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'A total surprise': Province honours Georgetown senior's volunteer work

Florence Riehl receives Ontario Senior Achievement Award

Florence Riehl’s biggest concern was that she might delay the ceremony for the Ontario Senior Achievement Awards. 

“I’ll probably stand there talking to the Lieutenant Governor,” Riehl said Thursday morning before receiving her award. “I can walk through the mall and talk to 20 people I don’t know. That’s just who I am.”

That has made the 89-year-old the ideal receptionist at the Hillsview Active Living Centre in Georgetown, a volunteer position she’s held for the past 14 years. In addition to greeting visitors to the centre every day, Riehl also serves as the travel coordinator, setting up day trips for the members, has organized fashion shows, been a member of the board of directors and written columns to promote events at the centre. Pretty much pitching in wherever her help is needed.

“If there’s a need, I do it,” Riehl said. “If I can do something to make somebody happy, I’ll do it. That’s why we’re here on this earth. I think we forget that sometimes.”

It’s also why Riehl is among the 20 seniors being honoured by the Province with the Ontario Senior Achievement Awards, which recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to their communities and the province.

At the Queen’s Park ceremony Riehl was described as someone “driven by her passion to keep seniors connected and engaged.” It went on to say she was “a wealth of knowledge for all that happens at the centre” who through her careful and thorough planning “adds value to every project she touches.” 

Riehl, who will celebrate her 90 birthday in a couple of months, doesn’t quite see it that way.  

“This was a total surprise,” she said. “When they called to tell me, I thought it was a crank call.”

And while the retired teacher doesn’t see anything special about her own contributions, she said she will accept it on behalf of all the people who contribute to making the centre a welcoming place.

“This belongs to all the volunteers,” she said. 

Also recognized at the ceremony was Milton’s Kathleen Cox, whose contributions have been felt throughout Halton Region. For 17 years, Cox has been a victim services coordinator for Halton Police.

“Kathleen has brought kindness, compassion and unconditional support to victims of crime or tragic circumstances,” said Michele Sanborn, assistant deputy minister of policy, programs and strategic partnerships for the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility.

Cox is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to calls from Halton Police to assist victims. She is also the coordinator for the victim quick response program, which provides financial assistance to the victims of crime.

“Dealing with people who have experienced some of the worst circumstances imaginable, she is offering help and support services or simply letting them know they’re not alone,” Sanborn said. “When people are in their darkest hour, Kathleen has shone a light that has given them hope and healing.”

The Province also honoured Peter David Pellier, a trained volunteer at the Distress Centre Halton who provides support to callers of all ages.

The ministry says he "uses his life experiences and an empathic approach to make a positive impact with people in distress or crisis. For over 20 years, he has worked almost 4,000 hours and never missed a shift during the pandemic."

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Herb Garbutt

About the Author: Herb Garbutt

Herb Garbutt has lived in Halton HIlls for 30 years. During that time he has worked in Halton Region covering local news and sports, including 15+ years in Halton Hills
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