The Mayor of Hawkesbury is encouraging new residents of the community to get involved and volunteer.

As part of the continuing Café du maire (Mayor’s Café) series of meetings, a session held on Tuesday, January 24 emphasized the importance of community involvement. The cafés are held as part of Hawkesbury’s designation as a Communauté accueillante francophone (Welcoming Francophone Community), which emphasizes the town as a place which welcomes French-speaking immigrants from around the world.

“A community is not made for volunteers. Volunteers make the community,” said Mayor Robert Lefebvre.

About 22 people attended the meeting, held at the Hawkesbury branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. Yves Paquette, who in addition to being a Hawkesbury councillor is also the Legion branch’s Sports Officer, explained how residents can get involved with the Legion as members and participate in the recreational and social activities it offers, and how the organization benefits veterans.

Carlos Gnacadja moved to Hawkesbury in September 2021 from Québec City with his wife and three children. He moved to Canada from Benin, a country in West Africa. Gnacadja oversees asset management for the Town of Hawkesbury. The Club Optimiste de Hawkesbury assisted Gnacadja and his family with settling in the community, and he has since joined the club himself.

“It’s important to know each other in the community,” he said.

Gnacadja said community involvement was important to him before moving in Hawkesbury and he was a member of a Lion’s Club in Québec City.

Lefebvre also referred to other community organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, which offer volunteer opportunities to serve the community.

Community Services Prescott-Russell Executive Director Sylvie Lefebvre discussed the work the agency does providing services such as cooking, cleaning, transportation, and assistance with personal business that helps keep residents with serious health issues living in their own homes.

“Our services depend on volunteers,” Sylvie said.

She explained how volunteering benefits both the people being helped, and the people doing the helping. Volunteers are benefitting their own mental health by keeping busy, they demonstrate an example of hope and action for the community, and reduce their own stress and isolation by developing friendships.

Sylvie said Community Services Prescott-Russell receives financial support from the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, and the Ontario government, but it needs volunteers to make its services work. The agency currently has an urgent call for volunteers on its website and anyone who is interested may call Veronique Simard at 613-632-0939.

The Town of Hawkesbury is in partnership with the Conseil Economique & Social d’Ottawa-Carleton (CÉSOC) for the Communauté accueillante francophone initiative. CÉSOC Settlement Worker Pascal Bahilo Rubaghara said new immigrants need a community that is both welcoming and involved. He said Hawkesbury offers both of those things because of its smaller size.

“That’s an advantage,” he remarked.