Boasting one of the friendliest faces in Town, the Cochrane Eagle's Best of Cochrane awards Best Volunteer winner Palwinder (Paul) Singh is always ready to offer a helping hand.
Singh said it was incredible to win Gold in Best of Cochrane, adding he is thankful to the people in Town who welcomed him into the community, his mentors who have helped guide him along the way and his family— Including his partner Lezley Rillera for the support she has provided behind the scenes.
“It takes a whole village to raise a kid, and since 2014 when I moved here it has been great to help me to grow,” Singh said.
He originally hails from India and spent time in Toronto graduating from Humber College before moving to Cochrane.
He volunteers with Cochrane Immigrant Services Committee, The Cochrane Society for Housing Options, Helping Hands Society of Cochrane and Area, Cochrane Light Up, Cochrane and Area Events Society to name just a few organizations.
Singh also recently hosted a bottle drive for the Legion and hosted coffee and doughnuts to show appreciation for first responders in March and April during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 transformed the experience of volunteering, he said, but the spirit behind volunteering has only grown stronger in the community.
He cited groups like the Cochrane Jeepers wishing children happy birthdays, community groups working together to ensure people have the necessities they need and people embracing new ways to connect with seniors to illustrate the strong sense of volunteerism in the community.
“People find innovative ways to contribute in volunteering,” Singh said. “One way or another we’ll find a way to help each other.”
He hopes the community embraces the spirit of volunteerism as we move into winter so the community is able to remain Cochrane Strong.
From his first day in town, Singh has been volunteering in the community.
When he arrived in Cochrane the initial stop he made was to find out what he could do in town to help out the community.
He began volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club of Cochrane and Area helping with their fundraising gala.
“I never looked back after that,” Singh said with a grin. “That was it.”
One of the strongest memories he has, is of working his first food drive with Helping Hands.
“There was a three-year-old kid … He came with this thing pulling up food and carrying it out for sorting,” Singh said. “I saw this kid and said, “If he can do, what can’t I do.’”
He will be forever grateful to that young man, he said, because it motivated him to get more involved with Helping Hands.
The memory and the lessons of that day push him to give back as much as he can.
Singh said he is proud to call Cochrane home, and volunteering offers him a chance to give back to a community that has given him so much. Singh received his permanent residents and his Canadian citizenship in 2019 in Cochrane.
It has been an amazing experiencing life in the Town and connecting with the community, he said, adding the gratitude he experiences when volunteering pushes him to give back even more.
At this point, Singh said, he has stopped counting the hours he spends volunteering.
“Cochrane is my home and I’m a proud Cochranite. This community has given me a lot,” Singh said. “I’m just contributing a little bit back to my community.”