December 6, 2023 — To mark the International Day of People with Disabilities, the City of Sarnia and its Accessibility Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosted their 11th annual Accessibility Awards, recognizing the organizations and individuals that make our community a more accessible and inclusive space.
The awards were hosted Dec. 6 at the St. Clair Corporate Centre, welcoming award recipients for refreshments, an awards ceremony and a keynote address from 2022 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards Inclusivity Award recipient Marika Groendyk.
“It takes a community to create an accessible and inclusive environment we can all grow and thrive in. We want to celebrate those businesses and individuals who have helped make Sarnia a more welcoming and accessible community, not only do they deserve our thanks, but their efforts serve as an inspiration to others to take action in creating an accessible future,” said SAAC Chair Debbie Draganits.
This year’s awards recipients are outlined below.
Prelude to Excellence for a Large Business Award
This award recognizes businesses with 50 or more employees that create inclusive environments. This year’s award went to Nanette Jean — Home Depot.
Prelude to Excellence for a Small Business Award
This award recognizes businesses with less than 50 employees that create inclusive environments. This year’s award went to Richard Kelch— Northgate Pharmacy.
Exceptional Leadership in Customer Service Award
This award recognizes business that provide exemplary service to people with disabilities. This year’s award went to Melanie Klyne — Scotiabank, Exmouth Street.
Exceptional Accessible Physical Environment Award
This award recognizes forward-thinking inclusive design in built environments. This year’s award went to Robert Esser and Courtney Hind — IG Wealth Management.
Creating Opportunities for an Inclusive Community Award
This award recognizes groups and/or individuals that provide community leadership in inclusive programming for individuals with disabilities. This year’s award went to Helen Van Sligtenhorst.
Going Above and Beyond Award
This award recognizes a business or individual who goes above and beyond in serving or assisting individuals with a disability. This year’s award went to Richard Gilbert — Wellwise by Shoppers Drugmart.
Outstanding Customer Service in a Social Service Sector Award
This award recognizes individuals working in the social service sector who offer exceptional service for individuals with a disability. This year’s award went to Michelle Taege.
Kevin Schenk Legacy Award
The Kevin Schenk Legacy Award, named after former SAAC member Kevin Schenk, provides recognition to individuals living with a disability who inspire the community to make the city more inclusive and accessible. This year’s award recognizes the late Luana Cameron.
A new award this year, the Trailblazer Award is awarded on a year-to-year basis, celebrating the life-long passion, commitment and creativity of individuals that have advocated for and impacted the lives of people with disabilities in the City of Sarnia. This award is given to someone who has initiated, tried, and tested new methods and ways of delivering service, experience, and standards for persons with disabilities. In 2023 John Hagens of Community Living Sarnia-Lambton is recognized with this award.