Pugwash Communities in Bloom has named their recipients of the Community Pride in Action Award for 2017.

Recipients are Louise Cloutier, Richard Dittami, Bob Nogler, Dot Pal and Wally Vaters. These individuals have enriched the Village of Pugwash through their community service and generosity of spirit by setting fine examples of what it takes to grow a village of positive, energetic people who care about each other. This year’s recipients all have a strong work ethic, bravely jump in to make their visions a reality, generously invest in community organizations and know how to make a difference.

Meet the award winners:

Louise Cloutier and Richard Dittami – Community Visionaries – ‘opening up creative opportunities’

Cloutier always knew that when she retired from teaching art in the high school, she would still be involved in art education in some way. She dreamed of possibly building an artists’ retreat on her land in Kolbec. In 2014 when she was getting close to retirement, she realized it might not be necessary to build an art centre from scratch. Her partner, poet Richard Dittami, already owned a big old house on King Street in Pugwash that he was mostly using for storage. Within sight of both the elementary and high schools within the village core, Cloutier thought it just might fill the bill.

Through the summer of 2015, with a lot of hard work and optimism, Cloutier and Dittami gave the house a major cleanup and fresh face, inside and out, and transformed it into ‘Art Quarters’. Not only did the restoration improve the streetscape on King Street, it also, by the spring of 2016, became a welcome hub of creativity in the village. Neither Cloutier nor Dittami knew if the plan would work when they took those first steps. It was truly a leap of faith that has been inspired. Now in its second summer of art workshops, guest artists, Paint Nights and even a literary reading, Art Quarters has been a wonderful addition to the cultural fabric of Pugwash and surrounding area. And this is just the beginning. Cloutier is being asked to hold sessions in other locations like the Lobster Factory, Wallace Museum and Fox Harbour Resort. Her vision, with Dittami’s support, has proved to be not only possible but continues to open up new and surprising possibilities.

Bob Nogler – Community Mover and Shaker – ‘working hard to get the job done’

Nogler is a competitive kind of guy. He has always been into sports and is committed to an active lifestyle.

“I exercise daily. It’s part of who I am.” There isn’t a sport that Nogler is not involved with in the village – including curling, golf, badminton, and tennis. That involvement has led to him often volunteering with the organizations who provide them.

“My mentor was Ralph Fullerton. He was a great guy, involved with youth sports as a coach, especially high school badminton, and he was one of the four founding fathers that created the Northumberland Links. He showed me how volunteering could contribute to a community and fostering sport in youth would impact them for their whole lives.”

Two years ago, Nogler gave himself another challenge – an arduous solo trek on the Camino in Spain. In the process, he had the notion that he needed to do more hiking in Nova Scotia and fantasized about walking from his home in Conn’s Mills to Pugwash, about a 25 km journey. So when, in 2016 The Friends of the Pugwash Estuary received a grant to create a more extensive trail system in the area around the Estuary House, Nogler, and friend John Caraberis, were two of the first to volunteer their time and energy to the project. The intent was to cut a 3.5 km trail that would join up with the existing Foundation trail of about the same distance, and be renamed ‘The Peace Trail’. Bob supervised one and then two students with the work on a daily basis, from June until the beginning of August. For safety’s sake, he was the one using the chain saw. It meant long, rugged hours and a dedicated spirit to accomplish the task, one that not many volunteers would be able to commit to. The project was made possible by the Nature Conservancy of N.S. and the Windsor Salt mine giving their permission for the trail to cross their land.

Nogler does not regret his involvement in this ambitious outdoor recreational and educational project. With the other volunteers at FOPE, he looks forward to the next stages. In September interpretive panels and signage will be installed along the Peace Trail, giving hikers information on wildlife and vegetation. Eventually the hope is that the trails will link up to the Trans Canada Trail system. Nogler may be taking the 25 km walk from Conn’s Mills sooner than expected!

Dot Pal – Community Grower – ‘feeding the community’

When Dot Pal started volunteering with the Open Hamper Food Bank in Pugwash, she quickly realized that there were some challenges that needed to be addressed to improve the diversity and quality of the food offered. Fresh produce was often close to its best before date and freezer space was limited. As a retired educator and also a member of the Pugwash and Area Community Health Board, she is passionate about health and wellness and looked for solutions. In the summer of 2016, Pal arranged to harvest the produce from the Cyrus Eaton School Garden for the food bank clients, but due to the size of the raised vegetable garden and the small variety of vegetables, the end result did not fill the demand. Not to be deterred, Pal took the next logical step and the Pugwash Open Hamper Food Bank Garden was born.

A committee comprised of two members from the food bank organization, one from the Pugwash and Area Health Board, and one from Communities In Bloom was formed to organize the preparation and maintenance of the garden plot, the planting, and harvesting of the vegetables. With support from the Pugwash Village Commission, Communities in Bloom, the Pugwash Volunteer Fire Department, the Municipality of Cumberland County and other members of the community, the garden was soon in place and by mid-summer, fresh vegetables was being harvested for the food bank every Wednesday.

“This gives families the opportunity to help with this worthwhile project, experience growing their own food and learning firsthand the value of eating fresh food,” says Pal. Under Pal’s guidance, clients are already planning to expand the variety of the produce, extend the growing season and making wish lists for the future. Pal stands out as a leader who takes action to foster a healthy, thriving community.

Wally Vaters – Community Builder – ‘build it and they will come’

Coming off a five-year commitment as chairman of Pugwash HarbourFest, billed as Cumberland County’s Premiere Ocean-Front Event, Wally is tired but inspired by all the community involvement and energetic volunteers he has had the privilege to work with. The 2017 festival was even more challenging as it combined with the Gathering of the Clans to celebrate Canada 150 and again hosted the Tall Ships as part of the Rendez Vous 2017 International Regatta – a multi vessel trans-Atlantic spectacle. But Vaters recognizes that all the hard work and collaboration was well worth it, as it emphasized the potential of Pugwash Harbour for the future. With its rich boat-building tradition and Windsor Salt as a partner to maintain the docks, Pugwash is well-positioned to take the next step. Vaters firmly believes the waterfront can be developed not only to increase recreation and commerce opportunities but to foster a new generation of youth who value what the harbour has to offer and who will work to protect our waterways. He envisions not only recreational boating for all ages and venues and events for everyone, but a water safety program to educate all sailers, including the differently-abled. Growing up on the water, Vaters wants to share his passion with others.

With a wealth of experience volunteering and working not only with the Chamber of Commerce and the CO-OP in Pugwash, but in the cities of Hamilton and Burlington in Ontario in the city planning division, Vaters realizes what can be done if a community has the will to make it happen.