Rise Above
Labour Appreciation Award Winners

Night of Hope and Solidarity recognizes
local activists and unsung heroes

This year we recognize those unsung heroes who have inspired hope and embodied the labour principle of solidarity! These hardworking activists rose above all the others and offered hope, optimism, and kindness during difficult times.

Len LAAN Images of Hope Award winner 2021

Len Elliott

OPSEU, Administrative Staff Union
Images of Hope

“I’m united in Local Love because I get to be an active participant in mentoring the next generation of individuals that will lead our community.” Len Elliott, OPSEU, Administrative Staff Union 

Len is the type of guy who puts everyone before himself. He invests in up-and-coming members as a mentor and guide. Len encourages those around him to always ask questions to ensure that health and safety are a priority in their workplace. A committed activist, he speaks up on behalf of everyone in need and fights for the benefits and rights of his fellow workers. Len isn’t afraid to do what it takes to get the job done right. He’s even taken part in a train-pull in St. Thomas where he singlehandedly dragged a train to raise funds for United Way. 

When COVID-19 struck our community, Len made it a priority ensure the safety of his members, leading to increased health and safety measures being instituted across the workplace. Len is a firm believer that membership makes the union, and by supporting each other and standing up for what is right, incredible impact can take place. 

LAAN Maria McFadden

Maria McFadden

LiUNA Local 1059
Jim MacKinnon Community Builder Award

I’m united in Local Love because that is the only way we can all be successful together. Without unity, things fall apart and no progress is made.” – Maria McFadden, LiUNA Local 1059, Business Representative

Maria stands for Unity. She works hard to ensure those around her have the supports they need, and believes that the group is always stronger than any of its members. Maria is not afraid to work hard and stand up for something that is right. She believes that facing a challenge is the best way to overcome it, and even if you fail, there will have been no regrets because you tried your best. 

Maria is active in supporting new members. She has spent countless hours passionately educating workers on their rights and helping people feel confident to voice their concerns surrounding safety in the workplace. Maria is a committed activist for women’s issues, and has marched at numerous Womens March events. She also takes an avid part in Take Back the Night each year. 

Denyse LAAN ChangeMaker Award winner 2021

Denyse Holmes

ChangeMaker Award

“I’m united in Local Love because if everyone helps just a little extra, we will all be better off for it.” Denyse Holmes, Cashier, Dollar Tree 

Denyse is an active member in her workplace and a protector of the rights of her fellow workers. She stands for equity and educates herself to be able to deliver inclusive information surrounding Indigenous issues to her colleagues and personal network. She is a tireless front-line worker with over 20 years of experience delivering expertise and service in the retail industry.  

Denyse is instrumental in holiday collections at her workplace in support of local charities helping people in need. She is known for her incredible patience and immediate willingness to lend a hand, wherever it may be needed. Working with colleagues, friends and anyone that will listen, Denyse actively takes part in any opportunity to provide relief and support to those around her. 


Regal Drive Covid Team & Dissing Crescent Covid Team, Community Living London

OPSEU Local 166
Partnering with a Purpose

“We are united in Local Love because giving back to the community is important. If you help others, when you need help, you will find it too.” COVID Team, Community Living London, OPSEU Local 166 

The COVID Team members from Community Living London are the recipients of this year’s Partnering with a Purpose Award. This award goes annually to a group of dedicated people who work together to help improve lives locally. 

When COVID-19 struck our community in March of 2020, this new super-team of individuals was redeployed from various workplaces to cover for staff and help clients of Community Living London who had fallen ill due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The COVID Team worked tirelessly to support several houses across the community and prioritize the needs of clients, showing their ‘leadership in action’ through selfless service. This incredible group of people came together from various workplaces and roles in an uncertain time to ensure certainty and continuity for vulnerable individuals in our community. 

Labour Appreciation Awards

Vicki LAAN Award winner 2021

Vicki Acres

Cupe Local 841 | County of Elgin

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Vicki is an active member of her community who is always looking for a way to be involved and lend a hand. When the pandemic struck and her workplaceThe Elgin County Library closed, she immediately accepted a re-deployment to a long-term care home operating in Elgin to help the residents and staff there with the increased needs of the pandemic. She has since assisted in various roles at the residence and is always happy to support those around her. Vicki led story-time and sing-alongs with the residents and was quick to step in and provide much needed social support and interaction when visitors were restricted during the pandemic. 

Paula and Nuno LAAN Jim McKinnon Home Builders Award winners 2021

Paula Carvalho & Nuno Cabral

LiUNA 1059 | Strathroy District Collegiate Institute

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Paula and Nuno are two incredible individuals who put the needs of their neighbours ahead of themselves. Last year, when a fire displaced a young person at holiday time, they immediately housed the youth in their home. Shortly after, when this young person’s parent passed away, Paula and Nuno made the decision to welcome them into the family and provide permanent housing. In their custodial roles at Strathroy District Collegiate High school, Paula and Nuno work hard to ensure the health and safety of every staff member and student at the school. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020 and increased protocols were implemented for the safety of staff and students, their proactive effort helped ensure the health and safety of the entire school community.

