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On the 160th Anniversary of the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, members gathered to celebrate.  Presenting sponsor OLG, along with Premier sponsor Elexicon Energy, the stage has been set for the 7th edition of the Cornerstone Awards, featuring the people behind the business in our community.

Congratulations to PATTI MacDOUGALL, the 2024 recipient for the 'CITIZENSHIP' Cornerstone Award

The Cornerstone CITIZENSHIP Award is presented to a Chamber member who has embraced the spirit of the community by their selfless acts and support to causes that improve the lives of Belleville's citizens.

Patti MacDougall knew from a young age she wanted to sit in the big chair and make the important decisions.

She just didn’t know until much later how much she would be able to help people once she got there.

Patti, owner of Papa John’s Restaurants in Belleville, Trenton and multiple other locations, is the Belleville Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Award winner for Citizenship for 2024.

She says it has been a long road – at times a very difficult road – but one well worth travelling.

“I always believed that if you have a vehicle to give to others, it is your responsibility to do so,” Patti says. “I didn’t ever believe you do something to get something back. You do it because it’s the right thing to do.

“But it can be daunting. You read P&G just donated $20,000 to United Way and Kellogg’s gave $10,000 to someone else and you are like ‘What the heck can we do that can really make a difference?’

“But we can all make a difference. You don’t have to drop $10,000 somewhere to make things easier for someone else.”

Patti, with partners Dave Stewart and Ron Neal, opened Papa John’s Belleville in 2008. But Patti got her first taste of ‘the big chair’ when she was 12 years old and visiting her father at work where he ran the local cable company in Thunder Bay.

She recalls there were people knocking at the door asking for her father, and phones ringing for him and people popping in asking “Mr. Friesen can I talk to you for a minute?

“Dad got up from his desk and I went and sat in his chair,” she says. “And I remember thinking, in that moment, that is exactly who I want to be someday. It was one of those defining moments of life, I guess.”

It would take Patti a few years and many kilometres before she would get there though.

The first stop was Sarnia where she eventually met Mike MacDougall, who would become her husband for 42 years. They met in 1975, were married two years later and started a family five years after that.

Alan arrived in 1982, followed by Katie in 1985 and Tim in 1986.

In 1993, the family moved to Wooler. Patti got a job doing floral design at Marvin’s Flowers part time.

“Always in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to go into business but I didn’t know the path,” she says. “I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”

Fate intervened as one of the customers at Marvins was “Mickey D,” otherwise known as Dave Stewart, owner of the Belleville McDonalds Restaurant. Stewart, a customer at Marvins, walked into the store just a week after Patti and her family had been at the restaurant.

“The kids loved it because they had a playland,” Patti recalls. “The one in Sarnia didn’t have a playland so they thought they had struck paydirt.

“I told Dave that story and then unbeknownst to me he phoned Joyce (Patti’s manager at Marvin’s) and said, ‘If that young lady ever leaves will you please let me know. I have a position for her at McDonald’s.’”

As it turned out Stewart didn’t have to wait for Patti to leave. McDonalds was expanding into WalMart and Stewart asked the “young lady” if she would be interested in “joining his team.”

“I was like, ‘Joining your team? To do what?’” Patti says. “He said, ‘To manage.’ I said, ‘Dave I’m a floral designer. I know nothing about managing.’ He said, ‘We have a great training program.’

“So I went home and I said to Mike, ‘He wants me to go into management.’ And Mike said, ‘You always wanted to get into management and business.’ And I thought, yeah but I didn’t really think McDonald’s was the route.”

It turned out it was exactly the route. Patti started with McDonald’s in June of 1994 and spent nine years in Belleville and one year in Trenton.

Stewart retired in 2000 and, in Patti’s words, “hated it.” Which led to a lunch in 2006 with Stewart and Ron Neal where Stewart suggested joining forces yet again.

Patti remembers Stewart didn’t have a particular venture in mind, but he wanted Patti and Ron as partners. He would be the main money guy to start then Patti and Ron could buy him out.

 “I went home and told Mike what he wanted and we scrapped together – literally – the $50,000 so I could invest,” she says. “And then I went out looking.”

That search eventually led to Papa John’s.

It took two years from that first lunch to opening the doors at the first Papa John’s in Ontario, the Belleville store, in 2008. The store did a grand opening in September 2008 and with a commitment to open nine more stores in the coming years, everything was moving ahead beautifully from a business perspective.

Until early in 2009, when Patti’s oldest son Alan was killed in a tragic accident.

“I did not know what way was up,” Patti remembers. “I couldn’t even think about building another store, let alone nine.

“Sitting around the house I thought I was going to lose my mind, so I thought it was better if I tried to go back to work. I looked at my kids who went back to work a week after losing their brother and said ‘OK I can do that too.’

