Every year on March 24, an outstanding contributor to the community is recognized in the former borough of East York.
Real estate broker Patrick Rocca was the 2016 recipient of the Agnes Macphail Award at the East York Civic Centre.
“It’s very humbling, I’m very honoured,” he said. “I do what I do for the community not for the recognition, and I wasn’t expecting this at all.”
This civic volunteerism award was established in 1994 in honor of the community’s “most famous daughter,” Agnes Macphail, and it’s awarded each year on the anniversary of her birth.
Agnes Macphail was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons, and her contributions to social justice led the recipients by example.
“We’re looking for somebody who’s a leader, who does it as a volunteer, and who’s thinking of not necessarily all the things that Agnes did, but things that are also on the social justice spectrum,” said Lorna Krawchuk, chair of the Agnes Macphail recognition committee.
The ceremony began with songs by the VOCA Chorus of Toronto, followed by a speech on homelessness by one of he winners of the separate Agnes Macphail Public Speaking Contest, Olivia Walsh — a Grade 6 student at St. Anselm Catholic School on Bessborough Drive.
Rocca echoed the sentiments in her speech, reiterating the importance of helping those in need and giving back to the community.
“As a child, I remembered seeing letters on the table at my house from various foster children that my parents sponsored. These kids, mostly from African countries, had nothing. That was one my first memories of how important it is to help those in need,” Rocca said.
Similarly, Rocca’s children are already following in his footsteps. His daughter became involved with New Circle’s prom boutique drive four years ago, and he’s been helping her along the way. New Circles Community Services is a non-profit clothing collector and distributor operating from headquarters in the Victoria Park Avenue-Eglinton Avenue East area.
Pancheta Barnett, Rocca’s friend and nominator, delivered a speech on behalf of Rocca’s supporters. She recounted the words of Nita Saini from New Circles.
“Patrick is a hands-on advocate. Every year he can be seen lugging donations from his car to New Circles to make sure clothing arrives in a timely fashion,” she said. “Patrick always treats all the young people with care, dignity, and respect, ensuring that every student he encounters leaves with a positive experience and is well suited to celebrate with style.”
Going forward into 2016, Rocca hopes to contribute more to the Prostate Cancer Canada agency and its Wear Plaid for Dad campaign, which he became involved in last year.
“I do what I do because I like to give back, and I get great satisfaction in seeing the smiles on people’s faces,” Rocca said.