In true Janet Smith fashion, her first inclination was to share the credit when presented with the Changemaker Lifetime Achievement Award from United Way Elgin Middlesex.
“When I got the call, I was surprised and extremely honoured. There are so many deserving individuals; the fact I was selected is a bit mind-boggling,” she said. “I’m thrilled to accept the award on behalf of our entire team.”
Each year, the Changemaker Lifetime Achievement Award honours one individual for their extraordinary volunteer service and commitment to building a stronger community throughout their career.
“Janet has been an amazing volunteer and ambassador for United Way at Western for many years, working tirelessly to help make sure every young person in our community – whether student or not – gets a fair shot at a good life,” said Jennepher Cahill, Director of Resource Development at United Way Elgin Middlesex.
“We are so proud to get to work with her and to recognize her inspiring efforts.”
Starting part-time at Medway Hall in 1974, Smith recently retired from Hospitality Services after 46 years.
Her involvement with United Way started like many others – through a personal donation. For years, she was content doing that, increasing her donation whenever possible.
“Early on, I didn’t understand the full impact of what United Way does for our community,” said Smith, former manager of Employee Communication with Hospitality Services. “Every year, I would attend the Western launch event and end-of-campaign reveal, hear impact stories and learn more about the many organizations that United Way funded.”
She soon joined the Western United Way Committee. “I was all in,” she said.
Around 2004, she wanted to do even more. Along with the Hospitality team, she helped establish Coffee Day for United Way (an event that continues today) and the Beach Volleyball FUNdraiser, organized with colleagues Jessica Cornelius and Anne Zok.
Both have proven popular and profitable for the United Way.
While it was extra work on top of her regular job, she embraced the opportunity to meet people and hear their stories about how United Way helped them.
“I love that United Way is 100 per cent local – helping a neighbour, friend or colleague. I still find it disturbing and shocking that 1-in-5 children in London live in poverty,” said Smith, who is not ruling out possible return to Western’s United Way Committee as a retiree co-chair. “There is still much to do to help the vulnerable in our community. I’m confident Western will continue to make a difference.”
Moving forward, however, Smith is getting ready to settle into retirement.
“I’m lucky I can say that I loved what I did right to the end. I’m grateful for all the skills I’ve developed. Even more, I appreciate all the people who have touched my life,” she said.
Western has been a family affair for Smith: She met her husband Rob and future sister-in-law Lori Salverda while living and working in residence. Her mother Jeannie Allen enjoyed a 20-plus year career in Hospitality Services. Her younger sister Susen Boyd worked at the old Faculty Club in Somerville House. Both her children, Lyndsay Morrow and Josh Smith, had their first jobs with Great Hall Catering. Lyndsay, in fact, got married in London Hall with her wedding reception in the Great Hall.
“As you can see, Western really has impacted my life in every way,” Smith laughed.
While entering retirement amid the COVID-19 shutdown was not what Smith envisioned for her last month at Western, she has received countless ‘virtual hugs’ from colleagues.
“Working from home these last few weeks has given me a taste of how much I will miss my work family,” she admitted. “That will definitely be the hardest part of retirement, not seeing the smiles I have come to love over the years. Western will always be home to me.”