“We were surrounded by so much support from our family, but also by the people who worked for us. One woman, Jen, three or four nights a week she brought dinner to the store and sent us home with dinner.”

The kindnesses were essential as life moved on. There was already a signed lease for a Trenton store that had to be opened, as it turned out in February 2010, a year after losing Alan.

“I don’t even remember the store opening in Trenton,” Patti says. “I know we opened the store, did all the training… we still have some of the same people who were there when we opened the store. Somehow we got through it.”

Part of the path for getting through it was a meeting in 2009 with Brenda Snider, executive director of Volunteer Information Quinte.

Patti says her meeting with Brenda opened her eyes to the need in the community and the fact that little acts of kindness can have larger and far reaching consequences.

“I was so lost,” she says. “What can I do? How can I help so somehow there is some kind of glimmer of hope or help or something in me. So for me it was a profound moment after losing Al.

“I always taught staff to have pride of ownership. You are feeding people. Food brings people together… Pizza brings people together. It’s a feel good thing. So for me it was, how can we amplify that? What can we do?”

The answer started with the Community Development Council’s Good Backpack Program, which provides a backpack full of school supplies to low income families and families in need.

Patti’s son Tim also started a hockey game in Alan’s memory every year which raised money to help fund similar programs.

The Good Backpack Program led Patti to The Learning Foundation and its Food for Learning Program. Once she sat on the board of directors for The Learning Foundation, she says, she gained a new perspective about the level of need out there.

“Once you get into it, you see the need, the need, the need,” Patti says. “I was like, my head exploded with the need. And then helping with that became so well received it was like, ‘Wow.’

“That was a real stepping stone for me. Once I got into doing things and understanding the need, I just felt it was the right thing to do.”

As the outreach was growing so was the business.  They opened their Kingston stores in 2012 and 2013 and a store in Peterborough in 2015.  They bought two stores in London and one in Brantford and in 2017 opened their final store in Cobourg.

With that growth came more opportunities to reach out and more opportunities to be part of more communities.

Among other things, Papa John’s supported the Rick Meagher Charity Classic Golf Tournament which raised money for local children. Patti also got involved in 100 Women Who Care and today, among other efforts Papa John’s provides hot lunches to 20 area schools – 11 in Belleville and nine in Trenton.

The restaurants also sell packages in which money can be donated to area schools and provide a family dinner to a “star student” submitted by schools recognizing a student for being kind or for helping others.

“I love being in the schools and I love seeing the kids, knowing they love when we bring them pizza,” Patti says. “One little girl told me, ‘Papa John’s day is my favourite day of the week.’

“The kids make my day. I am really humbled and really proud of what we have done. You know you are making a difference in the places that need differences.”

Patti stresses that not everyone is capable of making large donations or making a big difference by themselves. But many people working together, she says, can change the world.

“I firmly believe that each one of us doing a tiny bit can get us back on track,” she says. “Because we all are human and we all need that connection and we all want goodness.

“When I was that 12-year-old girl at my dad’s desk, I knew where I wanted to go and I knew who I wanted to be but I had no vision of how I was ever going to get there.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, but I tell you every single day I walk into that Belleville store and I say to myself, ‘I can’t believe this is mine.’ And when I look back over everything, I am so proud of what we have done here.”

Congratulations to BRENDA SNIDER, the 2024 recipient for the 'MENTOR' Cornerstone Award

The Cornerstone MENTOR Award is presented to a Chamber member who, through their daily work, intentionally or not, helps develop others with their leadership and guidance.

To Brenda Snider, mentoring others is a simple matter of paying it forward – giving to others exactly what she has been fortunate enough to received herself.

“Everyone has mentors,” she says. “I have had so many mentors in my life. And all I have done is given back to other people the same way my mentors gave to me.”

The executive director of Volunteer + Information Centre of Hastings and Prince Edward for the past 15 years, Brenda is the Belleville Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Award winner for Mentorship for 2024.

“I don’t look at myself as a mentor, I look at the fact it is important to me that people succeed,” she says. “So if that is mentorship I guess that is what I am doing.”

Born and raised in Prince Edward County, Brenda worked for Bata Footwear when she moved to Belleville after she married Jim in 1986.

She gave birth to her daughter Taylor in 1990 and at that point decided to stay home to raise her daughter and just over four years later her son, Logen.

That eventually led her to the parent council at VP Carswell Public School where through a series of activities – notably raising money to send every student at the school to a show at the Stirling Theatre -- she discovered she had a knack for fundraising.

“We started with the theatre trips but then the teachers began coming to us because they needed new books and new TVs and new VCRs and new playground equipment,” Brenda recalls. “We ran all kinds of events: we sold cookie dough, we ran craft shows, we did everything we needed to do to raise that money.

