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Nisha Punja, Evan Macdonald, Sophie Kotsopoulos

Markham 2021

This special award honours individuals from three essential work sectors in Markham: Nisha Punja, manager for Infection Prevention and Control at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH); Evan MacDonald, founder of Village Grocer in Unionville, and Sofie Kotsopoulos, manager with Finlayson Hospitality Partners’ McDonald’s Restaurants York Region. Also common between them is the love and appreciation they have for their community and their support for MSH.

Nisha Punja has a tremendously supportive family, and at MSH she works with an exceptional team of professionals. Her role is to prevent infections, educating staff and patients on prevention and control practices. Nisha’s job has evolved significantly during the pandemic, working closely with public health partners to inform and educate health care providers in the community. Essential to reducing infections are simple practices that everyone can do, such as washing hands, cleaning surfaces frequently, and covering their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. These, as well as social distancing and masking, have never been more important than today. For Nisha, it is comforting to know that when she teaches someone how to keep themselves safe, they can take that learning home to protect their families and community.

Evan MacDonald and his wonderful family and staff have offered delicious food and great old-fashioned service to their customers and community since 1986. The Village Grocer is a one-of-a-kind grocery store rooted in family values. They have proudly supported MSH in various ways for decades, grateful for their level of service and MSH’s ongoing commitment to community.

With the stark circumstances of the pandemic, it has been a challenge to operate as usual. The team at Village Grocer has made many operational changes to address the new realities and customers’ expectations. Everyone from front-line workers to those behind the scenes have had to navigate uncharted waters daily and have done their best to serve everyone as safely as possible. They are incredibly thankful for their patrons’ support.

Sofie Kotsopoulos and her husband have been living in Markham since 1990, raising three active sons who played hockey for the Markham Islanders. In 1999, Sofie joined McDonald’s. In addition to their regular fundraising programs like Happy Meals for Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Ronald McDonald Family Room opened in 2013 at MSH, providing a soothing place of comfort, care, and compassion for families whose children are receiving hospital treatment.

McDonald’s takes their commitment to health and safety seriously. Sofie feels safe at work because of all the protocols in place. She enjoys seeing friends and regular guests through the Drive-Thru and Take-Out service. It is great for the spirit when someone asks you how you’re doing and wishes you good health.


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