BY DEREK SWARTZ Special to the VOICE
Frank Adamson learned a valuable lesson at a young age. His Boy Scout troop was performing the age-old rite of spring—selling apples. He was doing fine, hitting folks up for nickels and handing them freshly polished apples.
All was unfolding according to plan until one gentleman the youngster approached asked him if he was going to buy an apple too. Young Frank replied he was selling apples, not buying them. Unfazed, the man asked the boy why should he buy an apple if Frank wasn’t prepared to buy one too. This caused him to think. He had his allowance, a quarter. Would spending a nickel for an apple be worth it, even if it meant selling another apple to help out his Boy Scout troop?
He had something of a sidewalk epiphany and bought an apple for himself.
“I learned early on you have to be prepared to support the cause if you’re going to ask people for their support. So you better believe in it and be passionate about it,” he said.
Adamson has taken those words to heart, and over the decades he has raised money for hospital equipment, for organizations such as the United Way, and for facilities like the Meridian Community Centre, among other causes too numerous to list.
He was honoured by the Fonthill and District Kinsmen on March 5 as Pelham’s 2018 Citizen of the Year. The award, now in its 21st year, is bestowed on a Pelham resident, or someone who works in Pelham, who volunteers their time and effort to make the town a better place to live.
Adamson praised the Kinsmen Club for having the foresight to start the award, and for its graciousness for recognizing the efforts of other service club members when awarding it. He is the third Rotarian to be honoured with the award, and a similar number of Lions have also been recognized over the years.
“It’s humbling. I’m in really good company. There are a lot of people that have been honoured with this award and it’s an honour to be in the same company as them—they’ve done so much for the community,” he said before the ceremony.
The Kinsmen have been recognizing a citizen of the year since 1998, and about a dozen past recipients attended. The ceremony began with a moment of silence to remember 2005 Citizen of the Year Gerry Berkhout, who passed away in December. The dinner at Old Town Hall included speeches from Niagara West MP Dean Allison, Mayor Marv Junkin, and Brian Iggulden.
Iggulden, the club’s Citizen of the Year chair, says there is a perception that Pelham is a well-to-do bedroom community, while in fact there are also people in need in the town. Without volunteers like Adamson, those needs would go unmet.
“If there weren’t people like Frank there would be kids in Pelham that wouldn’t get to play baseball or play basketball or learn to swim or play other sports. Pelham needs a lot more Frank Adamsons,” Iggulden said.
During his acceptance speech, Adamson said there was a second lesson he learned that day selling apples, and he put it to use that night: you have to ask people directly for their support. Adamson then asked the audience to support the Rotary Club’s campaign to end polio.
Rotarians worldwide have been collecting for decades to vaccinate children around the world. The disease has been eradicated from every country on the face of the earth, except for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with Nigeria on the brink of being declared polio-free. In the field, medical teams have the children dip their fingers in purple ink to show they have been vaccinated.
So Adamson passed around bingo dabbers and asked for contributions from the 100 or so guests. By marking their own fingers they could indicate their support for children they will never know or meet, but who will also never contract the crippling disease.
Just $10 from each would raise about $1,000, he said. With matching funds from various governments and from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a $1,000 pledge would result in $12,000 towards polio vaccinations.
The efforts are paying off. Thirty years ago there were about 350,000 new polio cases annually in the world. Only 22 were reported in 2017.
Nominations for the 2019 Pelham Citizen of the Year will be accepted beginning in December. Iggulden encourages people to nominate candidates they may have nominated in past years because the club considers each application with fresh eyes every year. Every year there are always more qualified candidates than there are awards to give.
“The club makes the decision, but we agonize over it. It’s a tough one,” he said.