Retirement is the time to relish all the things one never had time to do while one was employed, like enjoying early morning and late evening leisurely walks and spending more time in the flower garden.
That was exactly what Jennifer Welshman was doing three years ago after spending 27 years as an executive assistant with Bank of Montreal when she received a telephone call from a close friend.
Lawyer Margarett Best was among a close-knit group of nine friends with whom Welshman had cultivated a relationship over a 20-year period while commuting on the Go Transit system’s Lakeshore East line that operates between Union Station and Oshawa.
Best was about to switch careers to politics and was looking for someone to help with her campaign.
“When I got the call, I thought I would volunteer until after the elections and then quietly slip back into retirement,” said Welshman who is this year’s Guyana Award recipient for Community Service. “The next thing you know, Margarett offers me a job to which I initially said no.”
Best was elected in the Scarborough-Guildwood riding in the last provincial elections in October 2007 and then selected by Premier Dalton McGuinty to serve in his 107-member cabinet.
She did not forget Welshman.
“Margarett came calling again and I eventually agreed to manage the Scarborough-Guildwood constituency office,” said Welshman who worked in Guyana’s insurance sector before migrating to Canada in 1979.
As an executive assistant to various BMO executives, including former president and chief executive officer, Matt Barrett, who later became chairman, Welshman was very organized, competent and adept at running a smooth operation.
Best was looking for someone with those unique qualities and experience when she offered the sexagenarian the job as her Chief of Staff in September 2009. She’s now the only African-Canadian in that position in the provincial government.
“I am like the minister’s right hand,” said the wife of a mechanical engineer husband of 42 years, the mother of three grown children and grandmother of four. “I support her and I work with the staff to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It’s a challenge but I enjoy it. With the bank, once I left the office, that was it. This, however, is a 24/7 job and I am always connected. There is no letting up in this position.”
It’s fitting that Best nominated Welshman for the award.
“Jennifer is the most amazing and incredible person I know at both a personal and professional level,” said Best. “She’s unflappable, she has a great attitude and temperament and she’s very community-oriented.”
Though very busy these days, Welshman still finds time to volunteer with the Guyana Schools Alumni “Last Lime” event celebrated on Caribana Monday for the past 15 years, the St. Rose’s High School Toronto alumni chapter of which she’s a long-serving member and former president, the Guyana Christian Charities and the Guyana Burn & Health Care Charitable Foundation.
“I enjoy volunteering and it’s an honour and very pleasing to be recognized for the charitable work you do,” she said.
The Guyana Awards recognize the outstanding achievements of individuals and organizations in the Guyanese-Canadian community.
Other winners this year include recording artist Melanie Fiona Hallim whose parents are Guyanese; former poet laureate of Ottawa, Cyril Dabydeen; Ontario Power Generation Nuclear New Build executive vice-president Albert Sweetnam; entrepreneur Gloria Rajkumar; University of Manitoba adjunct professor Dr. Bram Ramjiawan; Queen’s University MBA graduate Lisa Punit and Universite de Montreal science professor Dr. Dindial Ramotar who last March disclosed that he and other researchers have found a gateway which is present in all humans that allows anti-cancer agents to enter the body so they can reach and attack leukemia cells.
Bishops High School Alumni Association (Toronto chapter) is this year’s Community Service organization winner while the Hospital for Sick Children is the “Charity of Choice” to receive part of the proceeds from this year’s awards gala to be held on May 29 at the On the Park Banquet Hall, 1095 Leslie Street.