Orangeville women recognized for volunteer efforts with the 2023 Ontario Senior of the Year Award

June 22, 2023   ·   1 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The province is recognizing the contributions a local senior has made with the many not-for-profits she volunteers for in Orangeville.

Heather Sheehan is this year’s Ontario Senior of the Year Award recipient. She was nominated by Orangeville council and chosen by the province.

“Heather is a strong asset to our community, positively impacting many individuals through the work she does,” said Mayor Lisa Post. “She is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, and better meeting the needs of those who are struggling. Our community is fortunate to have Heather, and Orangeville council is pleased to celebrate her work through the Senior of the Year award.” 

Sheehan said when she got the call from Mayor Lisa Post on Friday (June 9), telling her she was selected as this year’s recipient, she was shocked and overwhelmed. 

She told the Citizen there are lots of other people doing great work in addition to her that deserve recognition.

“I’m handling it by saying, that I’ve been chosen to represent all the wonderful seniors that do so much. I’m representing all my friends and colleagues.”

The Ontario Senior of the Year Award recognizes seniors over 65 for their efforts to enrich the social, cultural and civic life of their community.

Sheehan began volunteering heavily about 25 years ago when she moved to Mono from Caledon East and retired. 

At that time, her husband suddenly passed away while playing “old timer hockey.”

“He had a heart attack on the ice. He died a happy man, with the skates on, but that didn’t help the rest of us,” said Sheehan. 

She was a nurse by profession before her retirement but didn’t work in palliative care, so she was entirely unprepared to lose her partner. She said this made her want to volunteer with Hospice Dufferin, helping others work through the challenges that come with losing loved ones.

Over the years, she’s donated her time to many other not-for-profit organizations, like the Orangeville Food Bank, Choices Shelters, Celebrate Your Awesome, and Headwaters Health Care Centre’s TeleCheck program.

Sheehan said she spent 12 or more years volunteering with TeleCheck, a program where volunteers call seniors who live alone. It helps combat loneliness and provides social connections many seniors don’t otherwise have. The program also supports health routine reminders like taking medications, eating meals, exercising, and attending appointments.

“The thing I liked so much about that, particularly because I was a nurse, is it works every day of the year – weekends and holidays,” Sheehan said. “People who are lonely are particularly lonely on weekends and holidays, so it’s it was a program that I really believe in.”

Heather’s volunteer efforts also extend to the local arts and culture community.

She supports local artists through art shows and events and is a long-time supporter of the Dufferin County Museum, the Dufferin Arts Council, and Theatre Orangeville (TOV). 

When it comes to charitable groups or initiatives, Sheehan said it’s vital to form partnerships and have organizations work together.

“For instance, Orangeville Theatre and Community Living, the program that they put on together just makes so much sense. It takes talent from one area and explores it with another,” said Sheehan of the Creative Partners on Stage program at TOV. 

“If you’ve ever been to any of the performances that that group puts on, I spend half my time watching the show, because those actors are really good, but I also watch for parents in the audience. That’s what fills me up, I see how incredibly joyful they are at seeing a family member on the stage.”

Sheehan’s been volunteering at the Choices Men’s Shelter, serving homeless men, since it opened and said she hopes it receives enough funding to remain viable.

She said she’s always been a big supporter of Family Transition Place, as it’s a needed service for women in the community. Still, there has yet to be an equivalent emergency shelter service for men.

Sheehan said the program at Choices is much more than just a bed; it provides people with the counselling and services needed to get back on their feet.

“The program is working with these men to help them get through it, so they can go back into the community and be the dignified people they really are,” she noted. 

Sheehan said the County of Dufferin needs to “get with it” and dedicate more annual funding to ensure the project’s long-term viability.

When asked where her drive to volunteer comes from, she attributes much of it to her family.

“I grew up in a preacher’s home, I’m a preacher’s kid. And I saw it with my parents, that’s just what they did. That was that was their occupation and preoccupation, so it comes naturally,” Sheehan said. “It isn’t any great thing at all. It’s just the way I’ve lived.”

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Çharles Peach says:

    À disbarred former orangeville lawyer continues to take my money illegally from me. He has also done this to many others also. Former clients of his. I want to pay for public notices warning the public about his practices. I won’t name him but will post public notices. I want others who have had their funds taken illegally.


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