MP Dave Van Kesteren poses with 95-year-old Cleata Morris, also known as Aunt Cleta, during the Chatham-Kent senior expo on Friday. (Photo by Michael Hugall)

Dual winners at 35th Chatham-Kent seniors expo in Blenheim

For the first time in the Chatham-Kent senior expo’s 35-year history, two participants are being touted as the region’s most impactful seniors.

“So we’re very proud to say the Chatham-Kent seniors of the year is both these honourable people that have dedicated their volunteer hours to Chatham-Kent over the years,” said Karen Herman, the chair of the senior expo and achievement awards. “. From that, one is from Bothwell, Bob Hamilton. The other … is Cleata Morris from North Buxton.”

Both Hamilton and Morris were recognized Friday afternoon at the Blenheim arena and recreation complex, as part of the yearly expo.

The expo and achievement awards is an annual event that brings people together from all the municipalities that make up Chatham-Kent. Its purpose is to celebrate the accomplishments made by numerous individuals who continue to give back to their communities. Hamilton and Morris were two of a possible 71 nominees, from as far as Wheatley, who were eligible to receive the CK Senior of The Year accolade.

“Cleata is in her 90s and she has dedicated her whole life to Chatham-Kent and to the black history of Chatham-Kent, specifically,” said Herman, of why Morris was chosen. “She’s an educator by trade as well and I know that anything she’s done, she’s been a leader.”

Also known as “Aunt Cleata” to some, Morris is known as an active member in the North Buxton community who goes out of her way to make sure the doors are open for anyone looking for prayer reflection. The committee sees Morris’ mission to bring joy and happiness wherever they are needed.

Bothwell resident Bob Hamilton is the co-winner of the CK senior citizen of the year award. (Photo by Michael Hugall)

Bothwell resident Bob Hamilton is the co-winner of the CK senior citizen of the year award. (Photo by Michael Hugall)

Nominees are chosen by their peers and applications are submitted to the municipal council who review each applicant before deciding the winner(s). In this case, it is the first time since the inception of the ceremony that two winners were chosen.

“Bob Hamilton …  is just amazing for what he’s done for the community of Bothwell,” said Herman of Hamilton’s accomplishments. “He has built the foundation [of volunteerism] that again, the next generation could pick up, when he is ready to hand over the baton.”

Hamilton is being touted by the committee who chooses the winners of the award as a lifelong contributor to the community, who was a member of the arena building committee, as well the founding member of Bothwell Minor Hockey Association. His peers view him as a true leader, mentor and leader while being a pillar of the community and an asset to the region.

This year’s expo saw 62 vendors and a free lunch for all patrons. Awards are only a minor component to the overall day, said Herman.

“I just can’t leave this group because I just find being a part of celebrating the seniors is something I love,” she said. “It’s a great event and we all have good fun.”