2023 Ajax Community Awards - Making the World a Brighter Place

Each year, the Town of Ajax honours the contributions of outstanding Ajax community members. These awards show the Town's appreciation of the many individuals, groups and businesses who give their time and skills for the benefit of the community.

Nominations are now closed for 2023

Do you know an outstanding community member? Submit nominations for those individuals, groups and businesses who have made a significant contribution to our Town.

There are a number of award categories including Community Awards, the Ajax Senior of the Year Award, and the highest honour, the Town of Ajax Civic Award.

Click here to browse the various categories for nomination, learn the nomination requirements or to print a nomination form.


For more information about the Ajax Community Awards program, please contact the Volunteer Management Coordinator at 905-619-2529, ext. 7271.

2022 Ajax Community Awards Recipients:

Ajax Civic Award Adult - Eric Novak


The Accessibility Award resting on top of a columnAt the outset of the COVID pandemic, Eric recognized that local restaurants were badly impacted by not being able to offer dine in services, costs increases, supply shortages, and fees being charged by takeout delivery services. So, he launched a website called, "Durham Region Eats" to help. The site was instantly popular with local residents and has now ballooned to 56,925 members. Eric also

volunteers as an administer for the site which sees about 4,500 posts per month and about 2,000 comments on an average day. There are many testimonials from owners who credit Eric and Durham Region Eats for helping them keep their restaurant open. The site has also pushed Ajacians and residents across Durham Region to take a closer look at the food available in their own backyard, as opposed to defaulting to Toronto.


But Eric's community-building contributions began many years ago.

Eric has taken part in a number of different advisory committees including, Town of Ajax, Transportation and Traffic, Town of Ajax 50th Anniversary Committee, United Way of Ajax/Pickering/Uxbridge – Campaign Committee, Ajax Polar Bear Swim which raised money for Ajax Pickering Hospital MRI, Cardio ECG machines. The Ajax Lakeside Easter Egg Hunt, an event that started with 20 kids and grew to over 400 kids and almost 45,000 eggs at the foot of Audley.


There are undoubtedly many contributions that we're overlooking, such as delivering free climate change talks to local schools based on Eric's training with Al Gore, David Suzuki, and Climate Reality Canada. He has also lent his video production and voice-over skills to Big Brothers Big Sisters and many other charities over the years.


Eric is one of those people in our community that you know you can count on stepping up to support any need that arises. We are fortunate to have him as a member of our community.

Ajax Civic Award Youth - Abby Chiu


The Accessibility Award resting on top of a columnAbby is a member of the Town of Ajax Youth Engagement Advisory Committee (YEAC). She has been a member for over 3 years!


YEAC is a group of youth with a common goal of bettering the Ajax community. The group works together to address the needs of Ajax youth and discuss current issues and trends. The aim of the committee is to increase the skills and leadership of Ajax youth, provide them with opportunities for growth and provide input on local youth issues. Events which YEAC organized over the past year include: 2022 Winter Care package program, Virtual Ajax on Stage, Youth Week/Encourage me Ajax, YEAC Haunted House, and Youth Space events. Abby has been involved in assisting in every youth activity that the YEAC committee has created. She has volunteered her time on weekends and evenings. She would always check in to see if the participants of these youth events are enjoying the activity and will always provide feedback whenneeded.

Abby has taken a lead role in many of YEAC's promotional videos that educate youth on opportunities and events in the community, she is an active and dedicated member of the Ajax Sea Cadets, performed as Simba in J Clark Richardson's High School's rendition of the Lion King Play, and was involved in writing a letter of support on the importance of the development of the Green Development and Environmental Design Guides (GDEDG). With Ajax constantly expanding and creating new businesses and housing developments, Abby thought it is important that we continue to consider the

environmental impact as well as take measures to protect our wildlife populations and scenery that make Ajax the beautiful town it is, which why she wrote the letter.

Abby has shown her commitment by always attending meetings, being able to volunteer at youth events on weekends/weeknights. She has always shown great leadership skills and it shows how comfortable Abby makes others feel. Abby is a kind, creative and passionate youth, her hard work has never gone unnoticed and the YEAC has developed into such a great initiative because of her input and new ideas.

