Noeleen Tyczynski was driving to work one day when she passed a particularly happy looking crossing guard at the corner of Talfourd and Ontario streets.
“He was out on a very cold day, but he was still smiling and seemed to be really engaged in his role,” she said.
That got her to thinking there are many residents who make the community tick but get no recognition for the extra effort.
“There are people who are paid to do a job, or who volunteer all the time, and they go above and beyond.
“Those people should be thanked in a meaningful way,” she said.
That’s why Tyczynski and two of co-workers from The WorkPlace Group – Morell McCurrach and Sharon Prouse – put their heads together and came up with the “Pinfolk” program.
“It was around the same time the county unveiled its new ‘Discoveries That Matter’ campaign, so we thought we’d start discovering people that matter,” Tyczynski said.
The trio drew from the logo of their non-profit agency, which matches job seekers with employers. They had the logo made into lapel pins and began scouting the community for “Pinfolk” nominees.
The first recipient in March was Bob Burns, that friendly crossing guard at Talfourd and Ontario who greeted the children and brightened their day.
So far, 40 local residents have been pinned.
“We don’t tell them ahead of time because a lot of these people are humble and will try to decline the recognition,” said McCurrach.
She and Prouse surprise the honourees, explaining to them they want to acknowledge the people who are the heart of the community and make Sarnia-Lambton a better, safer place to live.
Among the Pinfolk is a financial advisor who donates screens to neighbourhoods so the kids can watch movies outside; a teacher who volunteers for women’s hockey; a retired nurse who goes to local nursing homes with her good china to host tea parties; a McDonald’s employee who makes everyone’s day with her positive attitude; and a volunteer firefighter who made sure his colleagues had access to post traumatic stress counselling.
When pinned, each is asked a few questions about their philosophy or what motivates them and the responses included in a brief post on The WorkPlace Group Facebook page.
“Mostly, we don’t use names and sometimes our Pinfolk decline a photo,” said Prouse. “But they are usually thrilled and there is a lot of laughter and tears when we surprise them.”
The Arts Journal features people who contribute to the cultural fabric of the local community. If you have a suggestion, contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected].