Yvan Baker recognizes community heroes

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National President of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada was honoured during the annual virtual New Year’s Levee and Community Recognition Awards, hosted by MP Yvan Baker (Etobicoke Centre). Patty Latyshko was recognized in the “volunteer service to the community” category.

“Patricia is providing tremendous leadership at a number of levels in a number of organizations in the Ukrainian Canadian community,” Baker said.

Latyshko has been an active member of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada’s affiliate organizations growing up. She has been an engaged member of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada, Toronto branch for 15 years. She has sat on the executive for a very long time, being active in all their events. She has been with the National Executive for a number of years and was again elected as national president in 2021.

Patty Latyshko

She was instrumental in linking the UWOC Toronto and the National Executive’s social media accounts. As a National President, she has a seat on the national Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and she is a strong voice within the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations.

“I’d like to thank the ladies that nominated me – Dianna Fedun and Renata Roman,” Latyshko said. “We’ve worked together for many, many years. I’m very honored to receive this recognition.”

“I’d also like to thank all of my sister members of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada across Canada at our local branches. Their ongoing volunteer work is amazing,” she said.

Olya Vovnysh

Olya Vovnysh, Director of Operations and Administrator at Ivan Franko long-term care home, was recognized for outstanding service as professional staff, employers or employees – one of five recognition categories of the Community Recognition Awards portion of the evening. The nominees in this category are business owners giving back to their communities, and staff going above and beyond what they are paid to do.

Through her leadership, Vovnysh has attracted and mentored a first-class team of more than 120 caring professionals, serving 85 residents.

“I feel very honored and humbled to receive it,” Vovnysh said at the virtual ceremony. “At the same time, I would like to thank my terrific team and the excellent Board of Directors at Ivan Franko Homes for the everyday great work, serving our seniors.”

“This award is a team effort. I’m privileged to be part of such an amazing and hardworking team,” Vovnysh said.

In anticipation of COVID-19 and before the province of Ontario requirements, Vovnysh prohibited part-time staff from simultaneously working in multiple homes and initiated a mandatory vaccination policy. Through such foresight, Ivan Franko Homes earned a feature on CBC national news in the spring of 2020.

“It’s easy to look back now and say that that was the right decision,” Baker said. “But I think back then, it would have taken tremendous courage to do what you did.”

“I thank you for that because in doing so you protected the health and the lives of seniors under your care,” he said.

Tanya Sklierenko

Dr. Tanya Sklierenko, the owner and operator of the Markland Wood Pharmacy, was recognized under the “COVID heroes” category. This category recognizes individuals that have gone above and beyond their daily routine and changed their focus to better serve the vulnerable people in Etobicoke Centre during COVID-19. This is the second year that Baker gave out this award.

“Tanya’s team of dedicated professional and multilingual pharmacists, technicians and associates have always put our patients first, often going above and beyond the call and opening early, staying late, making after-hours deliveries on their way home,” Baker said. “Patients of the community of Markland Wood and its immediate neighbors in Etobicoke and Mississauga are lucky to have Tanya and her staff serving their families.”

Under Sklierenko’s leadership over the past 20 years, Markland Wood Pharmacy has been on the leading edge of the pharmacy profession, being one of the first in Canada to offer travel and vaccination clinics, and offering countless personalized services and counselling for its patients.

“I’m really touched and honored to receive the award,” Skid said. “But the award actually does belong to all the staff at Markland Wood Pharmacy. They work with me every day. They are my COVID heroes. They demonstrate teamwork, compassion, commitment to all of our patients in our community.”

Baker also recognized other members of the Ukrainian community in the Etobicoke Centre.

Christine Hlynsky, an active volunteer at St. Demetrius Ukrainian Catholic Church, was another COVID Hero. When the COVID restrictions came into effect, she immediately volunteered to take charge of regulating church attendance. She tirelessly worked at the church every day of the week, making sure the regulations were observed and oversaw the sanitizing of the facility after each service. She also took on the responsibility of organizing students and volunteers to help with screening visitors and sanitizing after each service on Sundays.

Also a COVID Hero, Anne Moskaluk, during the COVID-19 pandemic continued to shop and cook for other members of her community. She continuously reached out to seniors and others, engaging them with conversation over the phone and occasional visits, delivering soup or other items, ensuring that individuals were not lonely or forgotten. She picked up and delivered items for others who were reluctant or could not venture out. Once restrictions were relaxed, she would drive individuals in need or still reluctant to use public transportation to church.

Plast Ukrainian Youth Association was also recognized under the “COVID heroes” category.

