By Jennifer Thurbide
In honour of International Women’s Day more than 40 community members gathered at the Red Lake Community Centre last week for lunch. Participating in the annual March celebration, those who attended enjoyed a provided lunch and a visit with friends.
The luncheon was also used to announce the 2013 Woman of Merit. This year the honour was awarded to JoAnn Brownlee.
“This year’s winner – she has been involved for nine years in the Relay for Life for the Canadian Cancer Society. She has also been involved in other activities with the cancer society such as training and helping to host workshops with other communities,” said New Starts for Woman representative Kathy Tetlock while describing this year’s recipient. Recently Brownlee has also worked on planning the Red Lake District High School Reunion, with the RL Golf and Country Club and has spent time both working with the Chukuni Christmas Cheer Board and Crime Stoppers in the past.
Brownlee was travelling last week and was unable to attend the ceremony, however, was presented with her glass sculpture upon her return on Mar. 11.
“I was very surprised when I heard last Thursday that I had won the Red Lake “Woman of Merit” award,” said Brownlee on Monday. “I want to thank the nominators and judges for selecting me to receive this prestigious award. This is a special honour and I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me. It represents this community’s recognition of the time I put into various events. I truly enjoy volunteer work. It is very rewarding and I have made many great friendships. We live in a very supportive community and I am very proud to call the Red Lake district my home.”
Brownlee is the third area woman to receive the honour since it was started in 2010. Past recipients include Johanna White and Michelle Kowalchuk.
Daughter Jennifer Grant said last week friends wanted to nominate her mom because she understands the value of volunteer work in the community and the positive outcomes it can illicit.
“She has a special way about her that encourages others to give their time to volunteer toward events, such as Relay for Life, which touches so many residents within our community. Jo-Ann believes in the importance of engaging the youth in helping and assisting the community. She is excited each year when the students from RLMPS take part in the Relay Event and encourages them to be involved and the reward they feel after participating in this event. The students do learn to see how their actions at such a young age can and do make a difference,” said Grant on Mar. 10.
Tetlock said this is the eight year that New Starts has organized an event for International Women’s Day, having put on meetings and presentations in the past to mark the occasion. However, a couple years ago the group decided to switch things up and offer lunch and a chance to network for community women.
“At New Starts our day-to-day is about raising awareness of abuse with women and children. We are working in a lot of bad things so this is a happy occasion, celebrating women.”
The organization also hosted an event in Ear Falls at the Whispering Pines Seniors Centre in which 34 women attended.
Jennifer Chamberlain adds that for the second year cakes have been sent to northern communities. Cakes bearing the message “Happy International Women’s Day” were flown free of charge by Wasaya Airways to Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, Keewaywin, Sandy Lake, North Spirit Lake, Deer Lake, Cat Lake, and Wabaskang to be served at either the nursing station or band offices.