National Volunteer Week Feature  

TUESDAY, APR. 26, 2022

Volunteers bring a wealth of varied and diverse experiences to enhance student learning, well-being and belonging in our school communities. They are role models and motivators, generous with their time and skills. To celebrate National Volunteer Week, we’re featuring a daily profile of one of the many volunteers making a difference in Grand Erie. Thank you to all our volunteers!

Sonny Pennington.

Volunteer Profile:

Sonny Pennington

Volunteer role: 

They say, “it takes a village,” and Sonny is the driving force behind it. He works to activate community networks and build a culture of giving in Norfolk County. Connecting with local schools including Port Rowan Public School, Houghton Public School and Valley Heights Secondary School, he liaises with administrators and educators to identify specific areas of need, then galvanizes the “small-town proud” spirit of the community to find solutions. Those ongoing efforts include organizing seasonal clothing drives, running events to raise funds for school ukulele donations, arranging furniture drives and deliveries for new families, and getting technology such as laptops refurbished and into the hands of students who need them. He also draws on his acting skills to play some famous roles, making appearances just before the holidays, and dons a mascot custom to alleviate first-day jitters as students arrive at school in September.

How it started: 

Above: When the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on in-person school visits, Sonny came up with a plan to ensure Santa still made an appearance.

Sonny says he was “pretty much born in a tobacco field,” and remembers donations from the Salvation Army helping give his family a leg up, particularly during the winters. He played hockey, went on to a career in the energy sector, and was a program instructor at Mohawk College. Now retired, he’s called Port Rowan home for the last 10 years. He knows the beautiful rural landscapes that typify Norfolk County can hide certain realities, including difficult, seasonal work with little security, and economic struggles for many families. A problem-solver and community connector, he says when the word gets out about an effort he’s working on, his phone doesn’t stop ringing. “People say to me, ‘Sonny, I want to be involved. How can I help?’”

Why he does it:

"The right reasons to volunteer have nothing to do with you. It’s an honour to do this work. People here are special – they’re generous and want to support each other. I can’t say enough about the kindness of the people who live here and work in our local schools – the administrators and teachers are so caring, and they’re the ones who make it happen. They recognize the spirit and pride of the families they serve. It’s so important to have role models like the staff in these schools." 

Learning, Leading and Inspiring:

When the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on in-person school visits, it posed a challenge for Santa Claus – even Saint Nick isn’t exempt from the rules. So Sonny came up with a plan to ensure Santa still made an appearance, albeit from a safe distance. In cahoots with teachers who suddenly needed to “open a window to let in some air,” there was Santa, outside the classroom and ready to bring the holiday cheer to students. 


Boys Basketball win their first game of the season. Click here to read the full article.


Nick Howard earns a silver medal in Rugby. 


Logan and Bailey Donaldson receive the student recognition award from GEDSB