Pennylegion honoured for volunteerism
By Jenn Watt
Published Nov. 15, 2016
Fleming College staff member Wendy Ladurantaye had just received an email about nominations for the Brian Desbiens award when Sean Pennylegion walked through the big red doors of the Haliburton campus building.
Bursting with energy and enthusiasm for the college, Pennylegion had a special guest in tow: Hasan Wiso, the 19-year-old son of Haliburton’s new Syrian family who came as refugees to Canada in September.
“Sean walked in the college and he was over-the-top excited to be showing the oldest son of the Syrian family our college,” Ladurantaye recalls.
“I went back and I looked at the email and I thought he does so much good stuff with such a great attitude.”
Two Brian L. Desbiens Community Service Awards are given each year: one to a community member in an area Fleming College serves, and the other to a staff member of the college. Pennylegion will receive what the college calls the “external” award and the “internal” award will go to Mamdouh Mina, a part-time faculty member at the Sutherland campus of the college.
“The Brian L. Desbiens Community Service Awards were created to recognize citizens who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to, and concern for, their community, country or beyond. Within volunteer work and through their career these candidates have exceeded expectations, putting their ideas and skills to practical use for the benefit of others,” a press release from the college reads.
Pennylegion fit right into that mould, said Ladurantaye, who can produce an extensive list of the winner’s accomplishments with an emphasis in arts, social justice and the environment.
“Sean’s passion for music and the outdoors is a common thread, however, it is his humanity that shines brightest,” Ladurantaye wrote in her nomination papers.
Pennylegion is an active organizer with the Haliburton County Folk Society, board member of Highlands Summer Festival, volunteer at Hike Haliburton and committee member with Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee.
He also offers his time to help raise money with his band Fifth Business, has been a busker at the Haliburton Art and Craft Festival and assisted in bringing seniors from the long-term care homes to a special concert by the local wind symphony earlier in the year.
Sean and Gwen Pennylegions’ kindness has also been felt internationally. When the couple travelled to Siem Reap, Cambodia, they decided they didn’t just want to tour – they wanted to help. After putting a request out to friends for donations, they were able to raise $2,500 which went to ukuleles, a storage cabinet and a meal plan for children in a rural school and wells for drinking water.
Pennylegion is a former eco-tourism student at Fleming College.
During that time, he got a chance to get to know Desbiens and told the Echo it made being the award recipient all the sweeter.
“Brian Desbiens was the president of the school at the time. He visited us regularly. He was always really charmed by that place. He was really charmed by our class,” Pennylegion said. “Brian’s a really nice man.”
Ladurantaye said Desbiens brings a sense of social consciousness to everything he does, including to the college and she sees that trait in Pennylegion as well.
“Sean is like that. … He’s always looking for ways to improve life,” she said.
“It’s his exuberance and his humanity that, to me, puts him a little bit above. … He has more energy than any one person should have.”
Pennylegion was honoured by the nomination, which was supported with letters by Barrie Martin and Jack Brezina. “It’s lovely. It’s a very nice gesture,” he said.
He will be formally recognized at a luncheon in Peterborough at the end of the month.