Citizen Awards and Recognition

Volunteer Recognition Awards

The Annual Volunteer Recognition Program provides an excellent opportunity to honour and recognize the many outstanding volunteers in our community. Community organizations are invited to recognize one Individual Volunteer and one Corporate Sponsor each year. In addition, anyone may nominate individuals (or organizations) to receive one of our Special Awards.

This year, we're planning a fun and interactive outdoor event for all 2021 award recipients and their nominating organizations. The event will be held Tuesday, November 9 (details to be announced).


Nominations for the 2021 Awards are open online for Corporate Sponsors and Individual Volunteers, and for our Special Awards (Senior Volunteer of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year, Environment, Civic Pride, George MacPhail, Stamford Alumni Association Award in Memory of Barbara Frum). The Doug Austin Award is presented each year by The Niagara Falls Review.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, October 8, 2021.

For further information please contact the Recreation and Culture Department at 905-356-7521 extension 3336 or email us.

2020 Volunteer Recognition Awards

Watch the pre-taped awards show below and scroll down for more information about the 2020 awards and recipients.

2020 Corporate Sponsor Awards

Community organizations are invited to recognize one Corporate Sponsor each year for their outstanding contributions. (Read more about each Corporate Sponsor.)

  • DeVries Fruit Farm
  • Endura Construction Ltd.
  • FirstOntario Credit Union
  • Little Caesar's
  • Meridian Credit Union
  • Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc.
  • Niagara Recycling
  • Northern Tributes
  • Rose Hill Lane Inc.
  • Subway (Victoria Avenue)
  • The Artista Design & Print Company
  • Yarnspirations
  • Zehrs

2020 Individual Volunteer Awards

Community organizations are invited to recognize one individual each year for their outstanding contributions. (Read more about each Volunteer.)

  • Connie Currado
  • Gary Dell
  • Sydney DiTomasso
  • Mark Federinko
  • Dale Fleckney
  • Ed Fortier
  • Ken Hunter
  • Steven Ingram
  • Bobbie Johnston
  • Dr. Bill Leskiw
  • Karla Machell
  • D'Arcy McHayle
  • Dianne Munro
  • Michael Natale
  • Kerrie Palumbi
  • Harry & Kathy Plas
  • Melanie Potapczyk
  • Paolo Sirianni
  • Tara Thorne
  • Mike Strange
  • Victor Pietrangelo
  • Perry Wong

2020 BeNF Awards

The BeNF Award recognizes people who are proud to be a part of the fabric that makes up Niagara Falls and give back in a generous way to fellow residents.  Over the past few years, the BeNF Award has been awarded to multiple people throughout the City who have done great things for their community.

  • Aneta Fleming
  • Anisha O’Brien
  • Arpana Nautiyal
  • Brenda Cottage
  • Carey Benvenuti
  • Carey Campbell
  • Carolyn Askeland
  • Christina Vasquez-Young
  • Christine Watling
  • Dan McRae
  • Dave Beaton
  • Dave Handley
  • David Rotella
  • Debbie Hardy
  • Eli Sahs
  • Evan Canestraro
  • Falynn Shaw
  • Farkhanda Khan
  • Gary Dell
  • Hand to Hand Thrift
  • Heather Reid
  • James McDowell
  • Jamie Callum
  • Janet Zylstra
  • Joan Bailey
  • JoAnne Caldwell
  • Joanne McRae
  • John Rootes
  • John Stamp
  • Kaitlyn Wurster
  • Kathy Doherty
  • Kelli Bosco
  • Kelly Laslo
  • Kristy Korten
  • Lianne Sahs
  • Lisa Hickey
  • Lorraine Kaija
  • Mariam Parker
  • Mark Askeland
  • Melissa Mallett
  • Milana Abbruscato
  • Nicholas Plati
  • Nicole Friesman
  • Rachael Hatton
  • Reggie Ark Angel
  • Rick Stokes
  • Robertson Bourne
  • Rocco Quaranta
  • Rodale Dwyer
  • Ron Wilson
  • Rosanne Hamel
  • Silia Stapleton
  • Supporting Hands across Niagara
  • Susan Brennand
  • The Soup Kitchen
  • Tiffany Lynn
  • Tina Bellamy
  • Tony Zammit
  • Trevor Sahs
  • Virginia Ladeda
  • Wally Alfred Friesman

2020 Special Awards

Youth Volunteer of the Year Award 

This award is presented to a youth resident, 21 years of age or younger, who demonstrates a true commitment to our community by their volunteer work. The service that they provide goes well above and beyond any volunteer service required by their school.

Presented to Waheebah Ahmed

Giving back is a big part of Waheebah's life.

Throughout high school, Waheebah devoted many hours to extracurricular activities, helping clubs and student needs every day after school. An integral part of the Saint Paul Key Club, she served as the club's president in her final two years. In her final year, Waheebah served as Student Council Secretary and helped younger students boost their grades and gain confidence volunteering as a math tutor.

