Twenty nine years ago we moved from Ottawa to Bishops Mills. I consider that this was one of the best moves my husband and I ever made. We had the good fortune of moving in beside Jay Tousaw and his young family, one of the best neighbours one could ask for. Since then, we have kept in touch, both of our families moving around, but always remaining in North Grenville.
Jay has been involved in so many volunteer groups, dealing mostly with the youth of our community, it is difficult to list them all and I fear I may have missed a few. He is what one would call a gentle giant, modest and unassuming, caring and approachable.
Having two active boys himself, he spearheaded a number of recreational projects and programs for the community in Bishop’s Mills including a softball/T-ball facility, a skating rink, Halloween and Christmas parties for children, Annual Community Days, and Community Christmas Socials including sleigh rides, bonfires, etc. In 2002, when it became financially impossible to maintain the park, Jay successfully negotiated a lease agreement on behalf of the Community Association with the regional municipality whereby the latter would maintain the park and provide insurance, which it does to this day for the community’s enduring benefit. He also served as President of the Bishop’s Mills Community Recreation Association from 1990 to 2005 and then in 2006, when the Association merged with the Community Hall Association to form the Bishop’s Mills Community Association, he served as Vice-President for an additional two years – a total contribution of eighteen years of highly accomplished service. Jay also served as a Beaver Leader (Rusty) in Oxford Mills from 1996-2000, mentoring community youth
On moving to Kemptville, his motivation for giving back to the community did not end there. He then shifted his attention to this town where he became a Cub Leader (Baloo) and activity leader for ten years from 2000 to 2010, once again working with young people in the community. His experience with the Scouting Movement prompted Jay’s interest in youth development and he then volunteered with RCSCC Defiant Cadets as an unpaid Civilian Volunteer from 2010 to 2020.
Worthy of mention during these years in Kemptville have been his leadership with personally-driven volunteer initiatives such as support for the Kemptville Youth Group in organizing their annual Book Sale, his annual assistance in food drives on behalf of House of Lazarus and the Salvation Army in Kemptville area and his support for community Christmas events every year in Kemptville and in Morrisburg up to the present day. Jay’s driving motivation has consistently been focused on giving back to the community.
He has also served for several years on the Executive of the local Legion Branch and in the particularly demanding role of Poppy Chair for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns, working with media, outreach to businesses, organization of volunteers and management of revenues for this critical annual funding drive that supports the Legion’s charitable program. Jay also is a key regular contributor to the Legion’s Annual Veteran’s Dinner. Along with his other volunteer work, since 2021, Jay has been serving as the President of the Kemptville Legion.
I have listed many of his volunteer experience over the past 30 years, and have left out many more, otherwise this article would have had to be turned into a biography. Needless to say, Jay has served this community well, even while working full time outside of this area. He and his partner Sonya are very much involved and together they have been a driving force behind so many of these activities. So it is with no wonder that last week, he received the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers which is awarded to any person who is a Canadian citizen and has made a significant unpaid contribution to their community.
Jay, of all the people I know, you deserve this medal, and I and our community thank you for all that you have done to make this area a better place. You have touched many of us, in small ways and in big ways, and I know many who have benefited from your volunteer work.