Leadership award presented to ‘Mr. Uxbridge’
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
“Say, do you know Joel Speers?”
You might answer that you don’t, but chances are, you do. And if you don’t have the good fortune to know him personally, you have at least seen his face around town, working for the Township or volunteering at any number of events.
Speers was recently awarded the Durham Farm Connections Leadership Award; when it was presented to him by representatives from TD Canada Trust, he was aptly called “Mr. Uxbridge.”
What does he do that gives him such a lofty moniker? He’s an avid 4-H supporter, he’s a Junior Farmer, he works for the roads department for the Township, he volunteers at the Uxbridge Fall Fair (he’s a director on the board), the Farmers of Uxbridge event, Uxbridge-Scott Historical Society events, the Progressive Agriculture Farm Safety Day, during Canada Day celebrations at Elgin Park, the Durham Farm Connections Annual Open House, and any other festivals, fundraisers and church suppers that he has time for.
“I really enjoy supporting local events and working alongside other volunteers. We work hard but we also have a lot of fun, too! It’s great to see people enjoying and learning about agriculture,” explains Speers.
He first got the feel for volunteering when he was just nine, when he joined a local youth action group. In Grade 9 he needed to get a start on accumulating the mandatory 40 volunteer hours, so he started helping with the Uxbridge Fall Fair. He collected his 40 hours – and kept on going.
Because he knows so many people from across so many organizations, Speers is able to connect people who may not otherwise have a connection. As such, he has instigated many success stories for many groups and people, which creates “increased youth involvement and the general advancement of shared goals and overall community betterment.”
Speers is a busy man, but always has a wave and smile when travelling through Uxbridge’s downtown streets and keeping them free of rubbish and debris. He wears the same wave and smile when driving the grounds at the Fair, and when he’s at any of his other events. His kind heart draws people to him, and his warm, caring nature spreads enthusiasm for the task at hand.
Speers has lived on a small farm his entire life, and helped on his grandparent’s farm when he was young. The Durham Farm Connections Leadership Award is perfectly suited to Speers, as it recognizes a young farmer (between 22 and 39 years of age) who has a passion for agriculture and has shown strengths in leadership and community involvement. The award does include a monetary component, but Speers says he “hasn’t decided what I will do with the award money yet. There are a number of opportunities!”
Uxbridge’s oldest service club keeps giving to community
by Lisha Van Nieuwenhove
Uxbridge residents are very familiar with Lt. Col. Samuel Sharpe. Very few likely know that his widow, Mabel, was the one who, as part of an early IODE chapter in Uxbridge, spearheaded the campaign to raise money to build the Cenotaph that now stands beside the public library. Her chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire was replaced in 1934 by the Susie Sorabji Chapter, which is still very active in Uxbridge today, making it the oldest service club in the town.
Current members recently met to celebrate this 85th anniversary, poring over scrapbooks filled with newsclippings and photos of all the events the chapter has taken part in over the years. Glancing through the pages, it’s plain to see that this chapter of an internationally known organization has been very busy.
“The work we do is important,” says member Shirley Vance. “People count on us.”
And the work they do is plentiful. Their mission has always been the same – “to help improve conditions for individuals in our community through educational, social service and citizenship programs.” The chapter gives four scholarships annually to graduates from Uxbridge Secondary School, they make donations to each of the six elementary school libraries, and they donate to the public library as well. Their social service includes (but is not limited to) creating backpacks for children in shelters just starting school, and taking their turn in the St. Andrew’s-Chalmers Church Soup Lunch. And for citizenship, they support the Uxbridge Fall Fair, they have sponsored a veteran’s banner, and they, in conjunction with the Uxbridge Times-Journal, select the Uxbridge Citizen of the Year.
The newest member of the chapter joined in 2009, and the group is hoping that more women who might be “looking for something to do” will consider joining them as they do great things for Uxbridge.