A ‘Humanitarian’ Among Us

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Paul Turner of Welland being congratulated by Regional Chair Alan Caslin prior to the start of Thursday evening’s regional council meeting. In the background is the T. Roy Adams Humanitarian of the Year plaque to which Turner’s name has  been added, joining those of 13 previous recipients. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

WELLAND – Paul Turner received Niagara Region’s 2016 T. Roy Adams Humanitarian of the Year award Thursday evening.

He also received a standing ovation from councillors, staff and others in council chambers for the meeting.

He is the 14th recipient of the award, named after Mr. Adams, a former mayor of St. Catharines and long-time member of regional council. Niagara Region established the award to honour Niagara residents who best exemplify his values, dedication to community service and who see volunteerism as an integral part of their lives.

Tim Rigby, a St. Catharines councillor and chair of the award adjudication committee, introduced Turner as 2016 recipient, commenting: “Paul has contributed to enriching the lives of others by volunteering his time to many organizations in Welland, the Niagara Region and abroad.”

Some of Turner’s involvements over the years:

Chair of Strategies to End Poverty Niagara (STEP), an advisory committee on poverty to City of Welland council. Affordable housing has become one of its chief concerns;

Organizer of kNOw Poverty, a social justice/political action group that focuses on improving the dignity of people living on the margins;

Long-time board member of Hope Centre;

Worked with and provided volunteer leadership to Notre Dame students at Yancana Huasy – a centre for children with special needs in Lima, Peru that was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross;

Travelled to India to experience poverty there and gain first-hand knowledge about conditions in that country;

Co-ordinated the annual Notre Dame Pilgrimage Walk which raises awareness and motivates students to become involved in Developing World causes;

Volunteered to head up the committee when St. Kevin parish decided to sponsor Syrian refugee families.

It is only a partial list, but one that provides the co-ordinates to help define what Turner is about and what makes him tick.

In February, he retired after a 32-year teaching career, all at the high school he attended as a student, Notre Dame.

A column about him just after he retired noted: “Turner was a walking billboard for Notre Dame and the myriad activities that go on there. More than anyone else he wore themed sweaters or t-shirts for various activities in which he was involved one way or another: pilgrimage, Montreal Massacre awareness, hockey, poverty, fair trade, social climate, the list goes on, too many to remember, too many to mention. But he didn’t just wear them – Turner lived the causes and projects he espoused, he was always an integral part of them and they of him.”

He said he was looking forward to retirement because it would provide him more time to do more in the community.

Always on the search for something new, he is planning a follow-up to the It’s A Wonderful City event he organized, with volunteers, in 2014.

Turner was humbled by the recognition he received Thursday evening in council chambers, and probably more than just a little embarrassed.

When he spoke, he was more comfortable showering praise on the true “heroes” with whom he works, unseen volunteers who avoid the limelight and volunteers who work on the front lines without recognition.

Asked by a reporter after the meeting about where he draws his strength and commitment, Turner said: “…my faith.”

Turner was accompanied to the meeting by daughter Jaclyn, who will be in Grade 12 at Notre Dame come September. She listened intently to what was said about her dad, and also to what he said at the podium.

Two excerpts from Turner’s nomination letter bear sharing here:

“Paul is quick to become involved in projects set up for local families with seriously ill children, families experiencing emotional and financial stress because of their tragic situations. The word ‘no’ is not part of this man’s vocabulary, he always finds a way to join in, to direct his personal, seemingly boundless energy, his passionate one-track-mind for success, to whatever he becomes involved in. This may be a way of giving back because the Turner family suffered the loss of their daughter Julia a few years ago and they remain profoundly appreciative for the love and compassion that was showered upon them at that difficult time.” and,

“In our increasingly challenging society, Paul retains strong ties to his faith, he isn’t one who is content with just keeping the faith but believes strongly in sharing it, as Mr. Adams did through his service to God. Paul has chosen to live his life exercising body and soul – by lifting another’s, certainly a hallmark of what it is to be “humanitarian”. For all these reasons Paul Turner is deserving of the T. Roy Adams Humanitarian Award for 2016.”

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