The Cowichan Lake District Chamber of Commerce announced the recipients of its annual community awards last week, with the two awards going to three Lake residents this year.
Aaron Hamilton, operations manager for the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation, was named the Citizen of the Year for 2014. The Nichole Stock Community Award went to two recipients this year: Denise Allan, chairperson for the Lady of the Lake Society, and Darlene Weberg-Pohn, whose volunteerism has spanned countless organizations and families across the Lake.
Presenters noted Hamilton’s spearheading of talks between the town and the First Nation, as well as his coordination of the carving of the totem pole expected to be raised in town square in September. Hamilton also presented a business plan for a guided canoe tour program earlier this year, in hopes of further invigorating tourism. Hamilton’s work in “bridging cultures” between the town and local band were a major factor contributing to him being named Citizen of the Year.
“Our biggest accomplishment last year was working with the town and getting that relationship framed up, which led to the pole,” Hamilton said. “The other was getting our business plan adopted for the community. This area could become a big hub for tourism.”
The Nichole Stock Community Award goes to an individual who has exemplified volunteerism, served the community unselfishly on an ongoing basis during the past year and has not received renumeration for their volunteer activity. All qualities that both Allan and Weberg-Pohn displayed in 2014 and in past years.
Allan was noted for her work organizing Lady of the Lake, which has turned many local girls into ambassadors for Lake Cowichan, Allan having acted as chairperson of the society for the past six years. Allan has also served as the Palsson Elementary School Parent Advisory Council’s secretary for five years, and her business, The Depot, has worked to support numerous local charities.
Weberg-Pohn was recognized for the countless hours and amount of energy she put into fundraisers for the Newman and Pilkington families, the Community Services Hampers, the Cowichan Lake Food Bank, Lake Cowichan Animal Rescue, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society and many others.
As per tradition, Hamilton was not informed that he would be receiving the award, and was invited to the Chamber under the guise of presenting an update on the Ts’uubaa-asatx Square pole project.
“There was a delegation there representing the Nation, as we had just joined the Chamber of Commerce,” Hamilton said. “They said they were here on behalf of me, and I looked to my wife and said ‘they should be saying they’re here on behalf of the First Nation.’”
Hamilton said that he would like to see the town and residents continue to pursue economic development within Lake Cowichan, to encourage more people to come to the area and to do so with sustainability in mind.
“We need to plan accordingly, we need to make sure we do everything in a sustainable manner,” he said. “Make sure we pay attention to what we have and why the town is beautiful now.”