Ramsey maintains Christmas tradition at the mission


By Ron Giofu

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey maintained the tradition of the local Member of Parliament coming to serve meals at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission.

Ramsey was at the mission again on Christmas Day were she volunteered to help serve Christmas dinner to those who attended. She was joined this year by her son Max.

“I got to know (mission president) Tim (McAllister) and got to know what they are doing,” the Essex MP said.

After initially being invited early in her first year as an MP to serve Thanksgiving dinner, Ramsey started doing Christmas that year as well and has been doing it the three years since she was elected. She indicated that it is a partnership she enjoys.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey helped serve Christmas dinner at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission. From left: Ramsey, Aisha Barry, mission president Tim McAllister, Ted Laporte and Wanda Lawhead.

“It’s a wonderful group of people who come to celebrate Christmas,” she said. “It’s a family here. Everyone knows each other.”

Ramsey added that she was happy to see the volunteers come together and help out that day as well.

“I think it’s a wonderful sense of community that Tim has built,” said Ramsey.

The objective is not just serving people food, she added, but also the ability to allow people to get together and enjoy Christmas with others.

“It’s about fellowship and having people get together and be a part of something,” she said.

“I believe in people helping people,” said McAllister. “I am not doing this alone as I have the support of the community and the volunteers.”

McAllister said the mission “lights up” every Christmas.

“You see that glow on people’s faces, both young and old, as they smile and interact with each other,” he said. “They are not alone on this day. Seeing this gives me the strength to do what I’m doing.”

Ramsay, Natyshak hold Christmas open house



By Ron Giofu


Everyone from community leaders to the general public shared the Christmas spirit with the area’s two elected officials from the upper tiers of government.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey and Essex MPP Taras Natyshak co-hosted a Christmas open house at Ramsey’s office with the New Democrats looking back on 2017 as well as ahead to 2018.

Natyshak said he was able to achieve some legislative highlights provincially, including the bill he tabled to assist flooding victims in the county. Not only does that bill try and take measures to tackle the issue of flooding, but it also helps protect flooding victims from poor treatment from insurance companies.

“That’s something I was pretty proud to have passed,” he said.

Legislation regarding the extension of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for first responders was another achievement. Natyshak pointed out that work involved probation and parole officers, police services and now also includes bailiffs and special constables. Should they suffer from PTSD, it would be presumed they acquired it on the job. Natyshak notes that bailiffs, special constables and those in similar positions often see “horrific scenes” in the duties they are performing for the public and need their mental health needs looked after as well.

Natyshak, first elected in 2011, said just being able to help people is one of the highlights of the job.

“The joy is just being able to serve every day on behalf of the people of Essex,” said Natyshak. “The ability to help individuals is always going to be a powerful and special thing.”

Windsor-Essex County is “the best place in Canada to live,” he believed, and “the reason it is the best is because of the people who live here.

“I’m just so proud to be a part of the community and to represent this community,” he said.

2018 is an provincial election year but aside from that, Natyshak said the area’s economic metrics are improving.

“I think the sky is the limit for this community,” he said.

The vision remains to have quality education, health care and infrastructure and Natyshak believes those can be accomplished by working together.

“There are many highlights for 2017,” stated Ramsey.

The first item she mentioned was being able to bring new federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh to the area. One of his recent stops was at an agricultural facility, and Ramsey said agriculture is another one of her highlights for 2017.

“I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with the agricultural community,” said Ramsey, noting she toured several facilities and farms earlier this year with Natyshak.

Ramsey said she is also proud of the work she has done helping seniors and working with her team to find solutions for their issues. She noted the NDP has a national pharmacare motion tabled in the House of Commons and she is proud of that as well.

Seniors have difficult choices to make, including whether they can afford medical needs such as prescriptions. Dental care for seniors is another issue she wants to work towards.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey co-hosted a Christmas open house at Ramsey’s office in Essex. The two NDP representatives have offices side-by-side.

Health of the Great Lakes is another file she has worked on and will continue to work on. Ramsey noted there was a tri-level meeting in her office this year on the issue and the work continues to find solutions to such issues as algae blooms and overall health of the lakes.

“Our communities are surrounded by water.”

The re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is something the NDP is carefully watching closely as well, Ramsey noted, adding that she has been sharing the area’s concerns as well as hearing the concerns of others during trips to Mexico and Washington. She said the United States has taken positions that Canada can’t accept but hopes the end result can still be one that is better than the current free trade agreement.

The current agreement doesn’t do enough to protect the environment or working people, she said.

“We’re pushing for a better NAFTA because there are flaws in the agreement that need to be fixed,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey added that she is watching the NAFTA negotiations for things that are important to local residents as well including issues that may impact the flow of people and goods across the border.

The other major highlight for Ramsey was going around the area for Canada 150 celebrations. Whether it was in Amherstburg or elsewhere in the county, Ramsey said she enjoyed seeing how the region celebrated the nation’s 150th birthday

Amherstburg Optimist Club hits the cold water to help kids in need



By Ron Giofu


The temperatures were cold, the wind was brisk and there were snowflakes flying through the air.

What better day for a swim?

The Amherstburg Optimist Club held its annual polar bear dip recently at Colchester Beach. Registration and a post-dip celebration was held at the Shooters Roadhouse in Harrow. Dippers were taken to and from the beach via school bus.

Optimist Club president Brandon Renaud didn’t enter the cold Lake Erie water Saturday but was on hand to help out in other ways.

