Brothers Big Sisters board with Letwin.  He also expressed his pride in receiving the award.

“I was amazed by his passion for the community and his love of the community and the things he could do to create positive change within the community,” he said.  “He led by example.” 

The five recipients of the Connie Carson Community champion award are fierce, resilient, compassionate leaders who were also recognized for their dedication to the area.

Jennifer Ferrill

Described as someone who gives a voice to the voiceless, Ferrill is known as someone who goes above and beyond to help the local homeless community.

“When you see someone you love failing through mental health and hopelessness is very difficult,” she said.  “That is what brought me to do what I do and that is creating some hope in people who otherwise may not have it in our community. I am so thankful and I have great admiration for Connie and what she does in the community so it’s extra special for me. It’s incredibly personal why I do what I do and I could never do any of it without the support of a lot of awesome human beings.”

Ruth Estwick 

Touched by the trauma and guilt that run deep with the loss of a loved one to suicide, Estwick turned that pain into providing support for others.  Estwick and Chef Matt DeMille created Food For Thought – a mental health festival where conversation and food connected people on the topic of depression, anxiety and mental health in order to raise funds for the mental health centre’s suicide prevention and bereavement programs.

“Like many of you I have faced several significant challenges in life but each one of them has only strengthened me and helped me become the person that I am today,” she said.  “I truly believe that we can all make a difference in our community even if it’s through one conversation at a time or one little thing that amounts to helping as many people that we can along the way. There was a quote that I felt fit quite perfectly that sums this up for me – “If you think you are too small to be effective you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.”

Margie Burness

Known as a valued champion and cheerleader for better healthcare in our community in addition to her tireless dedication to her job at Quinte Health Care Burness spends countless hours promoting, donating, volunteering and educating the community for the Belleville General Hospital. 

“We all know when we volunteer we don’t do it for the awards or anything else,” she said.  “I do it because it makes me feel good. There is nothing better than giving back. At Quinte Health Care we have values and there is one that really resonates with me – “Imagine it’s you.” Imagine it’s you that doesn’t have enough healthcare. Imagine it’s you that doesn’t have enough food tonight. Imagine it’s you that is isolated and doesn’t have friends. That makes it very easy to volunteer. “

Liz Lehtinen 

For those lucky enough to know Lehtinen, they know her giving spirit, tenacity, humbleness and endless willingness to roll up her sleeves and make our community a better place.  She is described as a kindhearted community champion that charities in the community can count on to support them wholeheartedly with her time, talents and passion. She is best known for her support of the Belleville General Hospital Foundation and the Children’s Foundation. 

“Volunteering is one of the best things I can do with my day,” she said.  “It’s so gratifying to roll up your sleeves, run an event and raise lots of money. Then to see that money go to a child who can’t afford to go to camp, an afterschool activity or to help buy new equipment for our community. The work is so gratifying.”

Lynn Olsen 

Olsen is the definition of social justice in action.  She helps the homeless, promotes pride, safe communities and speaks out in honour of the forgotten.  She is the force behind a memorial fence at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre that dons orange ribbons in memory of the children whose remains were found buried at residential school sites.

“The unseen, the forgotten, the kids,” she said.  “I have known about these schools for years. I don’t know when I first heard about them. I knew what was going on. Nobody cared. That to me was the worst part. It is now coming to light. How traumatic this whole thing was, these schools were. I don’t want it to ever be forgotten. We are going to keep working on it. We have filled half of that fence with the orange ribbon, banners, flag and shoes. We are going to fill the other half with red dresses for missing and murdered Indigenous women and children. They are so often forgotten. I will continue to be their voice.”