Ajax Senior of the Year Award - Vaqar Raees


The Accessibility Award resting on top of a columnVaqar Raees has been an and active and inspiring force contributing to make Ajax a better place to live. His efforts to mobilize Ajacians, and Durham residents, span over a decade. His moto has been to engage the community and move forward, hand in hand. Some of the outstanding tasks he’s organized and took lead in are:


Fundraisers: Pickering Ajax Hospital with Forest Brook Church, Dr. Roz Healing Place & Youth Center, Emely House, Children Hospice Care Center with Forest Brook Church, Footprints 4 Autism with United Church, and Hearth Place Cancer Support Center


Food Drives: Yearly Food drives for Feed the Need during Ramadan, Durham Police Foundation, Salvation Army, Dignity for the Homeless. Warm Clothing Drive: Yearly distribution of wool gloves, socks, and toque via The Hub in Ajax and other organizations


Vigil & Memorial: Vigils organized with the support of Town of Ajax for Québec Mosque massacre, New Zealand killings, Ukraine Airline incident with Iranian casualties. Memorial for Queen Elizbeth II,


Remembrance Day: Yearly laying of wreaths at Ajax Royal Canadian Legion


Canada Day Ceremonies: Celebrate Canada Day Eve at Ajax. Set-up booths at the main city events organized Town of Ajax.


For Canada 150: Organized 2 distinguished events to celebrate the landmark.

Special programs were designed and presented for children with autism and Music & History of Canada with Lt. Governor of Ontario as the chief guest at Forest Brook

Church Ajax.


Ajax Trivia: Organized 2 online trivia on the History of Ajax an gave away Wide Screen TV sets to the winners.


Volunteer Fairs: One exclusively for Canadian Cancer Society and 2 others with 30-35 humanitarian organizations. Hundreds of youths, and adults signed up as volunteers with various organizations as per their passion.


Student Debates: Organized several debates, partnering with Toastmasters and with the support of Ajax Library and the Durham District School Board.


The list goes on and on. Vaqar is an outstanding member of our community and we are grateful for all that he contributes. 

Community Award Recipients

Awarded to an individual, group or business in Ajax who, over the past year or more, has contributed to...

Arts & Culture Award - Keisha Fanfair

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Keisha, professionally known is Keysha Freshh, has an extensive resume of volunteering that dates back to her school years at Lord Elgin public School. After graduating from Seneca college in 2012, Keysha created 2 music programs called "Bridging the gap: This history of hip hop then and now" and

"The art of songwriting in hip hop". This was a 12-week program, that she taught to youth at the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club. She then created a condensed version of these programs, which she was able to teach in modified form to the youth at Lord Elgin Public school, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, The Royal Conservatory of Music and at different forums throughout the GTA.


Since graduating from Archbishop Denis O’Connor, Keysha has been invited back on numerous occasions to speak to the youth at her former high school. Keysha holds a guest lecturer spot at her alma mater, Seneca College, where she returns throughout the year to give guest lectures to the current class of students in the Independent Music Program, which Keysha was accepted to out of hundreds of applicants in 2012. Keysha has volunteered to mentor many youths through different music programs in

the GTA and was instrumental in re-launching and running a music studio out of the East Scarborough boys and girls club, teaching the youth how to use music equipment and how to record themselves and create music on their own.

Keysha is currently a board member for Unity Charity, which is a national charity that uses Hip Hop art forms to promote resilience and well-being among underserved youth, creating healthier communities.

While being a board member, Keysha also gives talks to the youth in the Unity programs teaching them about the music business and songwriting.

In 2019, Keysha was the recipient of the Distinguished Catholic Second Alumni Award. An award that recognizes former students of the Durham Catholic District School Board who have achieved significant success in their chosen pathway and contributed to the arts in her community. 

Senior Support Award - Ajax Probus Club

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The Ajax Probus group provides an opportunity for local seniors to socialize and keep active. They meet regularly and take part in activities that are of interest to seniors such as playing cards, walking groups, and day trips. They offer both in-person and on-line activities so there is always lots of options for their members to get involved

depending on their circumstance. The Club organizes breakfast groups, lunch and dinner get togethers which helps its members not only connect with people but support local businesses.


Members claim the club has broadened their reach of local establishments for dining, art events, and even local trails, which they would have not known about without the Probus activities. By offering ride sharing, members who may be less mobile are still able to get involved.


The Club organizes speakers to educate its members about various topics like the environment, what services the town has to offer, and other topics which keeps the mind active and alert.


The Ajax Probus Club is a staple of the Town, and we applaud them for improving quality of life for Seniors within our community.

Good Deed Award - Alison Burkholder

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As acting Manager of the Ajax Giant Tiger Ajax location, Alison is always looking to work with local charities, community groups and individuals to help raise money and give donations to various causes.

Her store team have never seen her say no to any charity, church group, or individual requesting donations of product or financial contributions.
Alison works weekly with Salvation Army food bank and outreach programs. She provides the program families in need with warm clothing and supplies.

