The 2024 VOscars Volunteer Awards

Nominations open from April 15 to June 14. Winners will be announced live at the Gala on October 24.

The VOscars Volunteer Awards Gala is the highlight of the year for the city’s volunteers and non-profits. The 2024 VOscars Awards Gala will take place on Thursday, October 24 at the Preston Event Centre. 

This beloved annual event celebrates Ottawa’s vibrant volunteer spirit and gives special recognition to those individuals, organizations, and businesses who have made a difference in the community.  

Nominations in seven award categories can be submitted by the public between April 15 and June 28. Finalists will be announced in August and winners will be anounced live at the Gala. Make sure to submit your nomination for consideration in the 2024 VOscars Volunteer Awards! 


Do you know someone who deserves special recognition for their gifts of time and talent? Submit nominations for the 2024 VOscars Volunteer Awards between April 15 and June 28 at 5 PM. 

“Year after year, day in and day out, Ottawa depends on volunteers to improve lives, break down barriers and create opportunities for people across our city. […] Volunteers represent the kind of quiet determination and heroism that inspires others to act.”

Geoff Simpson, CFO Hydro Ottawa

Announcing the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient:

Bharat Rudra

Photo headshot of Bharat Rudra in a circle frame.Bharat Rudra is the 2024 recipient of Volunteer Ottawa’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a prestigious honour recognizing his over 35 years of impactful and wide-ranging community service.

As the co-founder and volunteer President of TiE Ottawa for 23 years, Bharat has played a pivotal role in empowering countless local entrepreneurs and shaping the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He has also served as an advisor to the City of Ottawa Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards for the past decade. Bharat co-founded Dhadkan, a nonprofit that has significantly supported the Ottawa Heart Institute by raising over $10 million for heart disease research over ten years. His commitment to cultural engagement led him to initiate Ottawa’s first Punjabi radio show and establish the city’s inaugural Bhangra dance team, both of which have strengthened cultural ties and promoted heritage among Indo-Canadian youth. Bharat also served as Vice President of the Indo-Canadian Community Center and currently volunteers as a member of Algonquin College’s Board of Governors. Additionally, he has organized and supported several dozen charity events, including the notable ‘India Day’ with the Ottawa Senators, to integrate and celebrate Indo-Canadian culture within the broader community.

Bharat’s community service has been previously recognized with several awards, including the Order of Ottawa in 2020. A graduate of the University of Ottawa computer engineering program, Bharat is Vice-President of 123worx, an Ottawa-based software company.

Previous Lifetime Achievement Award Winners
2023 – Sarah Onyango
2022 – Marc Jolicoeur 
2020/1 – Jacquelin Holzman 
2019 – Dennis Jackson 
2018 – James McCracken 
2017 – Dave Smith
2016 – Coralie Lalonde 
2015 – Jim Durrell 
2014 – Barbara McInnes 
2013 – Grete Hale
2012 – Lawrence Greenspon 
2011 – Max Keeping

Nominate someone for the 2024 VOscars Volunteer Awards!

Nominations are open from April 15 to June 28, 2024. Volunteer Ottawa relies on public nominations to recognize amazing volunteerism in Ottawa and region. Help us recognize the helpers: nominate someone today!

Considerations when Nominating

Finalists and winners will be selected on the strength of your nomination, so be sure to include details on why they are being nominated. Winners cannot have won a VOscars Award in the previous 2 years.
If a candidate is eligible for nomination in multiple categories, feel free to submit a nomination for them in each. VO reserves the right to move nominees to a different award category if it is a better fit. Members of the public are welcome to nominate themselves.

Award Description and Criteria


Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award

Award for: Individuals​

The Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award celebrates an Ottawa youth who has made a significant contribution to their community through volunteering. 


  • An individual between 15 and 24 years old  
  • Has volunteered for at least 2 years

Outstanding Older Adult Volunteer Award

Award for: Individuals

The Outstanding Older Adult Volunteer Award is given to an older adult volunteer who has made a meaningful impact in the community through their volunteering. 


  • An individual 55 years of age or older  
  • Dedicates a significant amount of time to volunteering on a regular basis

Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award

Award for: Individuals​

The Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award is given to someone who regularly volunteers in a position that uses their professional skills. For example, an accountant who assists with yearly tax clinics, a carpenter who helps increase accessibility in Ottawa by building and installing ramps, or a communications specialist who designs outreach campaigns. 


  • A professional using their career skills to provide leadership and support volunteerism in their community  
  • Has volunteered for 5 or more years 
  • Must be established in their field by a certification, accreditation, designation or peer recognition

Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award

Award for: Organizations​

The Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award celebrates Ottawa businesses or employers who demonstrate social responsibility practices that support employee volunteering. The winner will have a comprehensive, successful employee engagement program to encourage employees to volunteer and give back to the community. 


  • A business or employer located in Ottawa region, or whose head office is in Ottawa  
  • Contributes the company’s resources by donating time and talent  
  • Minimum 10 employees engaged in volunteering

Pathways to Possibilities Award

Award for: Organizations

The Pathways to Possibilities Award celebrates an organization committed to making volunteering inclusive, equitable, and welcoming. The award recognizes those who have reduced barriers to volunteering (including volunteer roles on boards of directors) with thoughtful approaches to recruitment, screening, training, communication, and/or accommodations, to ensure volunteering can be a pathway to possibility for everyone. 


