By RON FANFAIR
Immigrants need all the help they can get to assimilate into a new environment.
For Chris Campbell, it seemed like everywhere he turned after arriving from Jamaica nearly three decades ago, there was a welcoming hand to help facilitate the transition.
“People embraced me and provided opportunities,” he said. “I will never ever forget that. Toronto has been good to me and volunteering is my way of saying thanks for all the assistance I got along the way.”
Campbell was the recipient of the John Herra Award presented annually to volunteers who demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and proven commitment to their community.
Herra was a Toronto Police Service (TPS) auxiliary officer who retired as an inspector in 1996 after 14 years of community service.
“I was an auxiliary officer for two years at 31 Division, so I can relate to what he did and the impact of his work on the community,” said Campbell. “There are few things more fulfilling than giving some of your time to help uplift communities.”
He has assisted in the construction of the Breakfast Club’s floats for the annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival and was among five of his union carpenters who volunteered to travel to Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake ravaged the country. He also went to New Orleans 11 years ago to build homes for displaced Hurricane Katrina victims.
Joining the Carpenters Union in 1989 just two years after coming to Canada, Campbell completed his carpentry apprenticeship in 1994 at George Brown College and worked on several major construction projects in the city.
The former construction site supervisor and carpentry apprenticeship instructor is a Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario representative for Scarborough, Markham, Stouffville, Pickering and Ajax. He also helps to resolve labour-related issues between management and workers on job sites or at the Ontario Labour Relations Board, organize non-union companies and negotiate collective agreements.
Campbell was among three members of the TPS Black Community Consultative Committee (BCCC) honoured last week at the Divisional Policing Support Unit-organized Volunteer Appreciation Night awards.
BCCC co-chair John O’Dell received a 10-year pin while educator and community worker Yvette Blackburn, who is a candidate for an Elementary Teachers of Toronto executive member position, was the recipient of an Appreciation Award.
Five, 10, 15, 20 and 25-year pins were presented to Community Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) volunteers at the event that coincided with National Volunteer Week celebrations observed from April 10-16.
Deputy Chief Jim Ramer thanked the volunteers for their service and reminded them they are an integral part of Canada’s largest municipal police organization.
“Our volunteers provide counselling and support and they are group leaders, program co-ordinators, coaches, fundraisers and more,” he said. “They represent every walk of life, age and cultural group. Volunteering is as important to the person who serves it as it is to the person being served. It’s truly gratifying to serve a cause, work with people, solve problems, see benefits and know one has had a hand in making change.”
The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) funds volunteer programs and supports many of the initiatives.
Board member Ken Jeffers said the Service’s volunteers are an extraordinary group of people whose work is critical to the TPS and the city.
“Through their selfless dedication and enduring hard work, they create the foundation for healthy and safe communities,” he said. “We owe them a great debt. Their dedication and generosity enrich our society in many different and unexpected ways. They invigorate our communities and infuse them with compassion and they often show that their legacy will inspire generations to come. Through our volunteers, the Service is able to establish positive relationships with all segments of our community and assert a greater presence throughout the city.”