Long-serving foster parents honoured
Lonsbarys involved for 35 years
By Jeff Helsdon - Staff Writer
The Tillsonburg News — After
raising their children, most parents breathe a sign of relief and
wait for grandchildren to come on the scene. But many of the
volunteer foster parents for the Children’s Aid Society of Oxford
County continue to parent long after their children have grown up.
Wednesday October 18, 2006
Two of the society’s longest-serving foster couples were honoured at
the annual awards banquet on Friday night at the Elm Hurst Inn for
helping raise over 50 foster children each over more than 25 years.
Art and Ruth Anne Lonsbary of Tillsonburg are the society’s
longest-serving foster parents, starting 35 years ago in 1971. Since
that time, they have fostered over 85 children. The children have
ranged in age from newborns to 19 year olds and have been in the
Lonsbary’s care for short term, long term, relief and emergency
“I really like kids and wanted to fulfill a need,” Ruth Anne said of
the reason they originally started fostering.
“It’s rewarding,” Art added.
The Lonsbarys have a special interest in fostering infants and
currently have three babies under 16 months in their care.
“Ruth Anne has developed strong skills in transitioning the
placement of children from her home to adoption homes,” board
secretary Deb Almost said during the presentation. “Ruth Anne has
demonstrated strong leadership in welcoming adoptive parents into
her home and has been able to maintain contact for the benefit of
the children. She also has been willing to work co-operatively with
the biological families of the children in her care.”
Jack and Marg Crawford, who live east of Salford, recently
celebrated 25 years as foster parents.
“When the kids grew up, she couldn’t cook for one person so she had
to get in some more to cook for,” Jack joked as the reason they got
involved in fostering.
the years, they have fostered over 60 children and still have two
infants in their care. Many return to visit often and it’s not
uncommon for there to be as many as five former foster children at
their dinner table on Sundays.
The Crawfords’ special skills in working with troubled teens allowed
them to have their home designated as a Teen Boys Home in the 1980s.
They were also involved in the Foster Custody Program and Special
Foster Care Program. At that time, it was common for them to have
four teenagers in their home at a time.
For the last seven years, they have fostered younger children.
Two Woodstock residents received special awards during the evening.
The Isabel Scott Memorial Volunteer Service Award, which pays
tribute to dedicated volunteer the late Isabel Scott, was awarded to
Dianna Skillings of Woodstock. She has been a volunteer driver with
the society for five years putting as many as 5,000 kilometres a
month on her vehicle, as well as being a foster parent.
“Dianna is always busy helping someone, working with the elderly,
caring for her young grandchildren, or spending six days a week
driving for the Children’s Aid Society,” said Stephen Nelson,
vice-president of the board.
“Dianna mixes good advice, and active listening with her care and
support, making her a nurturing and exceptional volunteer.”
The Jack Ross Memorial Award was established in recognition of the
commitment and contribution made to the community by the late Jack
Ross. It is presented to a resident of Oxford County who has
performed outstanding service beyond the call of duty to children
and/or families of Oxford County.”
Constable Bob McDonald, also known as “Constable Bob” to school-aged
children was the award recipient this year. He is the community
services officer with the Oxford Community Police, Crime Stoppers
co-ordinator and a driving force in the drug awareness program.
“He gives countless hours of free time every year to the youth
throughout, not only Oxford County, but other areas as well,” said
board president Cherie Hall when she presented the award. “His
satisfaction seems to be in the knowledge that he is keeping some
youth from getting involved with drugs and possibly destroying their
McDonald purchased a trailer at his own expense, in which four
educational videos are shown. Often, he sets up the trailer on his
“While Bob is running the displays, he is always talking to youth on
a variety of issues including drugs and school, helping children
understand his role within the community while teaching kids that
police are good and safe people to talk to,” Hall said.
Other service awards were presented to parents for years of service.
Recognized for five years of service were Dennis and Sheila Froude,
Wilna and Rob Garon, Catharine Hudson and Norm Meron, Max and
Cynthia Maschke and Peter and Cindy Swanson. Mark and Teresa Farrell
and June Habekost were recognized for 10 years of service.
Volunteers who received awards for five years were: Robyn Ross,
Dianna Skillings, Amanda Ficht, Myrna Miles. Ten-year awards were
presented to Pat Cadman and Ruth Robinson. Agnes Vandergriendt was
recognized for 20 years of service.
Staff service awards for five years of service were presented to:
Tracy Dobbie, Connie Law, Lisa Brodeur, Dee Chambers, Ruth Lavoie,
Colleen Clark, Tracy Harnish and James Brown. Lorrie Foster and
Frieda Schmidt were recognized for 15 years of service. Peggy
McAskile received an award for 20 years of service and Anne
Kirczyk-Jewlal for 25 years.