Honouring women who go above and beyond in the community is at the heart of an upcoming award to be given out at the International Women’s Day Wellness Fair.
Two former Women With Heart award recipients, Lynnette Cobb and Sunny Dyck, say that it was a thrill to win, and a true encouragement and an enormous inspiration to be nominated in the first place.
“I think Women With Heart is wonderful; acknowledging and thanking people is important – it also gives support and encouragement,” explained Cobb who was the 2016 recipient of the award, adding that being thanked is nice.
“You volunteer because that’s who you are. This award makes you feel that your contribution, either alone or with others, is something to be recognized.”
The Women With Heart award, started in 2011, is given annually by the Women’s Contact Society to a woman from the Williams Lake area who has made a significant contribution to the community when it comes to passion for their work, career or volunteerism.
Cobb was nominated and won the award in 2016 for her many years in crisis counselling with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Cariboo Chilcotin Branch and RCMP Victim Services.
She said it was the surprise of her life when Irene Willsie, executive director from Women’s Contact Society, knocked on her door in person and asked for a moment of her time.
“I was completely surprised to hear the news that I had won – I hadn’t even known I was nominated,” Cobb said.
Cobb made remarkable contributions to her community, despite physical challenges she faced and continues to face every day living with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) since 1982.
“When I took the CMHA training, I learned more than I ever thought possible. It was so meaningful and insightful: I received more than I ever gave,” she said, adding that was a great honour, both to work with the people she did and to earn the trust of clients. She said that winning the award had a lot to do with those amazing people.
“I might have given a lot of hours for a lot of years, but I got a lifetime out of it,” she explained.
“If you’re thinking of nominating someone for Women With Heart, I’d say do it. It’s such a huge encouragement and honour to be nominated. It means the world,” she stated.
“We have so much heart in our community. Let’s say thank you for the caring.”
Women With Heart 2018 winner Sunny Dyck said her reaction when hearing that she would be presented with the award was, “Me? Why?”
Despite living with Multiple Sclerosis since she was 17 years old, Dyck is an enthusiastic supporter of a wide range of activities and events, including Roller Derby, countless sporting and community events, kidney walks, Run for a Cure, the Salvation Army and the upcoming Polar Bear Swim on February 2. She is also an advocate for the hard of hearing and hearing impaired.
“Volunteering is almost selfish for me,” she said. “I have a need to make others happy, and sometimes all it takes is a little of my time to help out. If I make one person happy, that’s all I need. “
She added that to be thanked means the world. “When a volunteer is thanked, it’s like getting a lifetime achievement award. You’re not just getting thanked for what you do, you’re being thanked for being you,” she explained.
“I love that Women’s Contact Society supports strengths that all women can have. Women With Heart gives us an outlet to appreciate each other woman to woman. We all need to remember that life isn’t a competition: it’s a sisterhood. Women in your life lifting you up gets you where you are.”
Women With Heart is a program that Willsie holds dear, and one that she feels is vitally important.
“We talk a lot about things like violence against women and barriers that women face, and our board of directors thought it’s important to celebrate success and to recognize women who make our community a better place,” she explained.
She said that people usually find it quite overwhelming when they find out they’ve won.
“Women are often very modest, and their first instinct is to say, ‘Many are more deserving than I am.’
“When you hear their stories of some of our past recipients, though, it blows you away,” she continued.
“These people have left a huge mark on our community and continue to do so. Theirs are powerful stories worth celebrating.
“When these women’s stories are told, it inspires even people who don’t know them directly,” she said.
“Many people have been inspired and encouraged along their own journeys, because of these women.
The deadline for nominations for Women With Heart is February 15.
For more information about award criteria, including how to submit, phone Women’s Contact Society at 250-392-4118 or email firstname.lastname@example.org