“It became pretty evident pretty fast that I had the ability to raise money.”

One of the women Brenda raised money with at the time worked for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and her husband was being posted out west. She told Brenda there was an opening coming up with CNIB as an events co-ordinator.

“I put my resume in and lo and behold I got the job,” she says, starting in 2000 as events co-ordinator before moving up into the fund development role.

She worked for Louise McGilly, her district manager and first real mentor.

“She used to drag me out to every meeting known to man,” Brenda recalls. “Radio interviews and all kinds of things. And I’m thinking I’ve got all these jobs I’ve got to get done.

“Little did I know that she was mentoring me.”

In 2005 CNIB pulled its offices out of Belleville and moved them to Kingston. Since Brenda wasn’t about to add a two-hour-a-day commute to her schedule, she took the buyout and remained in Belleville.

The offers started the next day.

“I always talk about networking, and this is one of the reasons why,” she says. “I had multiple job offers because I had met so many people from having gone to so many events and they knew I had become available.”

One of the offers was from what was then known as Volunteer Information Quinte. She was hired as manager of volunteer services.

“Volunteer management was really where my heart was,” she says. “I wanted to make sure everyone had a place and just putting them somewhere for the reason of putting them somewhere didn’t work for me.

“So when I came (to VIQ) we changed everything around so that it became a volunteer centre for volunteers not for agencies. And as time went on the agencies realized that that works because the volunteers we are sending them want to be there.”

Brenda recalls one the people she worked with early in her time at VIQ was Patti MacDougall of Papa John’s Pizza. She said the fundamental goal was to get to know what Patti wanted and needed and then to help her get there.

Patti is this year’s Cornerstone Award winner for Citizenship, a path that she says started with her meeting with Brenda.

Another time, Brenda recalls, she interviewed a woman who wanted to volunteer but was convinced no one would want her. Her only work experience had been working in an office before computers, where her primary task was filing.

“VON (Victorian Order of Nurses) had an office full of files that needed to be sorted, organized and filed correctly. So I matched her,” Brenda recalls. “About two and a half months later she phones me and says ‘Oh Brenda, I’ve found my purpose.’

“The feeling knowing that I gave her something… she had a hole in her heart and we helped her fill it.  Making that difference in people’s lives, that is really the motivation behind doing what we are doing.”

In the process of making a difference in the lives of volunteers, though, Brenda has also made a significant difference in the lives of the people she works with and who work for her.

She tells stories of both employees and volunteers – especially young people – who have gone on to achieve significant levels of success only to come back to give her credit.

But it’s not credit she takes particularly easily. Even this award – along with previous awards she has won – don’t sit easily on here shoulders.

“Egos are not something I am big on,” she says. “I have been incredibly blessed in my career and I have been recognized in my career. Not something I am particularly comfortable with.  But I appreciate it greatly.”

In previous years, Brenda has been recognized as The Intelligencer Remarkable Woman of the Year, the Connie Carson Community Champion and the Mike Letwin Award for Board Leadership.

She recalls that when she heard she was receiving the Cornerstone Award, she said to Tracy Legault-Davis, who was at that time Manager of Community Programs & Communications, that  “’I don’t understand this.’ And she said ‘You have mentored us all.’

“It may go back to the people I worked with. I have had excellent people I have worked with. And the people who made the biggest difference in my life are the people that supported me and I learned from.

“I think you learn something every day. And if you aren’t willing to teach others and stand up for others… then what are you doing?”

Brenda stresses that mentoring can be many different things to many different people from showing them how to do things to being there for them, advocating for them, and giving them a sense of purpose.

She says when it comes to working with staff, it’s about building and strengthening, it’s about making a difference and it’s about supporting.

“It’s about having your staffs’ backs,” she says. “Louise McGilly said to me years ago, ‘You are going to make mistakes. All I want to know is when you do. That way I know what is coming at me and I can have your back.’

“So that is how I worked with these guys.”

Brenda says it doesn’t hurt that her job working with volunteers has neatly combined with her passion from volunteering.

She notes that working in this industry has given her a better understanding of the bigger picture and given her greater empathy for people who sometimes struggle, who may be different that others, who may need a little more understanding or just a little more effort.

“Being involved in this world and working in the volunteer sector has shaped who I am and how I approach people and the importance of working together to get things done,” she says.

“It’s the respect and giving and caring and wanting to make a difference. Not turning a blind eye to things that are going on. People want to do well. They want to make a difference and I think it is our job to help them make that difference.

“My path in life has led me to a passion.”

One of the greatest places her path took her, she says, was to the Change the World Youth Challenge which VIQ ran from 2008-1016.

The program encouraged young people to volunteer in a wide range of areas and introduced them to the concept that they could have a meaningful difference on their community and ultimately the world.

