Pugwash is a small community with a big heart.
The spirit of volunteerism that makes the community tick was celebrated on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, when Lt-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc visited Pugwash to present it with a Community Spirit Award.
Lt. Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc presented the Community Spirit Award to Maureen Leahey, representing Pugwash Communities in Bloom, while emcee Greg Nix looked on. Darrell Cole – Municipality of Cumberland photo
“As I was reading the application package submitted from Pugwash I was touched by the level of dedication, commitment and care demonstrated by volunteer organizations, clubs, associations and community initiatives,” the lieutenant-government said during the presentation at the new Pugwash Library. “I was particularly struck by the strong sense of connection that exists in this community.
“Throughout the application it is evident that residents are committed to building and sustaining an inclusive environment that celebrates individuals of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. This level of belonging is a rare gift and demonstrates the special place Pugwash holds in our province.”
The Lieutenant Governor’s Community Spirit Award celebrates the power, strength and diversity of vibrant communities across the province. It profiles their achievements and increases their visibility through a formal recognition program.
Pugwash is one of four Nova Scotia communities recognized in 2023, including Greenville, New Waterford and Sambro.
LeBlanc said he is impressed with the spirit of giving that’s evident in the village of just over 700 full-time residents. In a world full of violence and crisis, he said, the people of Pugwash fill him with great hope.
Municipality of Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott congratulated the people of the Pugwash area for coming together to support the iniatives they believe in - one of which is the new library which opened earlier this year. Darrell Cole - Municipality of Cumberland photo
“There is an active core of 500 volunteers who contribute thousands of hours to public programs, events and even the development of infrastructure,” he said, adding Pugwash values the goodness of its people. “This is a phenomenal accomplishment and demonstrates a level of attention and care that’s’ rarely encountered.”
Municipality of Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott congratulated the community for the recognition.
“If you look at the word community and what it means, the thing that sticks out to me is people coming together to support the initiatives they believe in and coming together to enhance their communities and there’s no place where that’s more evident than Pugwash,” the mayor said.
The mayor said the new library is a prime example of what a community like Pugwash can accomplish. For many years, the community had been seeking a new library. When the municipality decided to move forward with the library in early 2022, it asked the community to raise $500,000 toward the cost.
“We asked the local community if it could raise a half-million dollars. We thought it could take one or two years for them to do it, and I think it was eight to 10 weeks that we got the call that they had the money or the commitment for the money,” Scott said. “It shows the level of community support and how much people believe in their community and are willing to go above and beyond to make things happen.”
Pugwash Communities in Bloom recognized a group of residents with Community Pride in Action awards.
Mike Cunningham accepts his Special Achievement Award from Lt. Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc and Cumberland municipal councillor Jennifer Houghtaling. Darrell Cole - Municipality of Cumberland photo
“These residents have enriched our village and surrounding areas through their community service and generosity of spirit by setting fine examples of what it takes to grow a village of positive, energetic people who care about each other and our environment,” Noreen Smiley of Communities in Bloom said. “This year’s recipients all have a strong love for community, a concern for their neighbours and are willing to work hard and take action to make this a better place to live.”
Recipients included Elanor Crowley, members of the Cumberland Trails (including Valerie Brown, Maurice Gallant, Dean Hunter, Charles Kennedy, Clara MacDonald and Larry MacDonald) and Mike Cunningham, who was presented a special achievement award as a community champion.
“If there ever was a hero in Pugwash, Mike Cunningham would be that guy,” Smiley said. “He doesn’t have a cape or superpowers, but he does have the resources and skills, and is not afraid to use them. He is who you can call when all else fails. He has been the man to save the day on more occasions than we can count.”
Cunningham is very modest about his contributions. He said he was surprised when asked if he’d accept the award.
“It came as a surprise,” Cunningham said. “You don’t really expect anything, you just do it. It’s my community and it means a lot to me. It’s my home and where I run my business. I just feel that if everyone does their part, it makes it a better village.”
As an example, earlier this year, following the damage caused by Fiona in September 2022, Cunningham went to work to repair the boardwalk in Eaton Park so it could be used as part of the graduation festivities at Pugwash District High School. Also, when a vehicle crashed into and destroyed a decorative dory, he quickly built a replacement without being asked.