Kathy DiBartolomeo

ACS’ “SOUPer Wednesday” returns Feb. 21

 

Soup lovers across Windsor-Essex rejoice – SOUPer Wednesday returns to Amherstburg Feb. 21.

The annual soup cook-off is now in its fourth year as a much-needed fundraiser for its host, Amherstburg Community Services (ACS).  The non-profit organization’s executive director says the funds raised will go towards the purchase of a new accessible vehicle.

“We’re looking to this event to kick-off a fundraising campaign that will help us purchase a new, accessible van,” DiBartolomeo said.  “For $10 a ticket, not only will you get to try some of the best soups made by some of the region’s best restaurants, you will give a helping hand to the people who rely on our transportation service.”

ACS has provided nearly 25,000 rides for seniors or adults with physical mobility issues over the past three years.  In December, they took one of their vehicles off the road and are looking to replace it.

The SOUPer Wednesday event pits 13 local restaurants and chefs against each other to determine who makes the region’s best soup.  Ticket holders receive all-you-can-eat soup, one dessert serving, and a ballot to vote for their favorite soup entry, and takeout tickets are also available.

The event will be hosted at the Columbus Community Hall (formerly known as the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall) at 190 Richmond St from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and is sponsored by John D’Alimonte & Kim Wheeler RE/MAX Preferred Realty, Season’s Amherstburg, Dollars & Cents Investments, and Tino’s Auto Service.

This year’s participating restaurants are the 19th Hole at Wildwood; Armando’s Amherstburg; Artisan Grill; Beacon Ale House; D.o.C.K 21; Dalhousie Bistro; Gilligan’s Amherstburg; Knights of Columbus; LA Town Grill; Maria’s Restaurant; Season’s Amherstburg; Smashed Apple Catering and Takeout; and last year’s champion Specks.

For more information, people can contact Amherstburg Community Services at 519-736-5471 or visit their website at www.amherstburg-cs.com.

Pride Fest holds community consultation in Amherstburg

By Jonathan Martin

 

Windsor-Essex Pride Fest is putting new emphasis on the county.

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) held a consultation with the Windsor-based organization last Wednesday to help it build programming for the town’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

Local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community met with Pride Fest president David Lenz, Pride Fest project coordinator Karen Kahelin and ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. Together, the group discussed what they believe Amherstburg needs to do in order to improve life for its minorities.

Two such community members, Jmar Eduarte and Kenny Goggin, are set to be married in March of 2019. Goggin was raised in Amherstburg, but spent some time abroad after high school. He said it wasn’t until he landed in Dubai, where he met Eduarte, that he fully embraced his sexuality. Despite coming to accept himself and learning to love another, he said he didn’t believe Amherstburg was ready to do the same. After attending Wednesday’s meeting, he thinks his mind has changed.

Jmar Eduarte (right) listens to his fiancée, Kenny Goggin, as he shares his experiences as a gay man living in Amherstburg at Amherstburg Community Services last Wednesday. Pride Fest Windsor-Essex held a community consultation at ACS to assess the needs of Amherstburg’s LBGTQ2S+ community.

“I would have never expected to see this in Amherstburg growing up,” he said. “Amherstburg is a very LGBTQ-friendly town, whether it knows it or not. The issues I thought I’d have living my life do not exist. They aren’t there.”

Goggin’s optimism was tempered by a recurring theme of fragmentation within the community, though. He echoed the sentiment of another local who attended the consultation, saying that he didn’t feel people on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum were visible enough or received enough acknowledgement by administration.

“I would have really liked to see a member of council here tonight,” he said.

Pride Fest president David Lenz said an invitation to Wednesday’s consultation was extended to town hall. No representatives were present.

“We’re trying to assess the needs of each community,” Lenz said. “Using the feedback we receive at these consultations, which will be ongoing, we’ll develop programs tailored to each community and put them on.”

Lenz said Pride Fest has already met with members of the town of Essex, has reached out to Leamington and plans to hold a meeting in Lakeshore. The outreach efforts are being funded by a Trillium grant that was handed out in March of 2017. The money will flow for three years, at which point Lenz said he hopes to apply for additional funding to keep the outreach efforts going.

Karen Kahelin (right) listens to Pride Fest Windsor-Essex president David Lenz speak at Amherstburg Community Services.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo said Pride Fest’s outreach has already made an impact on her. She said Pride Fest asked if ACS would be willing to lend them its facilities, which she agreed to. She said she hopes it’s the first of many partnerships.