“Change the World Youth Challenge was one of the greatest things ever out there” she says. “We watched a lot of kids really soar.  We had thousands of youth and they were collecting food, baby food, cleanups in the community, they were making a difference. It was an amazing program for sure.

“I watch all these youth and I listen to people talk about our youth and it really bothers me because I can tell you that in my career of 20 plus years we have some incredible individuals.”

Some of those kids have since reached out to Brenda to tell her how she inspired them, motivated them… even mentored them.

“I was working with kids some of whom have reached out to tell me about the impact that I had on their lives,” she says. “And I had no idea.

“The students I’ve worked with, the staff I’ve worked with…they say the same thing, ‘Oh I’ve learned so much from you.’ I am just trying to help them do the best they can, be the best they can be. If somehow that is mentoring, that I guess that is what I am doing.

“I am just grateful I get to be a part of it.”

Congratulations to CRAIG RUSHNELL, the 2024 recipient for the 'FOUNDER' Cornerstone Award

The Cornerstone FOUNDER award is presented to a Chamber member who has built a business from its beginning or expanded an existing business that enhances the reputation of Belleville as a place where business can come to grow. 

Craig Rushnell knew from a young age exactly what he wanted to do with his life and for a living. He just didn’t necessarily know how much that path would grow once he stepped upon it.

“I was very fortunate to have great parents and a great business to follow into, following my father’s footsteps,” says the president and owner of Rushnell Funeral Homes.

“I don’t look at it as a vision or a plan. It was something I was introduced to at a young age and that I have loved my whole life.”

Craig is the Belleville Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Award winner as Founder for 2024.

He says he knew from the time he was a teenager that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Craig’s father, Doug, started working for Jack Bush at what was then called the Belleville Burial Company when he was 14 years old. He went to Toronto for his education and training before returning to Trenton in 1960 to open the funeral home and ambulance service with his wife, Mary.

Craig was raised over the funeral home in Trenton and says he used to follow his father everywhere he went. He recalls in particular after his father bought Bush Funeral Home in 1974 following his father around Belleville, stopping at Reid’s Dairy for a shake then talking about the funeral business.

“I was big into hockey then so my goal was to be a hockey player in the winter and a funeral director in the summer,” he says. “My idol in hockey was always Ken Dryden. My dad … I held him up to that standard as well.

“I remember following him around and he would just talk about funeral homes and growing up and him saying ‘You never know, maybe someday we will have one there or have a couple… one there for you or your other family members, you never know.’ Those were the best days.”

Craig recalls going out on night calls with his father as young as 12 years old and finding the adventure in a job where every day is different.

He said he could see the passion his father had for the work and it was something he wanted to follow.

“There was a lot of hands-on work, a lot of work behind the scenes getting somebody prepared and I really fell in love with that when I was young,” he says.

“You could see the before and after … what a difference you can make for the people coming in to have a proper funeral. That is what I really became interested in.”

Despite reaching the Ontario Hockey League level, Craig decided his future lay not on the ice but in the business his father was running, so he enrolled in Humber College. After Humber he retuned to Belleville to apprentice and get his licence.

He says at that time that some funeral owners in Belleville were ready to retire as Rushnell was looking to expand as Craig became part of the business.

“I think I brought that energy where I would say to my dad, ‘So and so called they were wondering if we are interested, what do you think?’” Craig says. “And he was always behind me and supporting me. And it just became one of those great opportunities.”

He says to this day he still appreciates how so much of the positive traditions about the business remain, despite the advances in technology and growth of corporate funeral homes.

He says Rushnell remains committed to providing personal and personalized service to people in what is one of the most difficult times in their lives.

“Growing up in Trenton/Belleville this is where we hang our hat,” he says. “Chances are when someone passes away we have dealt with that family in the past. And it’s nice that someone can call you up and you don’t have to worry about it being a business transaction or anything. It’s ‘We will look after things.’”

He says he learned the importance of that from his father, when he would go to visitations and see how appreciative people would be when they would come in and everything had been looked after, they were being taken care of.

“It’s so stressful,” he says about funerals. “There are a hundred different things you have to think of and it’s nice if someone is there to walk you through that. It’s a nice feeling to give people knowing they don’t have to worry, we will look after things.

“It’s just one of those things -- you are available 24/7. When someone passes away that you know, that you can help, whether it’s family or friends, that’s important to us.”

That approach has contributed to the Rushnell success and recent growth.

Craig estimates the business has doubled in size in the last four years with Rushnell doing 1,700 calls a year among what is now 10 funeral homes. As well, Rushnell owns a crematorium, Go Cremation and A1 Limousine Service.

