After sifting through many nominations and much deliberation by committee members, the 2013 Beach Citizen of the Year has been chosen. Lifelong Beacher Suzanne Beard was picked in large part due to her many years of service to Brownies and Girl Guides, as well as close to a decade of organizing with the Beach Interfaith program’s community drop-in lunches.
Growing up in the Beach with six siblings and community-minded parents made an early impact on Beard’s desire to pitch in.
“I’ve always been involved in the community. My parents were and are still very involved,” she said.
Beard grew up in Brownies and Guides herself, in a unit led by long-time Beach volunteer Ruth Thorne. After a brief break, she then took over her own childhood Brownie unit, and occasionally runs a Guide unit as well, when leaders are in short supply.
“I’m seeing kids of kids who have been through my unit,” she said, pointing out that the family oriented nature of the Beach is a natural fit for the Guiding organization.
It doesn’t hurt that she enjoys many of the same activities promoted by the organization: camping, crafts, singing – they’re all part of the fun for her unit, where girls can “prosper in a non-competitive environment.”
The Beach interfaith lunch program, meanwhile, has been operating for well over a decade. The program brings together churches of multiple denominations to offer a hot meal and fellowship to anyone in the East End who needs either.
For almost 10 years, Beard has been helping out at her church, Corpus Christi. She is also the program coordinator, writing up schedules and ordering food for all of the churches, as Corpus Christi, unlike most churches in the Beach, has the facilities to run as a sort of headquarters.
The need to share facilities and some of the workload is a big part of how the unique program came together. Beard said organizers have managed to avoid the politics that could easily trip up such a confluence of faith groups, with a conscious effort to “work on a commonality and not our differences.”
As she points out, the Beach is a fairly affluent community, so those that might need either a little friendship or a meal can sometimes be overlooked. The interfaith lunch program “is a really great support system and a great way to stay in touch with some of the needs in the community that aren’t so obvious,” she said.
Beard has also sat on the board of the Beach BIA for the past year – to many locals, she may be readily recognizable as the manager of Midoco on Queen Street. She also served for eight years on a previous Queen Street BIA, which operated until the late 1980s. As with most other former Citizens of the Year, Beard is quick to give credit to others for helping out.
“I’m very happy that my family is very supportive of what I do. They’re always right on top of it,” she said.
And as for the Beach in general, most of the previous Citizens – David Breech, Gene Domagala, Jean Cochrane and others – immediately come to mind as indispensable proponents of good work in the Beach.
“It’s a really, really good network,” said Beard. “They were recognized for a reason.”
The Beach Citizen of the Year is a joint initiative of Community Centre 55, the Beaches Lions Club and Beach Metro News. Representatives of each organization, along with previous recipients, vote on nominations sent in from the community.
A ceremony honouring Beard will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. at the Millennium Garden, at the southeast corner of Coxwell and Eastern. All are welcome.