Gerald Tracey of Eganville, Reuben Stone of Cobden and members of the Physical Activity Network of Renfrew County were celebrated as the first winners of the Warden’s Community Service Awards.
In chairing his final session of Renfrew County council Nov. 28, outgoing Warden Bob Sweet presented the awards that recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that make important contributions to their communities.
Tracey, who is perhaps best known as publisher of the Eganville Leader newspaper, received the individual service award for his tireless work as a community volunteer.
Tracey, 59, said he’s been involved as a community volunteer since his early 20s, when he helped raise funds to send a Pikwakanagan citizen to Rome to meet the Pope.
Over the years, he has been involved with numerous community projects, more recently as part of a 10-member committee to arrange support for Eganville middle-distance runner Melissa Bishop. These activities included a parade and homecoming after she competed at the 2012 Olympics in London.
“It was a very emotional experience to be able to be part of Melissa’s dream,” Tracey told The Renfrew Mercury EMC. “It was a very humbling experience for everyone on the committee.”
Yet, Tracey says two particular projects stand out, as the most rewarding during his storied history as a community volunteer. One happened in the early 2000s when he helped raise money to buy a van for Round Lake resident Kevin Cybulski who was crippled in a logging accident.
The other was his fundraising efforts, as committee vice-chair, to help realize construction of the Fairfields seniors residence in Eganville.
“The pinnacle, the jewel of all jewels,” said Tracey, “was Fairfields, and working with a dedicated group of people to build a home for seniors, to keep them in their community.”
Tracey noted there are clearly many people deserving of the warden’s individual community service award.
“I appreciate that someone thought I was worthy. It’s nice to be recognized, but I don’t do things to get recognized,” he said.
“My philosophy is, if you can’t leave the world a better place than when you came into it, what’s the point of being here. It’s incumbent on everyone to leave something, to make the world a better place.”
As a long-time volunteer, Tracey said he has enjoyed the project challenges and the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people.
In summarizing Tracey’s involvement, Renfrew County CAO Jim Hutton cited a list that included the Eganville centennial committee from 1988-91, fundraising for the St. James Catholic Church bell tower after the 1995 fire, and serving on the board of directors for the Renfrew-based Mackay Manor.
BUSINESS SERVICE AWARD
The Warden’s Community Service Award for a business went to Reuben Stone of Valley Bio. Stone, who grew up in Micksburg and now lives in Cobden, runs one of Ontario’s fastest-growing industrial hemp businesses.
Stone’s business also includes a seed and grain conditioning facility that opened last spring.
He has also won the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 young entrepreneur award and the 2009 Ontario Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
CAO Hutton described Stone as a proud fourth-generation farmer in Lower Stafford who has “demonstrated a true commitment to preserving farming in the area, researching and planting different crops, and accessing national and international markets for grain and oil products to revitalize his family farm and develop his corporate business.”
“I think we’re just getting started, but it’s nice that this award has gone to an agricultural business in the county,” said Stone, 27.
“I am a pretty staunch supporter of agriculture and what it can do economically for the area, and what we can develop here and value-add.”
Valley Bio’s products include non-traditional commodities.
“We do everything from seed genetics … all the way up to container exports (including gluten-free oats, buckwheat, rye and peas),” said Stone.
Meanwhile, hemp remains a major focus of the business.
“Hemp’s an interesting crop. We have a captive and very-quickly growing market. The demand for hemp is expanding 50 per cent a year, and we’re looking to produce very high-quality food products, and fibre and energy all from the same acreage at the same time.”
Stone says he hopes Bio Valley and fellow agriculture-based businesses continue to be “innovative and create a lot of new products to serve the community and Canadian society, and feed the world.”
The Warden’s Community Service Award for a not-for-profit group went to the Physical Activity Network – Renfrew County.
Founded in 2008, PAN-RC is a collaborative body whose 150 member individuals and organizations work together to improve access to physical activity.
“I hope the award increases public awareness around the importance of physical activity and improving the environment in the communities that we live in, so that everybody has access to healthier choices,” said Physical Activity Network chair Shawna Babcock.
“The key pieces, in terms of success,” she said, “have been our collaborative development with the County of Renfrew and the Active Transportation Strategy, and also our work around accessibility for recreation, in the built and the natural environment, to make sure everyone is able to participate fully in physical activity.”
Hard lobbying isn’t the goal, says Babcock, but rather working “with municipalities to support them, to ensure our roads, our recreation, our culture