LaDorna Penteluk loves children so much, she has more than 400.

Three are biological and three more are adopted. But if you ask the lifelong Ottawa resident, she will tell you she considers the more than 400 kids she’s fostered over the last 50 years her own.

“I still keep in touch with a lot of them,” said Penteluk. “A lot of them are older now, but I still hear from them.

“When they come to you, they’re so quiet, and after a while, they just blossom,” she said. “It’s really hard when they leave. Each one has something that you really miss about them. But it’s so wonderful when they find a permanent home.”

On Thursday night, the 79-year-old was named one of Ottawa’s four citizens of the year at the city’s ninth annual civic appreciation awards ceremony. The ceremony recognizes volunteers who give of themselves to better their communities.

Other citizens of the year were Megan Ellwood (youth), Dr. Nalin Bhargava (adult), and Clarence Maheral (senior).

Bhargava, a local dentist, volunteers on several boards, including Bruyere Continuing Care and the United Way. He’s also the founder of the Maharaja’s Ball, which has raised funds for defibrillators for public access areas in Ottawa.

“I think it’s important to set aside a certain amount of time to give to the community,” said Bhargava.

Maheral volunteers for area food cupboards, the Knights of Columbus and the Lions Club.

“I’m a firm believer that if you want something in the community, it doesn’t all have to come out of tax dollars,” Maheral said.

Bill Foster received the seventh annual Brian Kilrea Award for Excellence in Coaching for his dedication to the Ottawa Irish Rugby Club, while a dozen others were also recognized.

“I think it makes a difference, their contributions,” said Rob Wilkinson, a protocol adviser with the city. “Ottawa has one of the highest rates of volunteerism in the country … their contribution allows us to say it’s a wonderful place to live.”

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