In the summer of 2021, a group of 20 volunteers under the age of 25 wished to provide a safe summer camp experience for 12 to 17-year-olds. Organizing and implementing this was challenging, keeping COVID protocols in mind. With their determination and commitment, the volunteers organized a safe and enjoyable five-day camp for 61 young people.

“The feedback from the participants and the parents was outstanding, and they were grateful to the volunteers for providing this opportunity,” Baker said. “This group of 20 volunteers is more than deserving of ‘COVID Hero’ awards.”

“Thank you for the award, we really do appreciate it,” said Dmytro Dutka‎ on behalf of Plast Toronto. “It was a fun camp to run, and hopefully there’s a camp next year as well.”

Lubomyr Belej, who was recognized in the Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Community category, has been a member of Plast Ukrainian Youth Association from the age of 16, starting out first as a youth counsellor. For 30 years, Lubomyr has worked with youth, organized and conducted camps and programs, and volunteered at the administrative level in various capacities. Most recently, Lubomyr was acting president and then president of the organization. In all his various capacities, he has earned the respect of those he worked with and became a role model for others. Lubomyr Belej has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to helping youth develop creative thinking, organizational and teamwork skills, enabling them to become effective citizens in their communities.

The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada Toronto Eparchy and its members were recognized in the same category.

Eugenia Haba has been very active in visiting and keeping in touch with isolated people. She has also organized events raising funds for charity. She has also spent many years volunteering at the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre in Etobicoke Centre.

In addition to her work with the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Vera Homonka devotes her time to community work with the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada in their charitable endeavours for various causes.

Tania Kohut has been involved in many charitable activities, such as organizing food drives for families in need and visiting seniors living on their own.

Vera Kostecki has served at her branch at the Church of Saint Demetrius the Great Martyr for many years. Among her many activities, she collected goods and essential necessities for women’s shelters in Etobicoke, and maintained telephone contact with seniors who fell ill and those without family or living on their own.

Larissa Samborsky has instituted several initiatives, including a Christmas card designing competition, and has fulfilled her roles with dedication, enthusiasm, faith and compassion.

Mary Scarfo has helped organize many fundraising events for supporting various charitable causes. She has also helped with distributing food to people living on their own.

Tamara Woloschuk has been an active member of UCWLC for almost 60 years. She has been in charge of organizing many fundraising events to support many charitable causes. Her special interest has been in supporting school children.

“These are the true heroes of our community. They give of themselves and expect nothing in return, except maybe a smile and a ‘thank you’,” Baker said. “These nominees are what makes Etobicoke Centre a place where people want to live.”

“Thank you for all that you’re doing in our community to make our community better every day. The goal of today was really to celebrate your contribution and those of your teams,” said MP Yvan Baker during the annual virtual New Year’s Levee and Community Recognition Awards.

There was a record number of nominees and a record number of award recipients this year for Yvan Baker’s New Year’s Levee and Community Recognition Awards.

“Every time that I host this ceremony, I learn a lot about the incredible work that people are doing, and the wonderful people behind them who are contributing to that work. Thank you all for your work,” he said.

Baker explained that a levee is an opportunity to come together as a community to reflect on the year that has passed and look ahead to a year “that we hope will be filled with health and happiness and prosperity,” he said.

Former MPP for Etobicoke Centre Donna Cansfield hosted the New Year’s Levee for many years before Baker was elected to office. It was a tradition that Baker’s team continued.

Another reason for hosting the levee is recognizing the positive difference individuals and groups make in Etobicoke Center.

“That’s why I think this event is so special, because we’re honoring those people who make our community stronger, who make Canada stronger, who may help to make Canada what it is today,” Baker said.

The community awards were given out in five categories:

  • COVID Heroes;
  • Outstanding volunteer service to the community;
  • Outstanding volunteer service to seniors;
  • Outstanding volunteer service to the community by youth;
  • Outstanding service by professional staff, employers or employees.

During the ceremony, Baker shared a story of his grandmother, who came from Eastern Europe after the Second World War. She lived through tremendous hardship, Baker said, as so many people did in Europe during that period.

“My grandmother once told me that when she received her citizenship in the early 1950s, at that ceremony when the judge pounded his gavel and declared everyone citizens, most of the people in the room started to cry,” he said.

“I asked my grandmother, ‘why did you cry?’ And she said, ‘I was proud, I was relieved’. But she said that that citizenship became more and more valuable to her every day, because Canada became better and better every day.

“But if my grandmother were here, she would have said that what made Canada better and better every day was not the politicians, but people like the people we’re honoring here today, who contribute to their communities, who help their neighbors, who make the province in their country better and better, all the time”.

This article is written under the Local Journalism Initiative agreement

Kateryna Bandura for New Pathway – Ukrainian News

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