Suzie LAAN Award winner 2021

Suzie Fiegel

OSSTF District 11 | TVDSB

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

There are no words to adequately express the positive impact that Suzie has on the students, staff, and her community around her. She is a behind-the-scenes hero who looks for no acknowledgement and works tirelessly. She feeds students that come hungry, quietly provides clothing to those struggling to make ends meet, and advocates for anyone struggling with mental health. Suzie is committed to equity and actively developed her understanding and knowledge of the struggles of First Nations, Metis and Inuit students so she could further support and empower her students’ success. She has been a volunteer soccer coach for almost three decades and is a member of the Mount Brydges Optimist Club. Suzie’s generous spirit inspires hope and solidarity in those around her. 

Joe LAAN Award winner 2021

Joe Graves

UNIFOR Local 88 | Retired

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Joe is an active member of his Local and a strong support to everyone around him. He is always advocating for his fellow members and quick to negotiate for the betterment of everyone. He lends his support by attending rallies, protests and events that promote the union and social justice. He is an avid supporter of United Way and its partner agencies working in the community. Joe is always willing to go the extra mile to help the people around him and never expects anything for his selfless support.

Mary LAAN Award winner 2021

Mary Hamm

CUPE Local 841 | County of Elgin

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Mary is a staunch supporter of those around her and works actively to support everyone in her life. When her workplace closed at the start of the pandemic in 2020, she didn’t hesitate to accept re-deployment to a long-term care facility in Elgin County to support the residents and staff there. While there, she took on numerous roles including: visitor attendance, recreation guide and meal-time assistant. She used her time to support the well-being of those in the home and continues to volunteer there on a part-time basis despite returning to her permanent role. 

Christina LAAN Award winner 2021

Christina Kleinschmidt

UNIFOR Local 27 | General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Christina is an active member of her Local and the broader community. She sits on the EFAP Committee where she gives her energy to support individuals experiencing addiction and mental health. She is also a committed participant on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at her workplace. Christina is a past United Way sponsored employee where she worked tirelessly to support those less fortunate than herself and to build a community that includes everyone. She works hard for anyone that needs support and always has your back. She seeks no recognition and works only to help get the job done. 

Paul LAAN Award winner 2021

Paul Loosley

United Steel Workers – District 6 | Bradken Manufacturing

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Paul believes in standing up for those that can’t stand for themselves. He likes to work behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, never seeking praise or recognition for his efforts. Paul was a key player in the organization of a collection drive of menstrual hygiene products for shelters and other social service agencies operating across South Western Ontario. He believes in the work of United Way and actively supports what he calls a ‘joint purpose in building strong communities.’ 

Barb LAAN Award winner 2021

Barb Pawlovich

UTE-PSAC Local 00017 | Canada Revenue Agency

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Barb believes everyone is just a step away from needing help themselves and works to ensure there are supports available for when people are in need. Volunteering is a part of who she is, and she has been giving up her time and energy for her community for as long as she can remember. Barb always avoids the spotlight and is quick to lend a hand to those in need around her. This year she worked with her fellow members to support local food security programs supporting individuals struggling to make ends meet.

Gary Siroen

OPSEU Local 109 | Fanshawe College

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Gary is acting President of OPSEU Local 109. Over the past two decades he has also served as Steward and Chief Steward in his union. He is a champion for work-relations between the Union and Fanshawe College and conducts all his affairs in a fair, transparent, and supportive manner. He has also been an instrumental part of the growth of the Local 109 through his thoughtful mentorship with Stewards and Executive Officers. Gary selflessly dedicates himself to helping his fellow members and is always quick to answer questions and support initiatives taking place. He is a Champion for United Way in the Facilities Management Department at Fanshawe College and is an active part of their annual fundraising campaign. 

Sarah LAAN Award winner 2021

Sarah Wells

OPSEU Local 109 | Fanshawe College

Labour Appreciation Award Recipient

Sarah is an active member of the United Way Committee at Fanshawe College and has taken on many roles in her time. She always steps in with a smile and is committed to getting a job done right. Since joining the committee in 2016, Sarah has actively assisted in numerous events in support of the community. She is always quick to pitch in when she sees a need and is committed to making an impact in the lives of the people around her. She uses her considerable skills and knowledge to help others achieve their goals and is active in improving her community. 

Together, we improve lives locally.

Dakota Halfpenny2021 Labour Appreciation Award Winners