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Volunteer work garners Rachel Mulder Youth Citizen of the Year Award

Belwood woman has donated her time to Fergus Horticultural Society, serving high school lunches, singing in church choir and more

Rachel Mulder did not let the pandemic get in the way of helping others.

Instead, she decided to rise to the challenge.

On June 18, the 19-year-old from Belwood, received the Youth Citizen of the Year Award in recognition of her volunteerism by the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

“I was so surprised to receive the award. This is quite an honour. I can only imagine what great work the other nominees are doing. I am proud and I feel so proud of my community for recognizing youth, and I hope more youth can be inspired by this,” Mulder said.

As the recipient of the Youth Citizen of the Year award, Mulder received a bursary of $1,000 from RLB Chartered Professional Accountants.

The award is presented to an individual under the age of 25 and this year, the Chamber recognized three nominees in this category.

“We were really pleased to see three strong nominees in this category, and we do not envy the adjudication group! As with each of our award categories, the Youth Citizen of the Year award is adjudicated by a group of volunteers,” said Sally Litchfield, general manager at the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce.

“They review each nomination package and the award parameters and come to a consensus on a winner. Outstanding contributions to our community, leadership, and integrity are the hallmarks of this award.”

Mulder was recognized for her years of volunteerism in her community with a focus on horticulture.

From serving lunches at her high school, to maintaining the gardens at Wellington Terrace Long-Term Care Facility in Aboyne, Mulder has also been involved with the Fergus Horticultural Society and sings in the choir at St. Joseph’s Parish in Fergus.

“I began volunteering in elementary school. I was a lunch helper and then I started reading at masses at St. Joseph’s and then singing in the choir. I’ve also helped out with church fish fries, baking sales, and Christmas bazaars.”

“Times are really tough now and it’s difficult to see people in the community struggle. It’s about taking those extra steps, so I started making care packages. People are so receptive to these little things,” Mulder said.

For Mulder, it’s the small things that make a big difference.

“Personally, one of my big goals in life is to make a difference. And it’s not about the big things. It’s the small things that matter. It makes you feel good to see that you have made someone’s day,” Mulder said.

“I think my volunteer experience in the community has been varied and that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Mulder has a passion for gardening and landscaping. She has just completed her first year in the Horticulture Technician program at Fanshawe College in London.

“I grew up on a dairy farm, so I always knew that I wanted to work outside. It started from a garden at home. I think gardening and landscaping can bring communities together,” Mulder said.

While studying, Mulder hopes to continue volunteering.

“I would also like to create a club at school relating to plants which can help raise funds in support of a charity,” she says.

After school, Mulder hopes to develop her own Agritourism farm.

“I would like to offer a venue where people can learn, host community events and workshops. This is what I would love to do in the future, to have a place that can bring the community together,” Mulder said.

Since winning her award, Mulder is thankful for the community support she has received.

“Everyone has been super positive and so supportive. My mom had balloons and dessert for me. The community has been awesome, and I’ve had so much support from people I’ve volunteered with and worked for,” Mulder said.

Volunteering continues to inspire Mulder to contribute, and to stay connected with her community.  

“I think volunteering is important because humans were built for human connection. People are feeling isolated now. It’s important to help them know that they are not alone, especially if you any gifts and talents to share,” Mulder said.

“I think you should find your passion and turn it into something that you can share and give to others in your community. Step outside your comfort zone and you’ll be surprised by what will come!”

Mulder says that despite the pandemic, people have become closer.

“It’s actually brought about so much good,” Mulder said. “And in many ways, it has brought people together.”