Outside of high school, Waheebah was equally busy. She volunteered at the Greater Niagara General Hospital on weekends and served on the Mayor's Youth Advisory Committee for three years. In her last year with MYAC she was elected Co-Chair by, and for, a group of talented high school students from across the city.

Currently, Waheebah also serves as a certified Medical First Responder with Saint John's Ambulance. Trained in CPR and advanced first aid, she volunteers at community events to provide first aid if necessary.

Now in her first year at Brock University, Waheebah is majoring in Medical Sciences, minoring in Political Science, and continues to give back by taking part in Brock's Heart and Stroke Foundation and in the Model UN Program.

 Waheebah is an amazing role model for her peers.

Senior Volunteer of the Year Award

This award is presented to a senior resident, 60 years of age or older, who demonstrates a true commitment to our community by their volunteer work. The service that they provide goes well above and beyond and makes a significant impact on the community.

Presented to Tony Zammit

Tony moved to Niagara Falls with his wife, Sandy, about four years ago to be closer to his mother-in-law. Immediately, Tony became involved with The Soup Kitchen as a volunteer on Friday nights. Now an active board member and volunteer property manager, Tony devotes time to the Kitchen most days, taking care of the property and fixing everything that needs fixing.

This year, In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony jumped at the chance to volunteer as Property Manager and has been instrumental in ensuring the kitchen remains compliant with Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Health standards, creating manuals and bulletin boards.

And, working with local high school students on Friday nights, Tony quickly became their volunteer ambassador extraordinaire. Having become a dishwasher expert, he shares his knowledge and appreciation for cleanliness with all the students and ensures they feel important and valued. They all work with a smile on their face because of Tony's genuine love and appreciation.

Tony is always looking for other ways to support people in need, caring deeply about the plight of the less fortunate in our community. On hot days, he drives around distributing cold water to the unsheltered. He volunteers with many other groups who work tirelessly to help those in need, running deliveries for Care4Cause and No One Goes Hungry.

His energy and enthusiasm is inspiring and he truly lives up to his email sign-off: "In Service, Tony Zammit".

Environment Award

This award is presented to those citizens, groups, businesses, industry or organizations residing or working in the City of Niagara Falls who have made a significant contribution toward the protection or enhancement of the City's environment.

Presented to Land Care Niagara (Barry Porter)

Land Care Niagara is committed to creating a healthy and sustainable rural and urban environment that includes citizens who are knowledgeable and active in land resource management. As a not-for-profit community-based organization, they seek to provide services and information through educational outreach, training initiatives, and land stewardship activities.

The Park in the City Committee and Land Care Niagara have been long standing partners in committing to forestry stewardship within the City of Niagara Falls. Together they have developed many community-based tree planting events and programs that engage residents to participate in positive environmental activities.

Land Care Niagara has supported many tree planting projects throughout the City in parks, along trails, as well as pollinator garden installations at Fairview Cemetery and Fernwood Woodlot Park. The organization has also been successful in acquiring grants from TD Friends of the Environment to help plant over 1,200 tree seedlings at various locations in Niagara Falls over the past several years.

And as a leading supporter of the Schools In Bloom program, Land Care Niagara provides complimentary trees to all participating schools every year.

Past winners of the Environment Award

Civic Pride Award

This award is presented to those residents who demonstrate a true commitment to our community and help make the City a nicer, cleaner place in which to live by making a difference to the daily lives of those who live in Niagara Falls.

Presented to Wally Friesman

Wally Friesman is the consummate community volunteer and, until now, has been an unsung hero, quietly going about helping and contributing wherever he is able, from helping keep the Chippawa Boad Dock and the park area clean and free of litter to organizing annual community fundraisers.

Every July, Wally runs a car show to raise money for the community. He organizes and runs the show on an entirely voluntary basis and selects a different charity to support each year. In past years the event has benefitted the Niagara Falls Humane Society and the Chippawa Lions Club. Next year, Wally plans to support the Chippawa Fire Department.

Always there for anybody who needs help, Wally raised money this year for a family whose father and husband is going through a cancer diagnosis and treatments. He also volunteers at Cruisin on the Q and Cruise Niagara in Welland.

Wally Freisman is one of those individuals who deeply loves his community and wants to assist in any way possible to make it a better place for everyone to live.

Past winners of the Civic Pride Award

Doug Austin Award

The Doug Austin Award is a special award presented each year by the Niagara Falls Review.  Doug Austin was a sports editor at the Niagara Falls Review for over 30 years.  The award was started in 1982, prior to his death, and is presented to a person in the community for dedicated volunteer service and accomplishments in sports.

Presented to Geoff Allen

Geoff has been an avid baseball player his entire life. After playing for Taft College in California on a scholarship, he returned home, and played for numerous teams in Ontario including the Hamilton Cardinals, and Brantford Red Sox. He is still an active player for the Niagara Falls Expos.

These days, his passion is coaching the next generation. Geoff currently holds a position with the Greater Niagara Baseball Association Executive as Coach of Player Development and has been a very active coach for many years.