“Tonight, two organizations have come together in the hopes of addressing the needs of our community,” she said. “There are services which we already provide which perhaps could be extended to members of the LGBTQ community, such as transportation to Windsor Pride events, which is a need that was brought up a few times tonight.”

Goggin agreed with DiBartolomeo. He said the meeting itself was a positive change.

“Amherstburg is a great place to grow up and live your life,” he said. “Meetings like this will make that more evident and the message will get out there eventually.”

 

ACS needs new vehicle, hopes for public’s support

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) needs a new vehicle and is looking for the public’s assistance in acquiring it.

ACS had to take one of its buses off the road in late 2017 due to the costs of maintaining the vehicle, which was an accessible vehicle capable of accommodating 16 people. That vehicle was roughly ten-years-old and removing it from the road left ACS short a vehicle, said executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

The non-profit organization states it has provided almost 25,000 rides to Amherstburg and LaSalle seniors in the past three years. ACS is aiming to raise $75,000 to purchase a new accessible eight-person vehicle.

Local rides have been reduced by a day and DiBartolomeo said they want to restore that as soon as possible and not risk any further cutbacks. Reducing the amount of days seniors and others with accessibility issues have to use their vehicles “snowballs,” said DiBartolomeo.

“That means seniors that use the service have to cancel appointments at specialists they may have had to wait months for,” she said.

There is also a “Day Away” program that also could be impacted, as family members and caregivers have to rearrange plans if the vehicle service is not available.

“Of our three remaining vehicles, two of them are over ten years old, and frankly, if and when any of those need to be repaired, we might find ourselves in a spot where we need to turn people away,” DiBartolomeo said. “If ever there’s a time we need help from our community, now is that time.”

ACS keeps its vehicles in the best condition possible, added community awareness and fundraising co-ordinator Austin Tyrrell.

“Maintenance costs don’t go down with age,” he said. “These vehicles are well maintained but the costs to maintain them are significant. The new vehicle will help us reduce those costs.”

DiBartolomeo pointed out that it isn’t as easy as just making an application to the government for money. While ACS will request help from the Erie-St. Clair LHIN, the local agency is in competition with other agencies for funding and it could be a process that may take years before any funding is granted.

ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo stands beside of the agency’s buses, being driven by Dawn Laliberte. ACS had to take one of its vehicles off the road recently and is fundraising for a new one.

There may also be restrictions placed on how use of a government-funded vehicle could be utilized.

“By having your own vehicle, you can give more people access to a ride,” she said.

ACS wants to be a solution to the issue of accessible transportation, DiBartolomeo added.

DiBartolomeo says that Amherstburg Community Services have already sent out letters to local businesses requesting donations. They also started selling tickets for their annual 50/50 lottery draw with the cost being three tickets for $5 until their SOUPer Wednesday fundraiser Feb. 21. Tickets for that fundraiser are also on sale now.

DiBartolomeo has asked that anyone interested in donating to ACS can do so by cash or cheque at their office at 179 Victoria St. S. in Amherstburg, or by credit card through their website, www.amherstburg-cs.com/make-a-personal-donation.

 

Don’t get left in the cold – energy supports available for Amherstburg families

 

 

Special to the RTT

 

With this latest cold snap, families are turning up the heat in their homes, often driving up the costs on their energy bills.

For many low-income families, this time of year can be especially difficult.

Help is available though, according to Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

“When temperatures drop this low, it isn’t just a matter of comfort, it’s a serious public safety issue,” said DiBartolomeo. “No person should feel ashamed of needing help for this – we all hit hard times and it is on us as a community to pull our neighbours up when they need that helping hand.”

Amherstburg Community Services facilitates two programs that can help low-income families afford to heat their homes this winter. The Keep the Heat program assists households that have accumulated debt on their accounts with energy companies, while the Ontario Energy Support Program (OESP) provides subsidies for families struggling to keep up with their energy bills.

Individuals can apply for both of these programs, or simply find out if they qualify for assistance by contacting Amherstburg Community Services at 519-736-5471 or by email at info@amherstburg-cs.com.

While the programs are not provided directly by Amherstburg Community Services, their staff will take individuals through the application processes and help provide the fastest possible outcomes from their location right here in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg Community Services is located at 179 Victoria St. S. Their website is www.amherstburg-cs.com.

Amherstburg well represented among MP’s Canada 150 medal recipients

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey recently awarded approximately 40 Canada 150 medals and Canada Sesquicentennial Pins to people from around the riding and Amherstburg was no exception.

