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Renfrew County Warden honours late MP Len Hopkins

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer


His tireless efforts finally leading to the designation of the Ottawa River as a national historic site, Len Hopkins was honoured Wednesday for a life of service as an educator, parliamentarian and volunteer.

The late member of Parliament posthumously received the 2016 Warden’s Community Service Award for outstanding individual during a brief ceremony at the county’s administration building in Pembroke. Warden Peter Emon lauded Hopkins for his generosity and hard work as a public and private figure noting that the veteran MP for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke was very well-liked around the county even by those who were politically opposed to his Liberal party.

Representing the riding in Ottawa for 32 years, Hopkins advanced many causes as he served under six prime ministers. He worked to help Polish families in Wilno and Barry’s Bay reunite with their relatives still living behind Europe’s Iron Curtain during the Cold War. However, the cause that was dearest to him was seeing the 590-kilometre Ottawa River join the Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

“This is a very kind gesture of recognition,” Hopkins’ son, Doug, told County council after receiving the award on behalf of the family. “It’s heartwarming for us to know that after all these years he is remembered so fondly. He would be so happy today to see the designation of the Ottawa River become a reality.

Hopkins revealled that his father stated, before passing away in February, 2007, that he felt the designation was unfinished business. The Ottawa River finally gained that status this past July when the designation was signed by environment minister Catherine McKenna. His nomination for the award was put forward by former Ministry of Natural Resources district manager Ray Bonenberg and former Admaston/Bromley mayor Raye-Anne Briscoe.

“Although he is not physically with us today, the fact that you’re recognizing him is evidence that his spirit lives on with those of us whose lives he touched,” added Hopkins.

The not-for-profit award was presented to Renfrew County United Way. Nominees for not-for-profit had to demonstrate accountability to stakeholders, sustainability and enterprise and staff and volunteer development. Emon praised it as a highly effective organization that efficiently manages fundraising on behalf of its partner agencies, allowing these many charity groups to focus their energy and talent on supporting their clients. The agency was especially singled out for supporting the Robbie Dean Centre which has seen 1,000 people since opening their doors in 2013. Out of that number, 107 were identified as highly suicidal.

“It truly is a county family affair,” remarked United Way chairman Doug Tenant. “Thank you for the opportunity to have an award such as this bestowed upon our organization which is incredibly threaded throughout the community.”

The profit business award went to Pastway Planing, the largest in-transit milling facility in eastern Ontario located in Combermere. The profit business recipient had to demonstrate involvement in community programs, activities or services; business leadership in a changing economic environment demonstrating creativity, innovation; and entrepreneurial spirit and partnering with the public sector and community to enhance community life. The family-owned mill has been around for 37 years and employs 80 people. The county recognized the business for long supporting community initiatives including the St. Francis Memorial Hospital, the Logger’s games in Killaloe, the Royal Canadian Legion in Barry’s Bay, and various local sports teams. Pastway Planing also donated the lumber for the newly reconstruction Pembroke Waterfront Boardwalk.

“This is a great honour given to Pastway Planing,” said president Ray Pastway, who attributed their success to the dedication and strong work ethic of his staff, whom he called the “heart and soul” of their business.

Emon added that the Warden’s awards recognize and promote the outstanding efforts by community champions in Renfrew County for their active roles with social responsibility and community contributions. 

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