Veronica Richards looked across the Cumberland YMCA’s meeting room and smiled at Bill Schurman. She had nominated Amherst’s recreational director for the YMCA’s Peace Medal.
Schurman returned her gaze and also smiled, proud for the poverty action advocate whom he knew was nominated for the same award.
Both were unaware they were about to experience a little small town magic.
This marks the 30th year of the YMCA Peace Medals, and friends and colleagues gathered at the Cumberland YMCA on Nov. 22th to watch the announcement. As Richards readied to read her nomination to the audience, it was instead former Cumberland North MLA and legal professional Terry Farrell who was called to the podium to reread his nomination for Richards.
“Over the last four years, in my life and in my work, it has not always been easy. There have been some very difficult times and it seems when things got the hardest or when I was at the lowest the door would open and she would come in. She always had chocolate and wisdom. And it came from the heart.”
Richards is a poverty reduction advocate, Farrell said, and dedication to change goes without rest. From petitions to letter campaigns, working with Coats for Cumberland, the community health board SOAR and Empowering Beyond Barriers, she works, Farrell said, with a smile.
“There are lots of people whom this award could be given,” Richards said. “Sometimes I ask myself why is it I do what I do… I think that you got to do who you are. And I think some of these things are by the grace of God where I am.”
The event did not end with Richards acceptance speech, however. Cumberland YMCA executive director Trina Clarke would call her back to the podium before she could return to her seat.
“For the first time in the 30 years of awarding the peace medallion, one of our recipients actually nominated someone, so we could not let that go unremarked,” Clarke said. “It was just an amazing coincidence that this happened.”
Clarke tasked Richards with following-up with her nomination, and reveal who she nominated and will share being a Peace Medal recipient this year.
“I am very inspired by and I think many, many people in Amherst are inspired by Bill Schurman,” Richards said. “I think for me and many people, Bill is one of the most encouraging and accommodating, upbeat and realistic person who sees the good in other people and sees the good and potential in Amherst.”
Schurman came into his role with the community in 2014 being the athletic director at the University of Prince Edward Island. Before that he was the recreation director for Summerside, general manager of the Red Ball Internet Centre in Moncton and was a general manager of the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL.
It’s his work as a champion for the community, however, that became the basis for his nomination, which Richards says included many people helping her put Schurman’s name forward.
Schurman was quick to share the award with his coworkers and community leaders he has worked with in his three years in the Amherst.
“We try to show you what a lucky and flourishing community we are,” Schurman said.
Nationally, the third week of November is YMCA Peace Week. Since 1987, more than 1,900 individuals and groups across Canada have been recognized for their work with YMCA Peace Medals.