  • A charity or non-profit organization located in the Ottawa region 
  • Actively seeks to create volunteering pathways that are inclusive and accessible to anyone who wishes to share their time and talent with the community 
  • Able to provide examples, stories and/or data that demonstrate how barriers and impediments to being a volunteer have been reduced or removed for youth, newcomers, seniors, persons with disabilities, vulnerable populations and/or equity-deserving individuals

Outstanding Volunteer Program Award

Award for: Organizations

The Outstanding Volunteer Program Award is given to an organization in the Ottawa region that has built a successful, thriving volunteer program based on excellence in volunteer management principles and practices. Nomination for this award is open to all Ottawa-region nonprofits and charities. 


  • Non-profit or charity in Ottawa region that has built an outstanding volunteer program based on effective volunteer management principles and practices  
  • Recruits, engages, and manages a minimum of 25 volunteers annually

Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Spirit

Award for: Individuals​

This prestigious award is given to an individual who best exemplifies the spirit of volunteering in Ottawa through their significant community impact. This keystone award celebrates exemplary volunteering above and beyond the other categories. Nominations in this category must demonstrate significant time and/or impact to the nominee’s community through volunteering.   


  • The Major’s Award for Volunteer Spirit is given to an individual who best exemplifies the spirit of volunteering in Ottawa  
  • Dedicates significant time volunteering on a regular basis, or has otherwise made a significant impact through their volunteer work  
  • Promotes volunteering in the community by inspiring and supporting others to share their time

How Are Finalists and Winners Selected? 

During the nomination period, members of the public are invited to submit nominations for the seven award categories until June 28, 2024 at 5 PM. Nominations will be reviewed by a committee of the VO Board of Directors and local leaders in the nonprofit space. Three finalists will be selected in each category and announced in August 2024. All finalists will receive a complimentary ticket to the Awards Gala on October 24. Winners will be announced live during the Gala.

Be a Sponsor - Support Volunteering in Ottawa

Interested in sponsorship opportunities for the 2024 VOscars? Connect with us at [email protected] to talk. 

A Look Back at the 2023 VOscars

Watch the 2023 VOscars Awards

Watch the 2023 VOscars Volunteer Awards Ceremony on YouTube courtesy of Rogers TV!

2023 Award Winners

2023 Lifetime Achievement Award: Sarah Onyango

Our 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Sarah Onyango, an outstanding community builder and media personality recognized for her extensive volunteer work and leadership, especially in Ottawa’s African and Caribbean communities. Sarah has been an active local volunteer since 1993 with organizations such as Black History Ottawa, United Way East Ontario, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, The Legacy Voices Institute, and CHUO. Her volunteer work as a broadcaster, emcee, leader, translator, and communications specialist has been recognized with many awards, including the United Way/Centraide Ottawa Community Builder Award in both 2008 and 2011.

Sponsored by Community Radio Fund of Canada.

Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Spirit: Elizabeth Heatherington

Elizabeth Heatherington was nominated for her years as a community builder in Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward and beyond. She has touched the lives of countless people through her work with ELTOC, The Ottawa Mission, Beechwood Cemetery, Cornerstone Shelters for Women, and many more. 

Sponsored by United Way East Ontario.

Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award: Rae Landriau

Rae Landriau was nominated for their outstanding volunteer work with over 15 organizations in the last 6 years, including work as co-founder of Create Change Collective. Rae is a graduate student at Carleton University pursuing a MSc. in physical geography and is passionate about sharing their love of science and nature with others through environmental education and art. 

Sponsored by Algonquin College.

Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award: Shirley Whitford

Shirley Whitford was nominated for her incredible dedication to Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre programs. A finalist in 2022 as well, Shirley is described as “like family” at the Centre and donates 40 hours a week to a huge variety of programs. 

Sponsored by The Council on Aging of Ottawa.

Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award: John Peters

John Peters was nominated for his long-time commitment to the Shepherds of Good Hope, including a central role in the founding of the SGH Foundation and ongoing pro bono legal advice. As of May 2023, SGH now has more people in community housing than in the shelter — a pivotal achievement of the Foundation. 

Sponsored by Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP.

Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award: Engineers Canada

Engineers Canada was nominated for their excellent culture of volunteering and community support including donations, Employer Supported Volunteering, and teambuilding group volunteer activities. 

Sponsored by Export Development Canada.

Pathways to Possibilities Award: Nerio Guerrero and Jennifer Hughes Doucet, CCI Ottawa Conversation Circles volunteers

CCI Ottawa Conversation Circles volunteers Nerio Guerrero and Jennifer Hughes Doucet are co-finalists. Without their support and leadership, this important volunteer-run program for newcomers to Ottawa would not be possible. 

Sponsored by the Ottawa Board of Trade.

Outstanding Volunteer Program Award: Hospice Care Ottawa

Hospice Care Ottawa is a finalist for the 2023 Outstanding Volunteer Program Award, nominated for their highly successful bilingual volunteer program. Over 450 volunteers support a broad range of free services for hospice residents, from gardening and caregiver support through fundraising and administrative work. These highly engaged volunteers are kept in the loop with monthly newsletters and celebrated annually. 

Sponsored by YellowTree Grant Services Inc.