Residents can submit Essex Citizen of the Year nominations until August 31

-some kind of celebratory event will be planned for October to recognize the winner -

by Sylene Argent

The COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping community members from nominating the 2020 Essex Citizen of the Year. In fact, it is paving the way to shed a light on someone who may be doing some incredible things to assist those in need during a time of uncertainty.

  Residents, who may know an outstanding volunteer in Essex, have until August 31 to submit an application, highlighting why that person may be worthy of receiving the annual honour.

  Already, Marnie Aldridge, Administrative Assistant for the Essex Railway Station, said a few applications have been submitted, and she is looking forward to receiving more in the near future. Applications can be emailed to, or dropped off at the historic Essex Railway Station, in the mail slot.

  Since 1978, residents have been able to nominate a Citizen of the Year for their volunteer contributions. Annually, the Essex Rotary Club, the Essex Knights of Columbus Council, and the Essex Legion, band together to host a celebratory event with Heritage Essex.

  The funds raised are forwarded to Heritage Essex, which maintains the historic Railway Station.

  A judging committee, made up from a member of each of the involved organizations, go through each of the applications, and select a winner. The Citizen of the Year judges assess applications based on what the nominees do in the community as far as volunteer work, and how they go above and beyond to help out the community, especially through the pandemic this year, Aldridge added.

  For the past several years, the Citizen of the Year event has been hosted at the Essex Legion.

Aldridge said the Citizen of the Year Committee is still planning how this year’s winner will be celebrated this October, but members are thinking of unique options that will recognize the winner and raise funds for Heritage Essex, while following Provincial social distancing regulations.

  One option may include hosting a small celebration this year, and combining the 2020 and 2021 winners next year for a bigger event.

  “We are definitely going to do something, but don’t know how elaborate it can be. We are still in the planning stages,” Aldridge said. “We still believe it is something for everyone in the community to look forward to.”

  Typically, the Citizen of the Year winners are announced as a surprise before the Saturday evening entertainment during the Essex Fun Fest. Because the Essex Fun Fest was cancelled this year, just like many other local festivals, the Citizen of the Year committee is planning to announce this year’s winner with that traditional element of surprise, in a fun way. The official announcement will probably take place some time in September.

  Last year’s Citizen of the Year winners were Chris and Laurie Lapain, who were recognized for their volunteer contributions to their church, Holy Name of Jesus Parish, and to Essex Minor Hockey. The 2018 winner was Christine Hayes, who was recognized for her volunteer efforts throughout the community.

Just like many other museums and organizations, Heritage Essex had to cancel a few of its annual fundraisers this year, like its All Ford Car Show and Family Fun Day, which would have taken place this weekend. Other events, like the Essex & District Horticultural Society’s Mother’s Day flower sale, which is held at the Essex Railway Station, were also cancelled. In addition, the Essex Railway Station has had to cancel rental opportunities.

  Due to the pandemic, the doors to the Essex Railway Station has remained closed. Last Thursday was the first time the Essex Railway Station was open to the public. “We’re just going to open up on Thursdays, from 10-4 pm, and see how things go,” Aldridge said. Heritage Essex has a donation collection onsite, if anyone wishes to forward some support during this time of uncertainty. Those interested in making a visit are urged to keep an eye on its Facebook pages, or call ahead, to see if any changes have been made.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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