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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Christine Hayes honoured as Essex’s 2018 Citizen of the Year

- the banquet took place on what would be her dad, former MPP Pat Hayes’s, birthday -

Local dignitaries, service club representatives, and family members congratulated Christine Hayes on receiving the 2018 Essex Citizen of the Year award. Her volunteer efforts were recognized at a banquet held on Saturday evening at the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201).

by Sylene Argent

Local volunteer and resident, Christine Hayes, was recognized as Essex’s 2018 Citizen of the Year on Saturday evening. A special banquet, held at the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201), was hosted in her honour to acknowledge all of the ways she had dedicated her time and talents to a wide-variety of causes within the community.  

  Hayes is the newest volunteer added to the official Essex Citizen of the Year list. The recognition program began in 1978 to pay tribute to those who commit themselves to giving back to the community.

  “We are amongst some inspiring and generous people,” event Emcee, and member of the Holy Name Counsel of the Knights of Columbus, Tom Bonneau, said after the names of each of the previous honourees were read. “Christine is a bit of each.”

  The Annual Citizen of the Year banquet is hosted as a fundraiser for Heritage Essex, which maintains the Essex Railway Station. The Essex Legion, the Essex Knights of Columbus, Heritage Essex, and the Rotary Club of Essex co-host the event.

  Morley Bowman, a member of Heritage Essex, said the involved service clubs collaborate well to host the Citizen on the Year program annually.

  “We need a new writer for the emcee’s jokes,” Bowman chided after hearing a few jokes about banking, Hayes’s profession, from Bonneau. “I see you all over the place,” he said of Hayes. “You fit the mould [of the Citizen of the Year program] perfectly, and in a lot of ways, probably exceed it.”

  Kim Spirou of the Essex Rotary Club said she has heard a lot about Hayes. That she is generous, hard working, and loyal.

  “Her record of service is exemplary and long,” Spriou said.

  Hayes is involved with Essex Region Goodfellows, the Fight Like Mason Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity. She is also an Essex Fun Fest volunteer, is dedicated to the Essex Legion and its Ladies’ Auxiliary, and gets involved with fundraising efforts for local charity groups, such as Big Bike through her employer, Libro Credit Union, where she organizes community outreach efforts.

  Hayes also organizes the Big Brothers Big Sister annual bowling for kids event, she mentors her son, Connor’s, Robotics team at Cardinal Carter, sings at funerals at Holy Name of Jesus Church and at her own parish, St. Mary’s in Maidstone, where she also sings on a weekly bases. For many years, Hayes coached baseball at St. Mary’s.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche brought congratulations to Hayes from the Town of Essex. He said he has known the evening’s honuree for around 25 years.

  “It has been a pleasure to serve with Christine on the Essex Region Goodfellows. She came on as treasurer when we were desperate and we needed someone with a numbers background,” Meloche said, presenting Hayes with a recognition plaque on behalf of the Town of Essex.

  MPP Taras Natyshak and MP Tracey Ramsey wished Hayes well.

  “It is particularly meaningful for me to be here. Christine has known me since I was a baby. The Natyshak’s and Hayes’s have always been politically motivated,” Natyshak said, acknowledging the banquet was held on what would have been MPP Pat Hayes’s birthday. “He would be 76-years-old today. His legacy looms over us tonight.

  “A couple things Pat taught me as a mentor was service above self, to put others first. The Hayes family is always there for others. Another thing Pat told me, and Christine has applied it to her life, is that ‘they won’t always remember if you were there [at an event], but they will always remember if you were not there.’ Christine carries on that legacy, because she is everywhere. She carries on a proud legacy of her dad,” Natyshak said.

  Ramsey added Hayes is outstanding. Though Ramsey has not known the Hayes family as long as Natyshak, from the moment she met Hayes, she felt a part of her family.

  One thing Ramsey didn’t know about Hayes was all she was involved with because Hayes doesn’t talk about her efforts as she is humble.

  Wendy Cunningham-Pulleyblank was the special guest speaker for the evening. “Christine is the epitome of a volunteer,” she said of Hayes. “She’s never afraid to roll up her sleeves and dig right in. “We honour you tonight, Christine, for all that you do.”

On behalf of Heritage Essex, Bill Gay spoke fondly about Hayes’s dad, highlighting all he did to restore the historic Essex Railway Station.

  “This has been truly humbling,” Hayes said, through tears. She credited her dad for her community spirit.

  She thanked her mom for stepping up to help out with her son when needed, so she could be community-minded, and also thanked her son for his patience when her schedule gets on the full side.

  Bonneau recognized the Rotary Club of Essex for cooking a great meal. He also acknowledged the Citizen of the Year Committee for spending many hours going through the nominations members of the community submitted earlier this summer.


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