Each year since 2008, the Rotary Club of Belleville has been nominating and presenting Paul Harris Fellowships to community members.  Each recipient is nominated by a Rotarian for their outstanding contribution to the community and their demonstration of Rotary's motto of Service Above Self.  A Paul Harris Fellowship is one of the highest honours a Club can bestow on a member or on an individual in the community.  This evening's recipients are joining a rather exclusive circle which includes such world figures as Mother Teresa, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, UN Secretary General Javier Perex de Cuellar and so on.  Honoured recipients were Mark Hopper (nominated by Past President Kristin Crowe), Leah Johnson (nominated by Past President Tracy Bray) and Liz Lehtinen (nominated by Cassandra Bonn).  Master of Ceremonies and Past President Tim McKinney presented each with a Paul Harris pin and certificate of recognition.  Pictured L to R are recipient Liz Lehtinen and nominator Cassandra Bonn, recipient Leah Johnson and nominator Tracy Bray, recipient Mark Hopper and nominator Kristin Crowe and MC Tim McKinney.
 
Cassandra Bonn was honoured to nominate and present the Paul Harris Community Award to Liz Lehtinen, a person in our community who lives up to this prestigious award.  Liz's compassion for helping people, in particular youth in need, is truly inspiring.  Since moving to Quinte in 2006 with her family, Liz quickly made it her mission to give back to the community, first as a supply teacher and Parent Council, helping with many fundraising activities to raise $100,000 to build a new playground at Sir John A. MacDonald school.  From there, Liz, through her own serious health issues, connected with the Belleville General Hospital Foundation.  She learned that equipment such as an MRI machine was paid for by donors without government assistance so Liz made it her personal mission to raise funds to help fund an MRI machine at BGH.  She was chosen as the BGH Foundation Christmas Angel in 2015 and served on their Gala Committee for six years.  Liz serves on the Strong Kids Committee and was campaign chair in 2021.  Currently the Board Chair of the Children's Foundation, Liz has been instrumental in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for kids and youth in need in our community.  Her leadership, empathy and passion are infectious.  Liz has been recognized with a YMCA Peace Award along with her husband Eric in 2019, an Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2020 and in 2021, Liz was honoured as a Community Mental Health Champion with the Connie Carson Community Champion Award through the Enrichment Centre.
 
Tracy Bray was very pleased to bring recognition to Leah Johnson, Belleville General Hospital Auxiliary President and auxiliary member since 2006 after she retired as a graphic designer for over 30 years.  Leah has volunteered in maternity, day surgery, corridor cafe, information desk, volunteer office, tuck shop and aroma cafe, bulletin editor, convener of the aroma cafe and convener of awards and recognition.  Now serving her third term as President of the BGH Auxiliary, Leah has served on many committees in areas of governance, finance, special events, by-laws and QHC advisory committee.   Leah has worked diligently on raising money through auxiliary fundraising events for BGH to purchase much needed hospital equipment.  Since 1938, the Auxiliary has raised over $4,261,779!!!!  Leah is a life member of the BGH Auxiliary and has received the outstanding service award and Ontario Volunteer Service Award for 15 years of service.  And Leah's contributions don't stop there.  She was on the Belleville Figure Skating Club executive for many years and is a life member of that organization.  An avid baseball player, Leah played many years in the mixed and women's slow pitch leagues in Belleville and also tried her hand at 5 pin bowling, also a love of hers.  Currently, Leah is a Director of the Belleville Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic and a member of their finance committee.  No doubt about it, Leah loves people and loves to lend a helping hand to everyone.
 
When Kristin Crowe thinks of Mark Hopper, she thinks of service above self and the ideals of Rotary and deemed it a privilege to nominate Mark for a Community Paul Harris Award.  In June of 2022, Mark retired from a career as General Manager of the Belleville Cemetery, a position he held for the past 17 years, although his career in this field spanned 37 years.  This is where Mark's kindness and compassion is evident and many heart-warming stories are shared by a number of individuals who Mark has assisted over the years, during difficult times when grieving the loss of a loved one.  Mark is also incredibly talented as a photographer and has quietly made a name for himself nationally with nature photography.  His photos have appeared in National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Maclean's, Toronto Life magazine, Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, Weather Network, Explore Canada Tourism and many more.  Mark has received accolades from the likes of Canadian naturalist and painter, Robert Bateman, an inspirational artist to Hopper.  His real motivation is putting smiles on the faces of others.  As a long-time supporter of the Christmas Sharing Program, Mark designed a beautiful Christmas Calendar and generously donated the proceeds, donating more than $15,000 over many years.  During the challenging times of COVID, Mark donated thousands of posters to long term care facilities.  In 2022 he received the Beth Musclow Memorial from Centennial Secondary School awarded to the parent who is most giving of their time.  Mark has held positions as President of the Provincial Funeral and Cemetery Association and served two years on the QHC Finance Committee.  More recently, Mark has spent time sitting with, listening to and photographing some of the homeless in our community in order to get the "real" story out and support these individuals.  Words to describe Mark include honest, fair, for the benefit of all concerned and a good friend.  He has a heart to serve this community and the community has been enriched as a result of it (quoted by Eric Thompson, member of the Rotary Club of Belleville and fellow funeral director).
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