Ramsey said the medals were to “incredible people of Essex (County) who have really inspired me. I knew they should be recognized for their efforts.”

Ramsey said that being the area’s Member of Parliament since 2015 has opened her eyes to all of the work taking place in the area.

Eleven-year-old Gabby Wilkinson of Amherstburg (left) was one of about 40 recipients of Canada 150 medals presented by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey.

“You can live here your whole life and not realize the work being done around us,” said Ramsey. “In the past two years I was able to meet and connect with incredible individuals who have inspired me. I have the wonderful opportunity to work with people in our communities who dedicate themselves every day by showing how much they care about their neighbours, making life better for all those around them.  I am honoured to be able to recognize them for their outstanding efforts to make our community a better place with these special symbols of Canada 150. I want to thank every recipient for their continued generosity of spirit that makes our riding of Essex and Canada the best place in the world to live.”

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Among the recipients was Gabby Wilkinson, a student at Amherstburg Public School. Wilkinson was six-years-old when she had problems in math class with patterns. She received help in making patterns and that led to her making bracelets.

From there, Wilkinson started selling the bracelets at an Alzheimer fundraiser in Windsor and raised $68. “Gabby’s Gifts” evolved out of that and the local youth continues to volunteer and sell treats, crafts as well as her bracelets for numerous local charities and causes, including helping the homeless.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Freedom Museum board president Monty Logan.

“I was nervous and excited,” Wilkinson said about getting the award. “It was a nice surprise.”

Wilkinson is now 11-years-old and in her fifth year of helping others.

Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission Tim McAllister was another local recipient. Born in Barbados, McAllister came to Canada and attended St. Clair College and became a welder. The married father of four worked in that field for several years before an auto accident involving a drunk driver cut his career short.

McAllister started volunteering with the mission with founders Andy and Pat Gervais and would eventually become president, a position he has held for the last 17 years. He is also a board member at Matthew House in Windsor. He has also won other numerous awards for his efforts.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (left) presents a Canada 150 medal to Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission president Tim McAllister.

“As president of the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission, I have found great pleasure in our motto ‘People Helping People’,” said McAllister. “I didn’t volunteer to receive this award but on behalf of my board of directors and volunteers, I do it with a humble and thankful heart. For all of those who volunteer and support the mission, I thank you.”

Kathy DiBartolomeo, executive director at Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), was another of the medal recipients. DiBartolomeo started volunteering with ACS in 2007 as a way to give back and to support the community. She worked her way up the ladder and by 2009, she had shown the skills and passion to become the executive director.

With DiBartolomeo at the helm, ACS is in the Amherstburg, McGregor, Harrow and LaSalle communities and assists thousands of people who are vulnerable, elderly or in need. She is also willing to volunteer her time to assist other organizations who need a helping hand.

“I am very honoured and humbled by this Canada 150 medal,” DiBartolomeo stated. “To be recognized for what you love to do is rewarding and gives me and my staff the encouragement to continue serving  our community.

Team Ontario – a group of Essex-Windsor EMS members who won back-to-back gold medals at the Ralleye Rejviz international paramedic competition – were honoured by Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (centre) with Canada 150 medals. Amherstburg native Lance Huver is second from left.

Monty Logan was also recognized with a Canada 150 medal and pin. Logan, president of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum’s board of directors, was elected to that position in 2012, after joining the board the previous year.

Logan has helped guide the museum through key strategic, infrastructure, programming and fundraising initiatives as well as a transformation from the former identity as the North American Black Historical Museum to the Amherstburg Freedom Museum. Two elements of the transformation are complete – the curated archive on the Underground Railroad and the Amherstburg Freedom Summit. The final component is the Amherstburg Freedom Institute, which will focus on promoting solutions to address social and economic challenges facing young people today.

“It’s awesome to be honoured for the work we do at the museum,” said Logan. “More importantly, it’s getting our name out there. It’s an honour to be recognized for the work we do.”

Several police officers were among the medal recipients, including Amherstburg police chief Tim Berthiaume. Berthiaume, who has spent his entire career in Amherstburg, was contacted by the RTT and he said he was happy to be recognized.

“I am honoured and humbled to be recipient of the Canada 150 Medal,” said Berthiaume.

Team Ontario, the group of Essex-Windsor EMS paramedics that won gold at the Rallye Rejviz international competition, was also honoured. EMS Team Ontario members Chris Kirwin, Shawn May, Lance Huver and Mike Filiault made up the 2017 team with Huver being an Amherstburg native.