The Amherstburg Optimist Club held its annual polar bear dip Dec. 9 at Colchester Beach.

“We had about 20 people register,” said Renaud “So far, we’ve raised about $1,600.”

The Amherstburg Optimist Club helped out two families at Christmas time last year and how many they help this year will be determined once an exact fundraising total is available.

“The more we collect, the more we can do,” said Renaud.

The Amherstburg Optimist Club has teamed with the Harrow Kinsmen in the past but Renaud said the Optimists did it on their own this year. He said those who participate always have a good time.

The Amherstburg Optimist Club held its annual polar bear dip Dec. 9 at Colchester Beach.

The Amherstburg Optimist Club held its annual polar bear dip Dec. 9 at Colchester Beach.

“Everyone likes to do it,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s a bit chilly but it’s worth it for the cause.”

Renaud thanked all of the participants, the sponsors and those who donated. He also thanked Keith Bridgen, owner of the Shooters Roadhouse in Harrow, for all of the work he puts into the annual polar bear dip.

The Amherstburg Optimist Club has about ten members, Renaud stated, and meetings are held in various locations in Amherstburg right now until a permanent location can be secured. Anyone interested in joining can e-mail or visit their Facebook page at

“We’re always looking for new members and new ideas,” said Renaud.

Ramsey helps out at Mission on Christmas Day



By Ron Giofu


The annual Christmas tradition continued at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission where the riding’s Member of Parliament came to help serve dinner.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey maintained the tradition this year, as she and members of her family attended the mission to help serve the people that turned out Christmas Day. Going to the mission on Christmas was something done by her predecessor Jeff Watson but Ramsey said her involvement with the mission actually began a few months ago.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (second from left) joined volunteers at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission to help serve Christmas dinner.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey (second from left) joined volunteers at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission to help serve Christmas dinner.

“I came out at Thanksgiving,” she said. “I met (mission president) Tim (McAllister). We had a great time serving everyone and we decided to come back for Christmas.”

The new MP said assisting with Christmas at the mission was another way of helping out. She said the role of a Member of Parliament is to help the constituents.

“As an MP, that’s what I’m here to do,” said Ramsey.

The New Democrat said she plans on making helping at the mission on Christmas Day an annual tradition.

“Whenever Tim needs me here, we’ll be happy to lend a hand,” she said.

Ramsey said her husband’s aunt Lana Talbot is a long-time volunteer at the Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission. Talbot estimated it has been about eight years that she has been volunteering and was drawn in by the sign that displays the mission’s “people helping people” motto.

“That sign is what got me in here,” she said, noting she also knows McAllister through church.

“I love the mission,” Talbot added. “I love the people.”

Mission president Tim McAllister said the Christmas Day dinner went over well again this year.

“Christmas was a beautiful  day at the mission. We served 120 meals,” said McAllister. “The mission would like to thank the community for their support.”

Talbot added a lot of people need assistance but are not always sure the level of help they require.

The Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission is located at 298 Victoria St. S. and can be reached at 519-736-9140. Their website is

Family surprised with accessible van



Dan deWaal sits in his new accessible van that was purchased by friends Jason and Kim Laframboise.

Dan deWaal sits in his new accessible van that was purchased by friends Jason and Kim Laframboise.

By Adam D’Andrea


Christmas came early this year for Tracy and Dan deWaal, who received a gift that has left them shocked, humbled and overwhelmed with generosity.

The deWaal family was surprised with a new accessible van on Dec. 1, courtesy of their good friends Jason and Kim Laframboise. Jason and Kim had been asking their families for donations to purchase a new vehicle for Dan, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2000. The wheelchair-accessible van the deWaal family had been using since Dan’s diagnosis was on its “last leg” and in dire need of major repairs.

“The van lasted us as long as it could. It had a ton of miles on it and was constantly in need of repair,” said Tracy, who said her kids jokingly referred to the old van as the “bucket of bolts.”

“We just kept patching and patching it because we still don’t know how long we’re going to need the van for, because we can’t determine the disease.”

According to Tracy, the final major repair prompted Jason to begin thinking about replacing the van. He began emailing members of his and Kim’s families for help and searching across Southwestern Ontario to find an accessible ride for Dan, eventually finding one in London.

“Kim and I have always admired Dan and Tracy for getting to all of the kids’ events and having a positive attitude through all the hard times they’ve been through without complaining to anyone,” Jason said.

On the day of the surprise, Kim spoke with Tracy’s sister to get her out of work. When people began arriving at the deWaals’ home the family knew there would be a surprise, but didn’t know to what extent.

“Even when the van pulled into the driveway with bows all over it we didn’t think it was the van. We thought there was something in the van,” said Tracy laughing. “There aren’t even words to explain it.”

The deWaal family was recently surprised by a new, accessible van thanks to the generosity of friends Jason and Kim Laframboise.

The deWaal family was recently surprised by a new, accessible van thanks to the generosity of friends Jason and Kim Laframboise.

The new van will make it considerably easier for Dan to get to their children’s sporting events without worrying about whether or not the vehicle will make it home.

“There were numerous times where we were stranded somewhere. We don’t need to worry about that anymore,” said Tracy. The new vehicle will also help out the family financially, as they won’t have to constantly patch and repair their means of transportation anymore.

Since Dan’s diagnosis Tracy said people are always trying to help out and make their lives easier in any way they can. The generosity from Kim, Jason and their respective families has left them thankful and grateful beyond words.

“We’re so lucky to have them as friends and in our lives. We don’t know what we’d do without them.”