Two people share the St. Catharines Volunteer of the Year honours


Published April 19, 2022 at 2:03 pm

Enzo DeDivitiis, left, was named co-recipient of the 2022 Mayor’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his extensive LGBTQ2+ activism. Mayor Walter Sendzik, right, was on hand to present it. (Photo: St. Catharines)

An enthusiastic and dedicated LGBTQ2+ activist and an advocate for helping the less fortunate split the honours as both were named co-recipients of the St. Catharines’ 2022 Mayor’s Volunteer of the Year Award.

At a special ceremony last week, Enzo DeDivitiis and Christine Cook each collected the honours as the city decided that the pair both represented volunteerism at its finest level.

While a split decision is rare for the award, strong cases could be made for both recipients.

DeDivitiis co-founded Pride Niagara 2010 and is currently serving as chairperson of the organization that celebrates Niagara Region’s LGBTQ2+ community and its supporters.

“DeDivitiis ‘s commitment to building and supporting the community has had a lasting impact on residents from all walks of life,” said the city, represented at the ceremony by Community, Recreation and Culture Services staff, City Councillors and Mayor Walter Sendzik.

In addition to his work with Pride Niagara, DeDivitiis also serves on the City’s LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee, encouraging a more welcoming and diverse St. Catharines through his perspectives and insights.

On her end, Cook has been involved with Start Me Up Niagara since its inception, volunteering in a variety of roles.

“When interacting with those served by the organization, she ensures they are welcomed and appreciated, while going above and beyond to provide them with resources and meal,” said city staff. “Having created a family-like atmosphere, her warm demeanour is a constant in the lives of many participants.”

Perhaps the nicest surprise of the evening was a 10-year-old resident winning the Margaret and Robin MacLennan Youth Volunteer of the Year Award, presented annually to a young person who has displayed and demonstrated principles and actions that help to create a healthier and more connected community.

As mentioned, this year’s recipient Emma Sajur is considered a community leader at that tender age, having organized multiple food drives and facilitated ways for her peers to stay close while social distancing during the pandemic.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Emma began writing letters and leaving them in mailboxes for children in her neighbourhood, offering a fun and safe way to keep in touch.

In 2020, she organized her first food drive, passing out letters and hosting a donation day. Her efforts raised over 600 pounds of food.

Encouraged, she did the same in 2021, setting up a receiving section at the end of her driveway. Emma spent hours in the cold greeting friends and neighbours that dropped off food, collecting almost 1,000 pounds of food.

Sendzik was proud of this year’s recipients, noting, “We have an exceptional group of volunteers and good neighbours to honour this year, and I want to congratulate and thank them all for their contributions to our community.”

He added, “With the opportunity to thank them each in person, I was proud to see that compassion, empathy and inclusivity are abundant in our city.”

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