ACS recognizes volunteers at appreciation dinner

By Jonathan Martin

More than 100 local volunteers had a bit of time donated back to them Wednesday evening.

Amherstburg Community Services invited its regular contributors to the Verdi Club for dinner, prizes and words of appreciation.

The not-for-profit has been active in the community for more than 40 years. It relies heavily on donated time and skill to continue its work.

The services ACS provides range from delivering healthy, pre-prepared meals to those whose mobility is impaired to increasing financial literacy and helping with debt-management.

Amherstburg deputy mayor Bart DiPasquale sat on ACS’ board of directors around 10 years ago.

“I started talking to Helen Hayward, who ran the organization at the time, and immediately felt a connection with it,” he said. “Even now, it’s very close to me. I don’t have a lot of time left on my plate now, but I still try to carve out as much as I can for it.”

Amherstburg Community Services executive  director Kathy DiBartolomeo (right) speaks  to volunteers including LaSalle mayor Ken Antaya and Amherstburg deputy mayor Bart DiPasquale (front left) at the Verdi Club. ACS volunteers were served dinner and given a chance to win prizes from a draw as thanks for their service.

Amherstburg Community Services executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo (right) speaks to volunteers including LaSalle mayor Ken Antaya and Amherstburg deputy mayor Bart DiPasquale (front left) at the Verdi Club. ACS volunteers were served dinner and given a chance to win prizes from a draw as thanks for their service.

Before stepping back from ACS, DiPasquale worked with its board to hire current executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo in 2009.

“Our strength really comes from our volunteers,” Said DiBartolomeo. “(Since I became executive director) the community has really stepped up. We’ve had a huge influx of volunteers (over the past seven years), which has allowed us to add some programs, expand others and substantially increase the amount of good we do. The volunteers really do it because they love doing good (deeds).”

LaSalle mayor Ken Antaya started volunteering with ACS’ Meals on Wheels program when he retired from his position as the town’s CAO. He said he volunteered because he could see the effect his good deeds were having.

“I got involved when they were (cooking the meals) in the basement of St. Andrews (Anglican Church) in LaSalle,” he said. “It’s something that’s very important to me. As soon as I’d walk in, I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody that happy to see me.”

He added that while serving dinner is important, he believes the real service Meals on Wheels provides is giving love and friendship. Antaya said he continued volunteering for a couple months after being elected mayor, but found he wasn’t able to give ACS everything he feels it deserves.

“It’s the people who can commit and are reliable who really make the program (what it is),” he said. “I think tonight is important because we need to show the people (who have committed) the impact they have.”

As a way of driving that message home, the night concluded with the reading of a letter. June Fox has used ACS’ services for a long time, but was unable to attend the event due to health concerns. Instead, DiBartolomeo stepped onto the stage to read it out on her behalf.

“I would like each of you to look at the other volunteers sitting at your table as if you were looking in a mirror,” the letter read. “Because, collectively, each of you inspires the best in people.”

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