Cathy Dobson The Sarnia Journal has a new feature to honour great people in our community doing great things. If you would like to nominate someone, send their name and the reason you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week to [email protected] Please include your own name and number too.
Most Sarnians know him as the local guy who’s run all six major marathons in the world. But when Dick Felton isn’t running marathons, he’s running Golden K Kiwanis programs and, more recently, he’s been voluntarily running the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre.
Today, the city-owned centre is full to capacity and a going concern despite the pandemic that sunk so many other non-profit projects. For that level of dedication, Felton, 77, was surprised this week with one of the highest awards a Kiwanis member can earn. He became the local club’s first recipient of the Kiwanis Foundation of Canada’s Diamond Mel Osborne Award for continual service to his club and his community.
“This (Lochiel Kiwanis Centre) building is a labour of love,” he said as he received the plaque and medal. Felton worked full-time for two years without pay to find the tenants who fill the building on College Avenue. Many of the occupants are organizations that run programs dedicated to children like the local Girls and Boys Club, St. Clair Child & Youth EarlyON program, and Community Living’s Respite Care for Children. The Centre is used by 700 – 900 kids a week, Felton said.
“Kids who really, really need it…a lot wouldn’t have any summer at all if it wasn’t for this building. “I don’t know what else to say,” he said as 50 or so Kiwanians gave him lengthy applause.
“Except thank you.”
Felton is the retired owner of several industrial based businesses including Sarnia Piping Specialties. He joined the Golden K Kiwanis in 2010, has been club president twice, and is the lieutenant governor for the club’s St. Clair/Bluewater Division. When COVID shut down in-person meetings, among other contributions, Felton ensured the local club seamlessly transitioned to virtual meetings.
“But what I want to highlight today is what Dick has done for our signature project… the Lochiel Kiwanis Community Centre,” said Club President Dennis Loucks. In 2020, the centre’s former executive director left and the 106-year-old building needed new tenants and property management. Felton voluntarily became interim executive director and turned the building’s fortunes around.
“He was here seven days a week, eight-plus hours a day…and the community centre is running efficiently and is financially viable,” said Loucks.
“Without Dick’s dedication, creativity, energy, commitment, and experience as a previous business owner – and his personal sacrifices – it’s my opinion the centre would not still be operating today,” said Golden K past present Allan McKeown.
“His efforts have been simply amazing.” – Allan mckeown
Felton was previously recognized as a Mel Osborne Fellow, named for a high-achieving Toronto-area Kiwanis leader. The Diamond status takes the honour to a new level.
“It is one of the highest, if not the highest, awards we have,” said Jim Scott, Governor of the Eastern Canada and Caribbean Kiwanis District. “It takes leadership, it takes guidance, to make the organization work and help those in need…I can’t think of a finer recognition.”