It’s time again to honour the city’s not-so-average citizens for their contributions

Krista Sylvester    Originally posted on Calgary Citizen

Not all heroes wear capes.

Some of them are just average Calgarians—though if you ask Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, there is nothing average about the people being nominated for the city’s annual Calgary Awards.

“I think these aren’t average Calgarians; these are the individuals who are going above and beyond to make a difference in communities across the city,” Penner says, adding it’s important to recognize these people for their contributions.

That’s why she’s encouraging residents to nominate noteworthy people and organizations making a difference in the community by Feb. 1 to be honoured during the 29th annual Calgary Awards that are held in June.

While there are several awards and accolades to recognize people and organizations, Penner says one of the most important is for Calgarian of the Year (formerly known as Citizen of the Year).

“This one is really important because, number one, it’s Calgarians nominating Calgarians and, number two, the municipality is stepping up to help spread the word about the good work that is being done,” Penner says.

Meet the 2022 Calgarian of the Year

She points to 2022 Calgarian of the Year Jane Wachowich as the perfect embodiment of the award criteria.

“Jane is a delight of a human. She is one of those people who took it upon her own volition to make a difference,” she says.

“It really exemplifies that when you have heart, when you have passion, and when you’re driven, you can make a difference. And people will see you for what you’re doing and recognize you for what you’re doing.”

Wachowich is the founder and executive director of Youth Centres of Calgary (YCC).

For a few hours a day, the Ogden-based YCC offers a free after-school “home away from home” with healthy meals, homework help, sports, music lessons, and mentorship to kids in the city’s southeast.

Wachowich, who is a mother of four, used her experience from her volunteer work in Chicago’s inner city project in the early ‘90s as a base for her work here in Calgary.

“I worked with kids very much like the kids that we see every day in our youth centre,” Wachowich tells Calgary Citizen.

“I realized that there are kids who otherwise would not thrive without access to a safe place to be a kid, consistent access to food, and an adult who truly cared about them, or a community that truly cared about them.”

A life of volunteer work 

Formerly a lawyer and businesswoman, Wachowich used her own money to buy the house-turned-youth-centre in Ogden that opened in 2019 with 45 kids attending each day.

She says it’s important to have a hub that’s close to schools that kids can walk to and that gives them something to do during the hours when some generally tend to get into trouble.

“We give them hot meals, healthy meals every day, we teach them to cook. We play games, they work on refurbished laptops and computers, and they have a reading room,” she says of some of the resources youth have access to at the centre.

“We basically give them an amazing after-school experience in a cozy little house, which is life-changing for many of them. Often kids will come back and volunteer and come back and say hi.”

Despite her life-changing work, Wachowich was surprised and humbled to even be nominated for the Calgarian of the Year award.

“Honestly, I had no idea,” she says, adding her colleagues didn’t tell her about the nomination.

“I do believe that we serve kids who are not necessarily on the radar and are often falling through the cracks, and if this award can shine the light on issues that are systemic and important… it has been completely worthwhile.”

Honouring those in your community making a difference

When Wachowich thinks of this year’s nominees, she thinks of the people who are working hard to make a difference in their communities with their “selflessness.”

“There are a lot of incredible people who are doing things that are going unnoticed, and they’re going to carry on doing those things, but they inspire others. And that’s important,” Wachowich says, adding there are different ways people contribute.

“Whether it’s building in an innovative way or in an entrepreneurial way…. And it’s risk-taking, it’s believing that what you’re doing is right, and being very committed and persistent and ambitious. And then there are people who simply show acts of kindness every day.”

Penner hopes the awards also encourage people to step up and make a difference in their communities.

“It’s not just the recipients, there’s also all of the wonderful nominees… who also get acknowledged,” she says’

“The more that we can showcase to people that we want to thank you for the work that you’re doing and reward you for the work you’re doing, hopefully there’s an inspiration.”

The Calgary Awards began in 1994 to pay tribute to Calgarians in five categories:



International Achievement,

Community Achievement

The W.O. Mitchell Book Prize (submission deadline was Dec. 31, 2022)

Within the Community Achievement category, there are nine awards:

Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Calgarian of the Year (previously Citizen of the Year)


Community Advocate – Individual

Community Advocate – Organization



Social Impact – Business (previously Commerce)


Nominate your fellow citizens here or by emailing by Feb. 1.

Make a Difference

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Join others who have made a significant difference in Ogden with the youth we serve every day!

Some of the ways you can be involved in changing real lives: