Amherst residents Bill Schurman and Veronica Richards were awarded the YMCA Peace Medallion during a ceremony at the Cumberland YMCA on Nov. 22.

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To be selected, the two had to demonstrate the YMCA’s values of peace through their participation in community-building activities, their understanding of diverse perspectives in order to create a sense of belonging, by being an advocate for positive change in a community while working to build and strengthen community connections and capacity. They also had to inspire others to foster peace.

“This is one my favourite activities at the YMCA,” Trina Clarke, YMCA of Cumberland CEO, said. “I love recognizing people who make this community a better place to live, which these two have done.”

Ironically, it was Richards who nominated Schurman for the award.

“He’s a man I’m inspired by, and many in Amherst are inspired by Bill Schurman,” Richards said. “To me and many others, Bill is the most energetic, caring, upbeat person we know. He sees the good in people and sees potential in Amherst.”

She noted that Schurman, the Town of Amherst’s recreation director, participates in several different planning committees, is always ready to lend a hand and approaches everything he does with an empathetic eye or heart.

His advocacy, Richards said is apparent all over town from the expanded community garden, to the flower beds, trails and all Family First activities.

“Bill advocates for a vibrant, healthy and welcoming community,” Richards said, before adding that Schurman “epitomizes community spirt” and “works tirelessly for the good of the community.”

Richards described Schurman as a community builder and said the community has been “more vibrant, more forward thinking and hopeful,” since he came to town.

As an example of his efforts, she pointed out the Ice Pilot project that made ice time available free of charge for all children.

“The ice pilot is a great example of inclusive policy … and has brought life into our economy by encouraging tournaments” that have attracted out of town teams to Amherst, Richards said.

Schurman, who thought he was there to watch Richards be presented with the peace medallion, humbly accepted the award.

“There is no one more who I’d want to share this honour with than Veronica. She inspires me and many others,” Schurman said after accepting the award.

He recalled a longtime friend who taught him and his family that “community comes first,” and that is still a philosophy he lives by, he said.

Schurman called Amherst a unique community because when it faces issues, it deals with them. He also praised town staff, CAO and council saying, “I couldn’t do anything without their support.”

Richards’ nominator, Terry Farrell, described her as a person who works tirelessly on several community boards such as the Empowering Beyond Barriers Society, the SOAR Community Health Board and the St. Vincent de Paul Society

Farrell said Richards was the most empathetic person he knows and is a strong advocate for changes to social assistance and the creation of a national poverty reduction strategy as well as a feasibility study around basic income.

“Veronica is truly passionate about poverty reduction,” Farrell said. “She believes poverty is a human rights violation and that ending poverty is an act of justice.

“Almost everything Veronica does strengthens our community. … If it is important to Amherst and the surrounding area, Veronica will be there.”

Richards “consistently tries to empower others and finds teachable moments in almost every situation,” Farrell added.

Her ability to collaborate with others is “endless” and she tirelessly works with others to ensure success,” Farrell said.

Richards also humbly accepted the award.

“There are a lot of people around here who could have been given this award,” she said. “Thank you very much.”