Witness a strong team in action

Empire Life co-chairs Ian Alexander and Karen Swain reveal the thermometer surpassing our goal

There’s a saying in sports. There’s no “I” in the word team.

Watching a team come together and work magic is…well, in a word, magical.

This past week, our Empire Life United Way committee and team wrapped up its annual United Way campaign. Our goal was $240,000 and we blew it out of the water, raising more than $260,000. The money is still coming in.

Those of us who have been involved in our United Way campaign for many years have been asking ourselves, what did we do right? What was the magic formula and how do we replicate it next year?

While I think there were many things that made this year’s campaign a success, having a strong team in place was key.

It’s always interesting working with teams and volunteers. Some people prefer to work diligently behind the scenes on a specific task; others are happy to pitch in where needed, while others are more comfortable taking a leadership role.

When teams start working together, there’s always that initial adjustment period when people are trying to figure out the plan, who’s taking the lead, who will do what and the personalities of the players.

And then a magical moment happens when the team just clicks. The plan is in place. Everyone knows what they need to do and they do it.

That’s what happened with our team this year, and they did a magnificent job.

A big kudos to our campaign co-chairs this year Karen Swain and Ian Alexander who built a strong team and whose positive support and leadership guided them to their goal.

And a big shout out to Jessica Schonewille on my team who is one of the hardest working volunteers and supporters of the campaign I know, and who came in every day this week despite having bronchitis to do her part. You’re the best. 

Final notes

  • To learn more about the important work United Way does in your community to change lives locally, visit your local United Way website. If you haven’t given to this year’s campaign yet, give now.
Aaron Lutz is one of our behind the scenes workers
My friend Aaron Lutz is one of those guys who works hard behind the scenes but prefers not to be in the spotlight, so this time Aaron I’m putting you in the spotlight!
Jessica Schonewille
Jessica Schonewille came in every day this past week despite having bronchitis–that’s how dedicated this team was
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Get out and vote local

All candidates meeting
My neighbour and councillor incumbent Bruno Albano speaking at our all candidates meeting in Verona

This past week, pop star Taylor Swift urged Americans on her Instagram account and the American Music Awards to get out and vote.

A testament to her power and influence, nearly 65,000 Americans ages 18 to 29 registered to vote within 24 hours, and those numbers are continuing to grow in the US every day.

I’ve never understood why anyone in the United States or Canada wouldn’t exercise their right to vote. It is the single most important freedom and right we have.

Here in Canada, we will go to the polls once again this month to elect municipal officials. I recently attended the all candidates meeting for my district, and one of the incumbents said while municipal elections have traditionally seen some of the lowest voter turnouts, it is actually the most important vote because it is your opportunity to influence and shape what happens in your own community.

I was extremely impressed with the three men running for mayor, and the five men running for the two councillor positions in my area. Every single incumbent was well versed on the issues, passionate about the beautiful area we live in, and had a vision for how to attract young families, business and look after our growing senior population. It’s reassuring to know that after all the votes are tallied, no matter what happens here in South Frontenac, we will be well represented.

I was also extremely impressed with the dedication and commitment of all the candidates to serve. At least four or five of the people running had full-time jobs, young families and served on committees, volunteer organizations and more. Dave and I know three for four of the guys personally, and they are all stand up people. I applaud all of them and their families for running for council. My only wish was to see more women and diversity represented.

This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and vote locally. Most municipalities have online voting so there’s no excuse not to vote!

On a lighter note: If you read last week’s post, A Country Mile, you’ll appreciate this. I’ve seen many of our local candidates this week out and about. Mayor candidate Mark Schjerning waved to me three different mornings this week on my commute into Kingston—he was standing at the side of the road in Sydenham and Harrowsmith waving to cars. My neighbour Bruno Albano, who is running for councillor was putting up signs on highway 38 yesterday. We honked our horn in support, making him jump. Only in the country!

More posts on voting

If I were Prime Minister for the Day

Scour a book sale

Books on table

There’s one sale we watch for every year: the Kingston Seniors’ Association annual book sale. It was yesterday, so we hopped in the car and headed down to see what printed treasures we could find.

I love books, and while I see why people like eReaders for times like when you’re travelling, to me, there’s still nothing like the feel of the printed page in hand.

Here were some of the books I scored yesterday:

  • Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson
  • A Good Year by Peter Mayle. If you’ve never read any of Mayle’s books about living in Provence, you’re missing out on a real treat
  • Flags of our Fathers—the New York Times bestselling book by James Bradley about the six United States Marines made famous by Joe Rosenthal’s photograph and statue in Washington D.C. of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, also made into a major motion picture
  • A lighthearted read by Judy Blume called Summer Sisters—perfect for the dock this summer
  • The Wonder, a story about a mystery in an Irish village over a century ago written by the same author of The Room, Emma Donoghue
  • Catching Fire—the second in the Hunger Games trilogy—I read the first one and have seen all the movies, but haven’t read the other books
  • Nelson Mandela’s biography, Long Walk to Freedom

I also picked up a Pride and Prejudice retelling, a novel based in Paris for Grace , a Vince Flynn book for Dave, some sheet music and more.

