Like most of the previous honourees, this year’s Citizen of the Year says he can’t quite understand why he deserves the title. As far as Paul M. Babich is concerned, he’s just doing what he does, organizing when things need to be organized, pitching in where he can, and helping out whenever he’s asked.
So is it true? Does he have a gift for getting things done?
“That’s what they say, I guess. I like to get involved,” he said. “My wife says I can’t say no.”
Babich has lived in the Beach since the 1950s, but he still counts himself lucky to be here. After growing up in Malartic, Quebec (about 700 km north and a bit east of Toronto), the time came for a move to the big city.
“There were two properties my mother was looking at, at Oakwood and St. Clair and in the Beach. Thank God she picked the Beach,” he said.
Babich and his wife Linda raised their two children in the neighbourhood. Their daughter, with her husband and three children, still lives only a few blocks away, though their son and his family live in England.
Babich is a long-time member of the Balmy Beach Club, having joined in his teens in 1956. He’s in the club’s Hall of Fame, served on the board for 19 years, and is one of only seven people who have been named as lifetime members.
“It’s a nice compliment,” he said.
Babich helped with the start-up of the Balmy Beach Old Boys hockey team, which he took over organizing in 1986. The team tours Europe every other year, and also holds numerous fundraisers. Those efforts include buying turkeys for Community Centre 55’s annual Share A Christmas program for more than 20 years, as well as occasional one-off events, such as a party during the gold medal men’s hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics that raised $1,200 for Right To Play and Athletes For Africa.
While his time at the Balmy Beach Club is well documented, Babich also extends his efforts in other areas. He served for several years on the board at Ted Reeve Arena, and is currently in his ninth year on the board of this newspaper. He is also a route captain for Beach Metro News, dropping off newspapers for our volunteer delivery team 23 times a year. The least glamorous of his roles is that of unofficial cook for Centre 55, flipping pancakes for its annual Easter and Christmas breakfasts, and hot dogs or burgers at outdoor summer events.
While he insists all of these are team efforts – and no doubt they are – his friend and Balmy Beach teammate Jake Lipsett nominated him as Citizen of the Year because those group efforts are more often than not guided by Babich.
“Somebody’s got to take the bull by the horns and Paul’s very good at doing that,” said Lipsett.
The two friends attended one of the Citizen ceremonies a couple years ago, and Lipsett realized that his friend would make a great addition to the roster.
“He’s a terrific family man, a great friend to a lot of people, and I think the community could use more people like that,” he said.
Babich is quick to praise others, and when asked about his volunteering, says paid staff at the places he donates his time don’t get enough credit. One of the biggest pluses for him is all the friends he’s made.
“The benefit of volunteering is that you meet great people, that’s the bottom line,” he said.
A ceremony honouring the 2015 Citizen of the Year will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 at the Millennium Garden at the corner of Coxwell and Eastern.