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Five outstanding community members recognized during annual Hall of Fame event

November 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek

Recently, five outstanding members of the community were inducted into the South Simcoe Hall of Fame. They are: Richard White, Michael Cook, Amzy Syed, Irby Syed, and Chris Rapin

Chosen by a selection committee that reviews nominations submitted by members of the community, this year’s inductees were chosen because they are “exemplary in their contributions to the community.”

The awards were founded to celebrate volunteers that go above and beyond to make South Simcoe a wonderful place to live. In 2002, fifteen people were inducted to the inaugural South Simcoe Hall of Fame. Since that time, a call is put out to the community each year to nominate deserving friends, family, and fellow volunteers  to be considered for this honour. Also established in order to recognise the achievements and contributions of outstanding citizens, over 125 individuals have been inducted into the South Simcoe Hall of Fame over the past 19 years.

Dignitaries in attendance, and presenting certificates of achievement to the five inductees were: Floyd Pinto, Mayor of Adjala–Tosorontio, Ward 4 Councillor from the Town of New Tecumseth Fran Sainsbury, and MPP for Simcoe–Grey Jim Wilson.

Amzy Syed hopes his Hall of Fame Award will inspire other youth to volunteer.

By the age of 16, Amzy, an Honour Roll student and graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School, had racked up over 800 community volunteer hours. For this extraordinary achievement, Rotary Club of Alliston sent Amzy to RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award). Amzy was also awarded the Quaide Azam Community Services Award, along with the Quaide Azam Academic Award for achieving a 92 per cent average in Grade 12. Recently, he was awarded a Bunsen Burner Award for proposing hot ideas at the YMCA day camp where he worked as Summer Camp Counselor. 

“I believe volunteers play a vital role in any community,” said Amzy. “Giving back to the community is very important to me because not all services could possibly be provided and paid for by the government. Most volunteers do not receive monetary incentives, but surely they do receive a sense of humanity, humility, humbleness and a spirit for giving back to the community. I cherish being inducted into the Hall of Fame because by winning this prestigious recognition at such a young age, it may inspire other youth to volunteer and to know they can make a positive difference.” 

Irbaaz (Irby) Syed said youth can make a difference in their communities

Eighteen-year-old Irbaaz had a message for other youth when it comes to volunteering: “We may be kids, youth, or adults, but we can do something to make a positive impact by giving back to the community at every stage of ones’ life. It’s never too soon or too late.”

Irby is living proof of that fact. Now a first-year student at Laurentian University in Sudbury (studying Forensic Science), Irby spent his teenage years in Alliston. Not only did this St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School graduate maintain the Honour Roll throughout his high school years, he was able to earn approximate 800 hours of community volunteer since age 16. 

“Since I was a little child, my parents taught me to acknowledge and appreciate our privileged lives and to help the less fortunate,” says Irby. “They emphasized the importance of giving, and thus, making our society more inclusive and just for everyone. As a good citizen, it is our obligations to contribute and to give back to the community we live in. This is why I have engaged myself with several school clubs, community programs, and fundraising initiatives to help those in need.”

Michael Cook believes in paying it forward.

Cook is the first one to admit that he has turned to food banks in times of need, and now he is growing fresh produce for the very food bank which helped him get through a tough time.  

“I am paying it forward,” says Michael Cook, Founder of the Tottenham Community Garden. All the vegetables grown are donated to Tottenham’s Our Town Food Bank and Alliston’s My Sister’s Place, a shelter for women and their children.  As a client on disability, I have needed the Food Bank’s help and now it is my turn to do something to support them.” 

For Michael, or “Cookie” as he is fondly called, it’s also a hobby he has come to love.

“I didn’t really know anything about gardening when I first started this garden,” he readily admits. “I am learning as I go. I really enjoy it and it gives me peace of mind. People honk and wave when they drive by or stop and offer support. The Tottenham train runs directly behind the garden and people wave. It’s a great feeling to help others. From my past experience, I know that many people need a helping hand up.”

In 2017, friends who attended Hillside Community Church told Michael about an unused garden at the church. Michael approached the church with the idea of growing fresh produce to support local charities and soon turned a volleyball court back into a thriving garden. 

You can follow and join Michael’s community service on his Tottenham Community Garden Facebook page. Any money donations can be made by email to the or you can drop off coins in his homemade jars at locations throughout New Tecumseth.

Next week, The Times will spotlight Richard White and Chris Rapin.


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