2019 Halifax Regional Library Board Impact Award Recipients

On Tuesday, June 25, 2019, Halifax Public Libraries staff, partners, and community members gathered for our Annual General Meeting.

We were pleased to recognize the following individuals and organizations for their outstanding work in our community.

Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award is presented in recognition of an individual or group that has had a significant impact on the Library and our community through collaboration.

This year's award was given to the Sackville Community Food Garden

The Sackville Community Food Garden is a local volunteer effort that making a distinct impact on the community, tackling food insecurity issues. The garden launched in 2017 and empowers participants to produce their own fresh, healthy, low-cost food by providing free space, instruction, and support to build self-confidence and personal skills. It also serves as a welcoming gathering space where people connect with other community members and share knowledge and conversation. Last year, the garden helped boost Sackville Public Library’s Seed Library by procuring over 2,000 seed packets from Halifax Seed. They have offered to reserve garden space for the Library’s use for our food programming. The Sackville Community Food Garden has helped us reach many new community members, and inspired Library users to grow their own food and become more confident with their gardening skills.

Staff Innovation and Impact Award

The Staff Innovation and Impact Award recognizes a Halifax Public Libraries staff member who has displayed an outstanding commitment to innovation, resulting in a positive impact and service improvement for our community.

This year, two outstanding staff members were awarded.

Renise Cain is based out of Cole Harbour Public Library has been serving the communities of North Preston, East Preston, and Cherrybrook for the past several years. Her initiatives within the community are renowned, and she brings her warm, kind, and gentle spirit to everything she does. She is always willing to speak about her work in the community, and her joy is infectious. She has developed a wonderful connection to the community by leading various projects and initiatives such as the seed library, the community book club, book bins, and all of the outreach programs that she brings outside of the walls of the Cole Harbour branch and into the community. On the award application her nominator closed with “Halifax Public Libraries is a better place because of the rich work Renise is doing in the community outside of our doors.”

Shawn Gregory leads by example and is often the first one to step up when help is needed. Shawn’s manager often receives many positive comments about him. Many of the comments are about the volunteer tax clinics that Shawn hosts at Alderney Gate Public Library (a very popular service!). People always mention Shawn's kindness, thoughtfulness, and respect. Most recently, Shawn stepped forward when the Page Turners book club in the Central NS Correctional Facility was looking for volunteers. Shawn went through the training and volunteer application to work with our community partner, the John Howard Society, and is now involved on a weekly basis with the outreach book club. This speaks to his character and attitude—and dedication to his community. Shawn is attentive, meeting each of the book club members’ unique needs and looking for ways how the Library may be able to help. Shawn has partnered with the John Howard Society of NS to promote their Employment Readiness Program and is now facilitating basic technology sessions off-site for the Society’s clients. Shawn’s manager says that he comes back with a sense of energy and enthusiasm that indicates his passion to help this vulnerable segment of our population. Shawn sees the possibilities in everyone.

Volunteer Impact Award

The Volunteer Impact Award is given in recognition of outstanding innovation shown by a Halifax Public Libraries volunteer, resulting in positive impact and service improvement for our community.

Two generous volunteers were awarded this year.

A long-time volunteer with Halifax Public Libraries, Florence Sassine started as an English Conversation Group facilitator at Central Library. Being a second generation immigrant herself, she has an exceptional ability to connect with newcomers. Florence participated in the conversation group program for years, but it is when she started volunteering with the new series of food programs that she found her true passion in the community of cooks and food lovers. Florence participated in regional presentations for newcomer conversation groups, where she spent time on the road with staff members to travel to different communities in support of the program. She gave her full unconditional support to the program—from doing administrative work to creating resource handouts and vocabulary sheets for newcomers. She served the food and interacted with newcomers and helped translate recipes. Currently she is volunteering for Cooking Club for Newcomers at Central Library. This is a workshop series that empowers newcomers in showcasing their recipes from home. Florence edits, revises and formats the recipes that participants submit. Talk about food literacy! Thanks to her effort, the team is well-organized, and newcomers feel embraced and empowered. Through her selfless work she demonstrates the values of the Library through empathy, diversity, quality and inclusion.

Michael Potter has been volunteering in the English Language Learning Program at Halifax North Memorial Public Library since 2016, and he has made these past three years count. Michael works with newcomers in a 1:1 setting…or so he thought. Michael came in expecting one participant, but found that her sister, their friends, and another friend’s son wanted to join in on the learning—and suddenly he was working with five people. Through all of it, he kept his sense of humour and a relaxed, friendly approach. He developed such an affection for one child, Michael went on to become a tutor in the Reading Support program so he could work with him further. Michael has gone above and beyond for Syrian newcomers in the community. He attended a parent-teacher conference with one parent so he could better understand the challenges and issues the student was facing in class. Michael also visited newcomer families in hospital and their home and has helped friends of the Barho family whose children died tragically in the fire. Michael has become part of the community at Halifax North and is adored by children and adults alike. Often he works on the floor in the children’s section so that kids can be part of these lessons as well. He gives his time freely, all while working as a young lawyer in town.

It is our pleasure to acknowledge these community members and present these awards each year. Congratulations to all of the 2019 Library Board Impact Award winners!