Much of that growth has occurred since 2019, starting with the purchase of funeral homes in Picton, followed by purchases of McConnell Funeral Homes in Madoc, Marmora and Tweed, Cassidy Funeral Homes in Tweed, Northcutt Elliott in Bowmanville and D.E. Allison Funeral Home in Port Hope.

Despite the growth, though, Craig insists Rushnell continue living by the standards and practices started by his father and which he continues to follow.

“There are other funeral homes that have sold to corporate and we all know how corporate businesses are run,” he says. “I think it’s important to keep the family business – the only family business – to carry on.

“It’s one of the few businesses where you can still go in and go over things and make arrangements and do a handshake and walk out the door and you don’t have to worry about anything.

“That is how it used to be and that is how it still is.”

Craig’s children have chosen to follow in their father’s footsteps as well. Ashley, Jerrett and Meaghan are all part of the business now which has both enabled and inspired the company’s significant growth.

“It was the opportunities came up, and as well my whole family is now involved,” Craig says. “I certainly can’t do it without them. They bring the energy to carry things forward. They are third generation and I want them to have the same opportunity that I had.

“It is nice that they always have my back – we have each other’s back. We are all there for one another. And it is nice to know they are going to carry on.”

Ashley says it was never really a question of whether she would follow in her father’s footsteps – it was always going to happen.

She recalls following the death of her maternal grandparents in a car crash watching her father and grandfather working to ensure she and her siblings could say a proper goodbye.

“If we didn’t have family members in this industry who cared so much about what they did, we may not have been able to say goodbye to them,” she recalls. “That was the first time I really appreciated what they did so we could say goodbye.

“We were never sheltered from this. We always knew what my father and grandfather did. But this really opened my eyes and gave me an appreciation for what they did. After this I really didn’t want to do anything else.”

Ashley notes that having started working at Rushnell at 14 years of age she has had a front row seat for the growth and expansion of the last few years.

She notes in particular that becoming the first family-owned funeral home to own a crematorium was a “huge” step for the company.

“It’s been quite the thing to see what it has grown into,” she says. “We can take care of everything. And a lot of people take a lot of comfort knowing that we are the ones that are looking after them from start to finish.”

Ashley notes that as society changes – becomes more corporate and less personal – Rushnell continues to stress the importance of treating people right, no matter who they are or where they come from.

She says her grandfather stressed that lesson from an early age – that people are entitled to dignity and respect regardless of their walk in life or their social status.

“My grandfather used to say to us, every day go out and meet three people… and remember their names,” she says. “That is how important people were to him and that’s how we were raised. No matter who you meet you treat everyone the same and you give the same type of dignified service no matter who they are.

“We are living in a different world now, but our values are the same. In a world where things are becoming less and less sensitive it’s important to keep the same traditional values and family morals that we have. “

“It’s what stared our business back in the ’60s,” Craig adds. “It’s about people you know and you got involved in the community and you looked at people more as friends and acquaintances rather than a number.”

Craig says despite the growth and even with his kids being more and more involved, he still loves what he does. And while he gets offers “a couple times a year” to sell, it’s not something he is interested in or foresees happening any time soon.

“One day there will come a day, but that will be up to my kids,” he says. “I still love doing what I do.

“It’s kind of humbling to think about this. You know I don’t think that I grew this all on my own or anything like that. I didn’t. It was my parents that provided the path for me and thankfully my kids are following in my footsteps now.”

Congratulations to KAREN CLAYTON-BABB, the 2024 recipient for the 'VISIONARY' Cornerstone Award

The Cornerstone VISIONARY award is presented to a Chamber member who has seen an opportunity to revive or create something unique or unprecedented. Their dedication to this vision has resulted in raising the profile of Belleville and has contributed to the overall prosperity of the community.

Dr. Karen Clayton-Babb is the Chief Nurse Practitioner/ Clinic Director at the Belleville Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic. Her vision to grow the practice, her experience with collaboration as a means to overcome limitations, and her unwavering commitment to supporting people and their need for primary health care should inspire hope.

In the past few years we have seen the overwhelming impact health care plays in a community’s prosperity.  The pandemic was one thing, but it put the spotlight on the tremendous needs for health professionals at all levels of care and continues to highlight the need for primary health care providers and family doctors.  The advent of nurse practitioners as part of the health care system to help support families with medical care is growing.  Even though Nurse Practitioners have been recognized since the 1960s, the resurgence of acceptance and active support didn’t happen until about 20 years ago. 

In fact, Dr. Karen Clayton-Babb had not heard about nurse practitioners before commencing the registered nurse program when, someone said they wanted to be a nurse practitioner, and she thought it sounded like something she’d like to do.  The expanded scope of practice of nurse practitioners continues to evolve and continues to confirm her choice to continue her education.

