Gahunias earn top senior award

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Inder and Jarnail Gahunia have been named Chatham-Kent Seniors of the Year for 2024. The prominent Chatham couple, well known for supporting overseas humanitarian efforts, as well as assisting the Chatham-Kent Asian Cultural Association and the Kent Sikh Society. The couple has also been strong supporters of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. Inder and Jarnail, second and third from left, show off the award with Mayor Darrin Canniff, Chatham-Kent Celebration of Older Adults Committee volunteer Clare Latimer and Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew.

 

Inder and Jarnail Gahunia, hailed as model citizens, have been recognized with the Chatham-Kent’s Senior of the Year for 2024.

The award was presented June 6 by Mayor Darrin Canniff and C-K Celebration of Older Adults Committee chair Alysson Storey and volunteer Claire Latimer.

“We wanted to say thank you to Inder and Jarnail and recognize the husband-and-wife team, as well as all the older adults in Chatham-Kent who do so much for our community,” Canniff said in a media release.

Respected members of the Chatham-Kent Indian and Sikh community for more than 45 years, the Gahunias are familiar faces around Chatham. Inder ran the T’s & Sweats clothing store in the Downtown Chatham Centre, often offering a portion of its proceeds to assist with various humanitarian causes.

The Gahunias are also well known for helping new Canadians from South Asia get a footing in Chatham-Kent.

According to Storey, all of the honorees share an important trait, viewing their status as seniors as an asset.

“They know the value of experience and they know they have a lot to give,” Storey said. “They look at what they do as an ongoing gift to their fellow citizens. Their attitude is amazing and it’s a real joy to watch what they can accomplish.”

The Gahunias started their journey of giving back collecting goods for the Salvation Army and raising funds for the Paralympics through Jarnail’s employer, Dover Corporation.

They played a role in helping create Gurudwara in Windsor, were part of creating the Kent Sikh Society, and brought monthly Gururdwara services to Chatham-Kent.

In partnership with the Kent Sikh Society, the couple collected donations to assist overseas countries hit by natural disasters. They have also been prominent members of the Chatham-Kent Asian Cultural Association, with Jarnail serving as vice-president. The two have given countless hours as volunteers for charity bingos and to help organize events.

In 2023, the C-K Asian Cultural Association honoured them with a lifetime achievement award for their involvement with the community.

The Gahunias have also worked on behalf of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, providing donations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kent Sikh Society donated $10,000 to the CKHA, as well as another $5,000 Inder raised through her store. During this time, the CKACA made an additional $5,000 donation.

When a devastating earthquake struck the Middle East in Syria and Turkey in 2023, Inder donated new winter clothes valued at approximately $15,000. The Kent Sikh Society also sent another shipment of high-quality heavy blankets, prompting a thank you letter from the General Consulate of Turkey.

Jarnail and Inder also supported free eye checkups and operations in the Punjab in India, providing vision care and medical care to people who couldn’t afford to see a specialist. The camps were organized by the Gahunia families in the U.K.

Both continue to work on behalf of the Kent Sikh Society, Jarnail serving as president.

The couple, along with other members of the East Asian community, work hard to make newcomers feel welcome and in 2023, the Chatham-Kent Local Immigration Partnership showcased diversity during its third annual C-K welcome week, of which the Gahunias were part.

The Gahunias are two of the 33 adults aged 60-plus to receive an award this year. Since the initiative began 36 years ago, more than 1,000 area seniors have been recognized with an award.

The award nomination committee is made of Kathryn Vanek, Elinor Mifflin, Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew, Victoria Steward and Marie Bergsma.

The committee will be hosting its 2024 Chatham-Kent Celebration of Older Adults Aging Well Conference Oct. 17 at Hidden Hills Golf and Country Club. For more information, contact Family Service Kent.

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