SASKATOON -- Hugo Alvarado has not only created art with each stroke of his paint brush. He’s also transformed lives.

The co-founder of Artists Against Hunger — an organization that’s fundraised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 25 years for charities such as the Saskatoon Food Bank, the Friendship Inn, the Saskatoon Crisis Nursery and CHEP Good Food — was honoured by CTV Saskatoon on Thursday with the 2017 Saskatoon Citizen of the Year Award.

“It’s my duty and it’s an honour,” Alvarado said, at the award luncheon at the Radisson Hotel, of his charity work. “When you do something for somebody, like a group like that, don’t say, ‘Thank you,’ to me. I should be saying, ‘Thank you,’ too.”

The artist, who also donates his artwork to various organizations across the city and gives art supplies to school children, has lived in Saskatoon since arriving as a political exile from Chile in 1976.

He arrived knowing no English and with just $5 and a pair of shorts in a bag.

He recalled a police officer helping him shortly after his arrival in Saskatoon, when asked Thursday why he gives back to the city. He was lost and attempting to stay warm in a bus shelter. It was the middle of winter at the time, he said.

“I will never forget when I came. I also (had) nothing. When I see people on the street, hungry or single mothers suffering, I just think, ‘I was there,’” he said.

The city welcomed him with warmth.

“I realized the people were very good to me. They treat me like a friend. They open their hearts and their homes, so this became home,” he said.

His awards luncheon was packed with people who’ve been with Alvarado from the beginning — through the good and the bad — including Don Greer, who nominated him.

Greer said Alvarado is consistently at charity events in Saskatoon and exemplifies the spirit of the city.

“I think that’s what makes people of Saskatoon important, if they’re always there to help, and Hugo is always, always there,” Greer said.

Alvarado’s four children were also on hand to see their father receive the award.

“I just wanted you to know how much of you is in us, and how much of you is in everybody in this room,” his son, Ricardo, said. “Your spirit will go on forever. We love you. Congratulations.”

Alvarado credits the four for his success.

CTV has presented the Saskatoon Citizen of the Year Award for 51 years. CTV Saskatoon accepts nominations from viewers and presents the award to an individual who exemplifies excellence in community service.