A bagful of books was only $20.

This week’s #HappyAct is to scour a book sale in your area and see what printed treasures you can find.

Giving beyond the holidays

Loblaw gift card

This week, Loblaw Corporation announced it will give anyone who registers online and who states they bought certain types of bread at their stores from 2011 to 2015 a $25 gift card as a goodwill gesture for price-fixing that took place in their stores during that time period. Registration will open around January 8th.

I plan to register, but I also plan to give my gift card to the local food bank when I get it. I can’t take credit for this idea—at a retirement function the other day, people were talking about the Loblaw gift card and someone suggested we all register and do this.

We give so much to the people we love over the holidays. This week’s #HappyAct to to continue the spirit of giving beyond this weekend.

And kudos to Loblaw Corporation. I’d much rather see millions of Canadians receive a gift card in a positive gesture that can do great good than see the money frittered away in a nasty class action lawsuit.

Be sure to check back next week for my top 10 happy acts of 2017. Happy holidays!

May the songs of the season fill your heart with joy

Christmas carollers
Carollers at the mill in Delta, Ontario

One of the greatest joys this time of year is the music of the holiday season. Sadly, I’ve heard a lot of pathetic Christmas songs on the radio lately (what are some of these artists thinking?)

Music has always been a huge part of the holidays for me. This year, I’ve been to five events and concerts. While I enjoy the kids’ school concerts and piano recitals, my favourite concerts have been our local church cantata, and the Kingston Choral Society’s concert of the Messiah at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, which was magnificent. This Thursday, I’m hoping to catch one of the final advent lunchtime concerts at St. George’s cathedral with guitar player Jeff Hanlon.

Here are a few interesting facts about seasonal music:

  • The singer who sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” Thurl Ravenscroft was the same singer/actor who was the voice of Tony the Tiger, the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes “
  • The word carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy. Carols used to be written and sung all year-round, but over time, the tradition of singing carols is now associated with Christmas.
  • Many modern-day Christmas songs were actually written by Jewish composers like Irving Berlin and Johnny Marks
  • Jingle Bells was actually written to celebrate Thanksgiving (my Ryerson alumni team got this answer wrong at a recent trivia night)
  • If you’re looking for some last minute gifts, Sia, 98 Degrees, Josh Groban and Gwen Stefani all have new Christmas albums out this year.

This week’s #HappyAct is to listen to old familiar carols play and songs of joyful ring. What’s your favourite Christmas song? Leave a comment.

Church concert
Christmas concert at Trinity United Church in Verona

Know where you belong

sign that says happiness is knowing where you belongI’ve spent the last four days in Toronto. It struck me more than ever, that even though I was born there, I don’t belong there.

Toronto is an amazing city, but like with any large city, there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

Toronto the good

Stunning skyscrapers, lakefront paths and parks, festivals and events, fine dining and shopping, and people of every faith, race, culture living for the most part in respectful harmony.

Toronto the bad

Relentless traffic, air pollution, soaring housing prices, long commutes and endangered greenspace from concrete sprawl.

Toronto the ugly

Poverty, homelessness, and indifference. Both days, walking the few blocks to my course in the financial district, I walked past at least a dozen people sleeping on the street. One man was lying in the middle of the sidewalk sideways and was so still, he could have been dead. Everyone, EVERYONE including me stepped around him and walked by. I’m still ashamed.

This week’s #HappyAct is know where you belong. United Ways across the country are kicking off their campaigns. Get involved, give and help change lives locally where you belong.

Gentleman, start your engines

fire crew at demolition derby on stand bySometimes you have to kick the dust up and get a bit of mud on your tires.

Last weekend, Clare and I went to the Odessa Fair to watch the demolition derby.

North Americans have long held a fascination with demolition derbies. Derbies started back in the late 1940’s or early 1950s at local county fairs, probably an extension of the American love of the automobile. Car drivers ram into each other until only one car remains running.

For most local fairs, they are still one of the main attractions. The Odessa Derby started off with an audience participation vote of the car with the best paint job. We liked the one with the teeth marks on the side (I think it won), then it was time for the first heat of minis.

Each heat always starts the same way. Five or six cars enter the ring. The master of ceremonies announces a “gentleman’s bump then it’s full on carnage.

Cars at demolition derby

Drivers have to modify their vehicles for safety. All glass and flammable material need to be removed from the car. The gas tank is removed and replaced with a small two-to-three gallon tank, located behind the driver’s seat and the battery has to be relocated to the floor of the passenger side. Drivers use sheet metal, small oil drums, or beer kegs to protect their fuel tanks. No head on collisions or driver door hits are allowed.

We watched heat after heat of bumper busting, engine roaring, mud flying fun. At one point, the mud was flung so far, it landed on our shirts.

 

People watching at the derby is almost as much fun as the derby itself. The locals who knew the fairground backed their trucks up between the grandstands. One guy even had a home-rigged viewing platform with awning on the back of his truck.

In two words, it’s pure fun.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a seat in the grandstand for the demolition derby in your hometown. Here are three derbies coming up in our area this summer: