‘Made in Tillsonburg’ stories acknowledged by Chamber

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The Jane & Phil Esseltine Positive Change Award is a unique Chamber of Commerce award recognizing true ‘Made in Tillsonburg’ stories.


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“I am incredibly honoured to receive this award,” said Andrew Burns, who was presented the award virtually at the 2020 awards ceremony.

A commercial insurance broker for McFarland Rowlands, Burns said in his award video that volunteerism and community involvement probably made him the person he is today – both professionally and personally.

“So I think that if you’re curious or wondering about getting involved, if you’re wondering how can start volunteering or supporting the community, think about what makes you passionate. For me, a lot of what I do is oriented around helping business owners in the community. To me that is incredibly important.”

Introduced by the Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce in 2016, as a memorial to Jane and Phil Esseltine, Lance MacKenzie was the inaugural winner. In the following years it has been presented to David Martin (2017), Dr. Mark Dickson (2018), and Jordan Harrison (2019), leading up to Burns, the 2020 recipient, who received the award at the first virtual ceremony on Nov. 19. The award videos for all five are still online.

The award goes to an individual who has ‘significantly contributed to the betterment of Tillsonburg as demonstrated by their creativity, community involvement and spirit.’

The male or female award recipient, between the ages of 16-35, needs to be a business owner – or working for a company or non-profit organization – and is selected based on the following criteria: Community involvement through one or more areas (eg. Education, Health, Sports, Arts, or Town committees); Philanthropic; Enthusiastic; Dedicated; Entrepreneurial Spirit; Growth Oriented; and Innovative/Visionary.


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“I think what the impetus of the award originally was to recognize both Jane and Phil as major community leaders in bringing about positive change in the community,” said Burns.

“I had the privilege of working with both of them in volunteer capacities for the town and wholeheartedly believe in their legacy through this award.

“They were a big proponent of trying to get young people involved. Jane was really involved in the Junior Achievement program,” said Burns, who was also involved in JA for a few years. “Phil was really pushing for the mentorship, through the Chamber, for young entrepreneurs. They really cared about young people, so I think it was some of their close friends in the Chamber that came up with this award back in 2016.”

So far, there have not been any female winners.

“It’s not that there isn’t a lot of under 35 contributors to the community, but perhaps getting more nominations or applications in would help,” said Burns.

Belonging to a service club is not a prerequisite, although three of the five are members of the local Kinsmen Club.

“It just adds to what you’ve done, and maybe more people see your face out in the community, but I think the service clubs in general are a way to give back, in a social setting, as a group.”

Burns was introduced to volunteerism and philanthropy at an early age by both parents and grandparents (hid grandparents Bill and Marion Pratt were both Citizens of the Year) through the hospital, food bank, cancer fundraisers, and many more.


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“I never really thought about it until someone nominated me for this award,” Burns admitted, “and then I had to actually put pen to paper and figure out ‘why was I nominated?’ and ‘what had I done?’ I really hadn’t thought about it too much, probably because it had just been part of my upbringing. But I feel pretty blessed to have come up in an environment that really focused in community involvement, supporting the community. For me, it’s just something I’d always done as a young kid. Through high school, on to university, I continued to volunteer. And then I came back (to Tillsonburg) and it’s just something that I continue to do.”

In addition to Junior Achievement, and being a member of the Kinsmen Club, Burns was a member of the Chamber of Commerce board for six years, including two years as president, and was active on the advocacy committee. He also served five years on the Town’s Economic Development committee. And served on a volunteer committee for the Tillsonburg Curling Club, focusing on recruitment.

For those who have not grown up in the same kind of family, Burns said service clubs are a great way to meet likeminded individuals.

“Social volunteerism is what I call it because you get involved, you contribute back to your local community, whether that’s fundraising or hands on work, but you’re also there for the social side of it.

“Moving forward, when we can all see each other again, hopefully people flock back to that… being part of something beyond just your daily work day.


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“Any time you do something as an act of kindness for others – it may just be for a brief moment, but you never know how that individual is going to react in the future and you may have created a permanent positive change for that individual,” Burns summed up, thanking the Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the award, the Esseltine family for their continued involvement in the award, and his own family.

Winners are typically selected in January-February and the Awards of Excellence are annually presented in May, however the 2020 awards were pushed back by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 awards will also likely be pushed back.

“The filming of the videos and the actual awards ceremony took place in the fall of 2020,” said Burns, who will be 35 in June 2021.


New Investment Award – Commercial: Simply 360

(Sponsored by Town of Tillsonburg)

New Investment Award – Industrial: Tillsonburg Custom Foods

(Sponsored by the Town of Tillsonburg)

2020 Community Recognition Award: Kinsmen Club of Tillsonburg

(Sponsored by E&E McLaughlin Ltd.)

Environmental Award: Indigo Lounge Wellness Centre

(Sponsored by TD Bank Group)

Business Improvement Award: Tillsonburg Custom Foods

(Sponsored by the Marwood International Inc.)

Entrepreneur of the Year Award: Triton Innovation Inc.

(Sponsored by Bossy Nagy Group Chartered Professional Accountants)

Employer of the Year Award: Scotiabank

(Sponsored by FirstOntario Credit Union)

The Jane & Phil Esseltine Positive Change Award: Andrew Burns

(Sponsored by Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce)

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