Geoff is dedicated to helping kids reach their potential both on and off the field. For the past few years, Geoff has helped to coach Team Ontario who brought home a championship in 2018. He was also coached the Falcons travel team and was head coach of the team that suffered the tragic loss of player Cole Donneff during the season. Coach Geoff gave the eulogy at his funeral.

On top of coaching numerous baseball teams at once during the season he also helps coach youth hockey and has taken on a position with Brock University's baseball team in player development. Most recently Geoff has been selected as the sport lead for baseball at the 2022 Canada Summer Games.

All this while working full time as a Niagara Falls Professional Fire Fighter and raising three children with his wife Shannon.

Past winners of the Doug Austin Award

Stamford Collegiate Alumni Association Award in Memory of Barbara Frum

This award is presented to an individual or organization who has enhanced the quality of our lives by virtue of their outstanding contribution to fostering and developing Arts and Cultural opportunities in Niagara Falls. Barbara Frum was a well known and respected journalist, interviewer, and commentator in print, radio, and television.

Presented to Karen Stearne

Many people will recognize Karen Stearne as the Executive Director of Heart Niagara, a position she has held since 1997. What some may not realize is that Karen has volunteered in Niagara Falls for more than 40 years and always strives to link community, health, art, and culture into events and initiatives. Karen has served on countless boards, committees, and campaigns and continually gives back of her time and expertise.

Some recent highlights of her contributions include: assisting to organize and implement the Festival of Trees for seven years, showcasing Niagara artists and their eye for decorating trees; creating a walking museum in downtown Niagara Falls using Canada 150 Heritage Posters; including live entertainment and art demonstrations in all event planning; supporting and assisting in the development of an online music platform; and connecting artists and businesses for collaboration on an alley and laneway project to highlight talent and history.

Karen continues to increase access to events and installations that build community capacity linking healthy living, social responsibility, and Niagara Falls culture.

Past winners of the Barbara Frum Award

George MacPhail Award

This award is presented to an individual or organization who has displayed an outstanding volunteer contribution in recreation to the citizens of Niagara Falls. The award is made in memory of George MacPhail, a former Niagara Falls elementary school vice-principal and a longtime, dedicated member of the City of Niagara Falls Recreation Committee. George MacPhail Award nominations can be completed online.

Presented to Deborah Toth

This award is presented to an individual or organization who has displayed an outstanding volunteer contribution in recreation to the citizens of Niagara Falls. The award is made in memory of George MacPhail, a former Niagara Falls elementary school vice-principal and a longtime, dedicated member of the City of Niagara Falls Recreation Committee.

Deborah is a 4th degree black belt in karate who trained in martial arts for almost 40 years. She started her own martial arts school in Niagara Falls and taught martial arts professionally for 32 years, mentoring countless students, ingraining skills and confidence.

Integral to Deborah's approach is the instilment of the value­based learnings of respect, compassion, gratitude, and community outreach.

She continually coordinated opportunities for her students to give back to the community and encouraged them to continue on their own.

Deborah lived what she taught and has been a community advocate and volunteer for over 40 years. She has donated hundreds of memberships to fundraising events; created a martial arts scholarship fund to assist children and youth to get involved and stay involved; and was a dedicated member of many committees and boards.

Although her accomplishments in karate are outstanding, especially as a woman in a male dominated sport, her volunteer contributions to the City of Niagara Falls and her fight for equity and justice are equally outstanding. A trail blazer for women in martial arts and a social justice warrior, Deborah is a shining example of someone sharing their passion and skills to make our community a better place.

Deborah is now retired but her legacy lives on in her students.

Past winners of the George MacPhail Award

More Citizen Awards

Arts and Culture Wall of Fame

Local artists who have made a significant contribution to arts and culture in Niagara Falls.

Civic Recognition Award

Individuals and teams who have achieved accomplishments at a competitive level in various categories.

  • Please review the Civic Recognition Policy for criteria before completing the online application (new form coming soon).
  • Applications will also be available at the MacBain Centre when it re-opens to the public.

Sparkle Awards (New in 2020!)

Outstanding holiday lighting and displays in Niagara Falls. Residential and Commercial/Multi-Residential categories. Free to enter. Prizes awarded by a panel of judges and by popular vote. Formerly run by the Winter Festival of Lights; now run by our Recreation & Culture Department.

Spooky Awards (New in 2020!)

Outstanding, residential Halloween decorations, lighting displays and special effects in Niagara Falls. Free to enter. Prizes awarded by a panel of judges and by popular vote.

Sports Wall of Fame

Local athletes, teams, builders and sponsors whose achievements and/or support have brought fame to themselves and our community and/or enriched the local sports community.

Summer Trillium Awards

Outstanding curbside horticultural, landscaping displays (residential and commercial) in Niagara Falls. Recognizing and encouraging city-wide beautification. New themes each year. Prizes awarded by a panel of judges.