As a child, growing up in Jamaica, her siblings and friends enjoyed playing school and planned on becoming teachers.  She preferred playing doctor, dissecting oranges and dispensing the pulp as medicine.  She always knew she wanted to be a nurse. She completed her basic nursing education at the Kingston School of Nursing in Jamaica. She later migrated to the Cayman Islands in 1998 where she practiced as a Nurse in the Primary Care and Public Health Department. It was during this time she started to realize she might be able to help people more if she advanced her studies.  A Canadian gastroenterologist practicing at the hospital at which she worked suggested McMaster in Hamilton, Ontario might be worth looking into and so she applied.  She was the only international student to be accepted that year based largely on her personal statement aligning with the values and teaching approach at McMaster.

In 2004, she graduated from the BScN/PHC-NP program and accepted a job offer in the Cayman Islands as the Nurse Manager for the island’s Primary Health Care Services from 2004-2014. During this role, she managed the five community health centers, to include human resources, prison health and the school health program. Her major focus was on health maintenance and promotion, disease prevention and hurricane and disaster  management plan. ,  Dr. Clayton-Babb also completed a Master of Science in International Primary Health Care at the University College of London, UK in 2013, as a Commonwealth Scholar. In order to fulfill her goal of obtaining a terminal degree in her chosen career, she completed the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, the Executive Leadership track, at the American Sentinal College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University in 2023.  She has a special interest in the management of women’s health, chronic non-communicable diseases and polypharmacy in the elderly.

When her son was nine years old, she started to consider his academic future and with limited post-secondary options available in the Cayman Islands, she looked back up to Canada.  Hamilton had been a friendly place – to the point that when she first arrived in town to prepare for school and a hockey tournament had every room booked, surprising someone seriously offered her a place to stay at their grandmother’s home. She had expected Canada would be more like the U.S. but she feels the differences between the countries is significant.  She had a cousin living in Mississauga who assured her that Belleville would be a good place to work since it was pretty close to them; the cousin was actually thinking of Bowmanville, but once she came to visit, she fell in love with our city.  She felt comfortable immediately and being surrounded by water felt a bit like being in the Caribbean (until winter hits, anyway).

In 2014, Karen joined the Belleville Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic after they had been established a few years – as part of the second wave of provincial funding to support the model of nurse practitioner-led clinics that had shown great success in Sudbury (the pilot site). 

The funding model was new and innovative and she could see how interprofessional collaboration was going to be a critical element of the clinic’s success.  The concept of collaboration in healthcare was what she had lived in the Caribbean, where adapting, small human resource, limited resources and willing partners was a key to providing care there. The clinic also needed a strategic plan and once that was in place, she began to dream.  She knew they needed to grow but provincial funding did not cover any capital investment at the time.  Fortunately, they met Pastor Arnold McLaughlin, who casually said he had a space they could use and he was willing to make the investments necessary to transform a floor of the old courthouse at Victoria and Pinnacle into a medical clinic.  Her vision came to life in a short three years.

They’ve expanded to create a satellite clinic – temporarily located in the same building because they lost the opportunity to have a developer erect the clinic space north of the 401 while waiting for the Ministry of Health to approve funding.  In the meantime, the need for primary care services is so great, they want to get as many people attached to a health care provider as possible.  The constant juggling between funding applications, recruiting and supporting new practitioners and developing new programs for attached patients and unattached residents keeps her busy.

“We do our best to keep all our patients connected to care – even when we have movement of practitioners out of the clinic.”  It is so clear that the hospital is not the appropriate place for a walk-in clinic or for non-emergent care. Reflecting on other jurisdictions in which she has worked with less resources thus requiring effective collaboration to provide quality care for a lot of people makes her wonder how the principles can be transplanted in her daily work given the unique challenges. 

 “My vision is that all residents across the Bay of Quinte region will have timely access to team based comprehensive primary care and I am committed to the the Ontario Health Team vision” whose goal is to ensure everyone has access to team-based care and will benefit from coordinated and integrated care NP clinics was initially implemented to support equity deserving unattached patients. in rural communities where there was limited access to primary care; however, with the current healthcare crisis there is a shortage of providers nationally and NPs have proven to be valuable to the healthcare system and are poised to be an integral part of the solution.  She enjoys the work and appreciates how the scope of practice for nurse practitioners continues to evolve.

She is grateful for the team at the clinic and the strong support and commitment of the Board. Vision often comes unexpectedly when a desire to solve a problem for which the normal solutions aren’t meeting the needs and experience and resources collide with opportunity.  The vision comes in seeing the opportunity and moving forward, unsure of where the path will take you but being willing to venture to the unknown.  Whether Karen’s moment was when she started dissecting oranges, when she thought a Nurse Practitioner sounded good, ended up in Belleville instead of Bowmanville – her life has been a series of steps forward without being sure of the answer, but confident she was moving in the right direction.

