The following is a message from The Community Foundation for Kingston & Area congratulating Sophie Kiwala as the third annual Community Builder Award winner:
The Community Foundation for Kingston & Area has awarded its third annual Community Builder Award to former MPP, Sophie Kiwala. The award recognizes her community leadership in addressing food insecurity, one of the Foundation’s Smart & Caring priority areas.
Kiwala embodies all the characteristics of a Community Builder. Prior to December 2019, Sophie became aware of a gap in available meals for vulnerable people when local meal providers closed for the holidays. She rallied sponsors and volunteers, working with meal providers to allow a group of volunteers (including Rotarians, of which she is one) to use their kitchens to prepare and provide meals when the agencies were closed.
When the pandemic hit, and concerns about feeding those in need grew along with the need for meal providers to adapt their services, Sophie once again stepped up to help. She took it upon herself to convene weekly “Vulnerable Sector Calls” via Zoom, where she openly invited discussion among individuals and agencies providing food to the vulnerable sector. The calls have become a safe place to share information, ask questions, and connect with other service providers.
Since the pandemic, Kiwala has also helped build a community charity garden in Odessa, which supports local food distribution among the homeless and vulnerable. All produce from the garden goes directly to local emergency food service providers, including Lionheart’s, Martha’s Table, St. Vincent de Paul, and Lunch by George.
“Over the past year and a half, I have seen how Sophie takes her ideas and puts them into action: not only by putting in significant time and leadership herself, but rallying and engaging others to work together to achieve her vision,” said Tina Bailey, Executive Director for the Community Foundation. “She is undoubtedly working to make Kingston and area a better place to live, work, and raise families.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no in-person awards ceremony. Kiwala was presented with the Community Builder award by Bailey and the Foundation’s Board Chair Gayle Barr at City Park on Friday. She also received a virtual celebration during the Foundation’s annual members’ meeting on June 29.
“While this award means a great deal to me, it could not have been possible without the many volunteers who supported both the holiday meal program, the charity garden and the agencies who responded to the invitation to come together on the weekly calls,” said Kiwala. “The endowment fundraising model employed by the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area represents our ability to cooperate at the grassroots level, an approach to community building that is important to me.”
In accepting the award, Kiwala thanked and acknowledged the service providers that took part in the process with her. “Although I am most honored to receive this award, it couldn’t have happened without every single partner who was on the call… it is an acknowledgment for those organizations along with their staff and volunteers who worked so hard along the way,” she said. “We had our moments of victory, of great challenges, we cared for one another and saw the roadblocks along the way as opportunities for all to pitch in and help. It was inspiring to work with these silent angels of this community who continuously stand up to the plate.”
Along with the award, a $1,000 donation is made to the charity of the recipient’s choice. Kiwala selected Lunch by George to receive this donation in her honour. “Jenny Hurd and the volunteer team at lunch by George were the ones who in showed me how to deliver the emergency food services during the holiday meal program two years ago,” Kiwala shared. “They exemplified the epitome of grace, in how to be ready to create and feed 50 people, or 150 in a generous and loving fashion. They worked hard, but clearly found such joy in their work in serving their clients and always managing to have a laugh along the way. They, like all of the emergency providers, are there to make a difference in the lives of others. They know their clients’ stories, they understand the challenges, and like all of us, just couldn’t bear the thought of people not having access to good healthy food.”