Alison also donates Christmas presents to seniors in homes, women's shelters, toy drives and the homeless every year. On top of everything else, Alison also sponsors 2 local baseball teams, 1 local Hockey team and 1 local curling team.

The Town if grateful for all the good deeds Alison contributes to this community and hope she inspires others to do as she does and give back. 

Accessibility Award - Community Living Ajax Volunteer Team

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Community Living Ajax-Pickering and Whitby is dedicated to supporting people with developmental disabilities so they can live full lives and be effectively, safely and inclusively supported in their own communities. Through the pandemic, they have been successfully matching volunteers with the people they support to meet up either in-person or virtually. The matched pairs have been sharing music, watching videos, chatting and playing games together. These weekly meetings have helped with the isolation and loneliness that many people have experienced over the past few years. The volunteers have also engaged individuals in activities in-person to support them to become part of their community. The volunteers are able to remove some of the barriers to accessibility many people face daily and promote inclusivity.

Environment Award - Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir & Cultural Centre

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SMHMCC is a local Hindu Temple whose scriptural teachings are based on nonviolence along with prayers and thanks to Mother Earth for all her bounty prior to worship sessions. It is from this conviction that the temple regularly engages with their community to better the environment.

SMHMCC engaged their congregation of Youth and Seniors to collaborate with the diversity of the broader community, TRCA and Town of Ajax to plant trees at Greenwood Park and Lake Driveway.

A "Large Lakefront Park" was adopted this year:- Leveraged lessons learnt from previous projects to engage in a major project to fundraise and plant over one thousand native trees and shrubs to strengthen the cliff of the Lake Ontario shoreline and mitigate against the effects of shoreline collapse due to high lake levels at the foot of Frisco Road on the Ajax Side. They aimed to maximize safety, attract, and improve wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, and use of the park space. They encourage community ownership and pride through participation.

SMHMCC also adopted and maintained a vibrant pollinator garden by the large lakefront adopted park. This garden provides shelter and food for migrating and endangered species of wildlife such as colorful songbirds and monarch butterflies.

The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Mandir & Cultural Centre have gone above and beyond to improve the environment in our local community, and for that, we show our upmost appreciation.

Diversity & Community Engagement Award - Durham Region of Canadian Council of Muslim Women 

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Durham Region of Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) has been working within the local community to reduce racism by sharing information online and in local libraries.

On a National level CCMW has been presenting workshops across Canada as part of the DARE2 Project initiative to raise awareness of Islamophobia and online hate with resources that can assist with countering racism both online and offline. 

Durham Region CCMW has presented ten workshops to local schools, towns, and community organizations and police by a team of volunteers on Islamophobia and online hate.

Durham Region CCMW has had various displays across Ajax for the past four years to showcase the artwork of local Muslim artists. 

As Ajax and other areas of Durham are becoming more ethnically diverse, these workshops made a difference by educating people about racism and how we can counter it. The six library displays provide the general public with knowledge and appreciation of Muslim contributions during the month of October for Islamic History Month.  Durham Region CCMW continues to stay engaged in the local community by working for the betterment of society and the planet.

Recreation Award - William Doherty

The Accessibility Award resting on top of a columnWilliam (Bill) Doherty is an 8th degree black belt in the sport of Judo. Bill moved to Ajax in 1980 and started the Ajax Budokan Judo Club at the Ajax Community Centre, where it has been ever since. Bill has trained over 200 black belts since 1980 and has contributed a great number of Ajax and surrounding area athletes to the National Judo Team.


Under Bill's leadership the Ajax Budokan has produced 5 Olympians, including the first ever female judoka to qualify for the Olympics from Canada (Sandra Greaves 1988) and the first ever World Judo Champion from Canada and Olympic medalist, Jessica Klimkait.


A large portion of Bill's career has revolved around results in local, provincial, national and international events, but that is a by-product of the hard work and dedication he has shown to the sport of judo and the Town of Ajax. The club motto is "developing character and champions through judo" and Bill's first goal is to help young athletes reach their potential and become good citizens. Through Bill's teachings, students have been able to gain and grow their confidence, build attributes to assist them in decision making that has enriched their quality of life.


Bill Doherty has been recognized for his Judo career at the National and International levels, his contributions have been second to none. But it is his dedication and love for the sport right here in Ajax that has had the most impact. Bill has never turned away a potential student, regardless of financial status. Since moving to Ajax 42 years ago Bill has had over 3200 students come through his doors, all impacted in the same way, learning discipline, fitness and how to be a good member of our community.

For more information about the Ajax Community Awards program, please contact the Volunteer Management Coordinator at 905-619-2529, ext. 7271.