Congratulations to LINDA & ROLI TIPPER, the 2024 recipients for the 'LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT' Award.

The Cornerstone Awards program was inspired by the idea of honouring a member of the business community with the Lifetime Achievement award. As we considered the evolution of business development – from vision, to founding to providing mentorship and giving back through citizenship – it was then we realized these were the components of lifetime achievement we were acknowledging.

Each year, when considering the nominees for this award, we look directly towards examples of their journey that reflect the Cornerstones.  It also isn’t unusual for the intended recipient to also acknowledge it is not a journey undertaken in solitude, but with a partner – we’ve had both business and life partners as joint recipients for many Cornerstone awards, and when we approached this year’s recipient, they were adamant it be presented as recognition to their joint efforts.

Roli Tipper fell in love with Linda the night he met her attending his brother’s high school grad party, the lady in red, and the first person to talk to him that evening.  While they didn’t officially start dating until a year later, they have now been together since 1978 – 46 years.  She has been a part of everything that has become Tipper Financial during that time – including raising their two boys, Adam & Eric – who are now managing the business.

Linda and Roli were both part of the finance industry from the beginning. Roli from the big picture perspective and Linda focusing on the pennies.  When he started with London Life, he had little idea of what the industry meant, didn’t even know what a mortgage was in high school, but when living in his parent’s basement after graduating from York University, he recalls the sense of concern he had following the passing of a neighbor and what might happen to his widow.  He was assured she would be okay because he had a group insurance plan and she would be supported by the benefits of that insurance.  That moment in time, perhaps not significant in itself, describes the driving force behind their ambition to provide clients with the right fit for their financial planning needs.

Vision often comes from seeking a solution to a problem a current situation presents that can’t be resolved with the current practice.  Affiliation with corporate institutions require loyalty to offer their products, even if they’re not the best fit.  With experience, Roli learned he wanted to provide his clients with a custom-built portfolio that wasn’t restricted to a parent organization’s product line. 

The eventual decision to found Tipper Financial Services through incorporation in 2008 followed a number of years of providing insurance solutions and completing the CFP designation.    Ultimately, Linda and Roli become a part of their client’s lives and while they’ve acknowledged working for them while they’re alive, it’s how their family is able to move forward with financial security is where the sense of achievement is found.  As one client explained following her husband’s passing, she had a dream where her husband came to her and said “it’s going to be okay, just go talk to Roli” and it was.  Linda joined Roli in the office 30 years ago, not expecting this was the best idea but she’s still there three days a week and with their sons managing the business now, she loves being able to work with them.

Neither Roli or Linda expected Adam or Eric to join the business in spite of the opportunity, and both started their post-secondary journeys with different goals in mind.  Adam thought banking would be his future, particularly in the field of sales, but when an opportunity to buy a retiring colleague’s practice came up – Adam felt this was a sign he could help with the growth of Tipper Financial.  Eric was planning to be a teacher, but was convinced by Adam a better future existed with the industry.  He started in Kingston with another firm, but in a similar experience as everyone else in the family, he also appreciated the independence of providing custom built solutions to financial planning.

The “boys” have been instrumental to the growth of the business, pursuing acquisitions in 2010, 2013 and 2016 - and running the show the past seven years.  They were up for the challenges presented by COVID that forced a lot of companies to up their game and move into the 21st century with electronic solutions like Docusign, Zoom. 

Roli & Linda might feel their role as mentors has been felt exclusively by their sons; Roli in noting he really didn’t enjoy managing people and it was another part of the decision to run his own business – and Linda’s continued participation there with the family - but there is something to be said for the number of organizations they’ve been a part of over the years.  While he knew there was an advantage to the business by getting involved with both community and business associations, the value of being a part of these activities was built into his DNA by his parents. Both Linda and Roli embrace the reality of living in a close-knit community that even through growth, it’s important to give back and ensure people know they belong.  Churches, service clubs and the Chamber are all examples of organizations that provide the high touch need we have to develop community.  Hi-tech is important but it’s the opportunity to build relationships that really matter.  Live theatre is a shared passion and while Linda writes murder mysteries, Roli loves live music and creating performance opportunities for many talented artists from the region.  They’ve been involved with numerous musicals, including “Keep the Faith” that resulted in the production of 2 CDs of original music and the concerts are created to support local organizations. 

When Roli started with the insurance business, someone suggested he got into it for the money.  He quips he had no idea how that worked, and there were quite a few lean years when he was working on commission.  Linda was there every step of the way and they both faced the doubts and hesitation together. 

September 2017 marked the last annual Tipper Financial mingle at Capers – a tradition for many years.  His health has not been as cooperative after undergoing 2 heart AND hip surgeries, cancer and a stroke. He credits Linda, multiple health care supports, yoga and a persistence to live as part of why he hasn’t yet been “fitted for his wings”. 

Marrying well might be their best advice, as they have learned to embrace the challenges together and accept them gracefully – and the journey in business has made the challenges now seem manageable – and at least Roli doesn’t think they’ve ever been happier.

OVERVIEW OF Accomplishments/Achievements

June 1973 *graduated Moira Secondary as an Ontario Scholar 

Sept 1973 until July 1975 *accepted an entrance scholarship to the University of Western Ontario- studied business, economics and history

Sept 1975 – 1977 *transferred to York University studied history and English graduating with a BA.

1984-1986*Treasurer of the Kiwanis Club of Belleville 

1988-1989*President of the Kiwanis Club of Belleville

1984-1985*Chair of the Bay of Quinte Life Underwriters Association

1986*3rd runner up in Canada in the acclaimed Totem Pole award, a National award for the former Life Underwriters Association of Canada (LUAC), now known as Advocis

2002-2003*Chair of the Loyalist College Foundation after serving for 8 years as one of the original Community Directors (1994-2001)

1998-2009 *Served on the Board of Queen’s Theological College

2018 - 2021*Chair of the Dr James B Collip Memorial Committee

2021* co-founded the Dr James B Collip Award for Excellence in Science presented every April at Loyalist College at the Quinte Regional Science and Technology Fair,

1986 *achieved CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) designation

1990 *ChFC (Chartered Financial Consultant)

1996 *CFP (Certified Financial Planner)

2002 *RHU (Registered Health Underwriter)

2007* CPCA (Canadian Professional Counsellor on Aging)

2007*inducted as a Charter member of Financial Horizon’s prestigious Diamond Club


Summer 2022 - Queen Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee pin awarded for years of volunteer service in the community.

United States Army Challenge Coin –  Majors Chuck  & Laura Wyatt who both serve in the US Army Medical Corps sent the coin, recognized as a prominent collectable for US Military to enhance morale during WW1 and still presented as gifts and awards.  Chuck is a great grandson of Dr Collip and we became connected because of the public attention our committee was bringing to the unheralded work that Dr Collip had done 100 years ago, the millions of lives that have been saved because of his skill in purifying a safe insulin extraction. The connection with his living relatives might have been the most satisfying aspect of the entire project.

COMMUNITY PARTNER "Key to the Cabin"


Lions International is a service organization that originated with a few local business owners in Chicago Illinois in 1917, their goal was the betterment of the community in which they live, an idealism that still stands today.  The Belleville Club was established in 1953 and has 30 active members.  The Belleville Lions club does its best every year to help out as many local organizations as it can.  We annually sponsor Big Brothers and Sisters, Christmas Sharing, Red Nose Quinte, The Firefighters Toy Drive, Gleaners Food Bank, and have had the privilege of being able to help in the community with some of our Legacy projects such as the Lions Park on Station Street and The Habitat for Humanity Home we helped build.  Every Summer the Belleville Lions Club puts on Concerts on the Bay.  A free concert series on Wednesday and Sunday nights through the summer, Concerts on the Bay dates back to 1967. The ANAF Veteran’s Association, along with a few keen citizens had a vision to create a venue for enhancing the summer experience with the sound of music. They joined together and with the support of several local businesses a band shell was constructed. Needless to say, this gave way to an annual tradition, free summer concerts featuring, in most part, local entertainers who also benefited by having the experience of performing in front of live audiences. In 1993, The Belleville Lions Club was invited to participate in the program and the Club adopted the concert series (formerly Music in the Park) as one of its community service projects. Year after year, the Lions have been rewarded with the public’s overwhelming support at the concerts. In turn, the Lions wish to express their thanks and appreciation by endeavoring to provide audiences with the entertainment they have come to enjoy. After 43 years, the band shell was replaced in 2011 with the beautiful Lions Pavilion.

Lions are considered Knights of the Blind as we spend a significant amount of time and money helping the visually impaired, but our community outreach isn’t limited to that.  Our motto is where there is a need there is a lion… a standard in which we try and hold true.

Check out the PHOTO GALLERY from the event, coming soon.

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NRG Alternatives - 10% Discount
Dinkle,s Restaurant - 10% OFF
Be Prepared First Aid Traning - 15% off
Dinkle,s Restaurant - 10% OFF
Cloud Bookkeeping Services - 10% OFF
Esso Chamber
Body Systems Nutrition - 15% OFF purchases.
Papa Johns Pizza Member Offer- 25% off
Parsons Cleaners Member offer - 10% OFF
Allen Insurance - Exclusive Chamber Member Rates
NRG Alternatives - 10% Discount
Jesan Property Maintenance - SAVE 10%
Superior Propane - Save 5% on fixed price propane