Women in Thompson were recognized for their dedication and hard work within the community of Thompson on April 25, during the YWCA’s Women of Distinction awards. During the gala all eight nominees were brought to the stage to receive a certificate and at the end of the night, four women were named award winners.
The first 2015 winner was Johanna Petrowski, who was born and raised in Thompson. Patrowski began her teaching career as an educational assistant than moved to the community connector position at Wapanohk Community School. Petrowski runs the free breakfast program at Wapanohk as well as an annual Christmas feast. She also has a hope for community gardens, and sees the importance of healthy meals for all.
Petrowski thanked her friends, colleagues, husband and sister, who were all in attendance, and said it was with the help of others that she was able to receive this award. “This is such a great honour. Wow, I just can’t believe it. I want to thank the organizers and committee members for not just the hard work, but allowing opportunity to show appreciation to the hardworking, community-minded women, and dedicated women of the north. This award wasn’t achieved alone, and all those things I did and was recognized for would have never happened alone. It took a team effort. Everyone here with me deserves the recognition.”
Bea Shantz was the second woman to receive the award. Originally from southern Ontario, Shantz has been a resident of Thompson for more than 30 years. Shantz hosted the first ever community Christmas dinner, and annually hosts the Ten Thousand Villages sale. In 2014, Shantz received the volunteer of the year award from the city of Thompson.
During her acceptance speech, Shantz noted that to her volunteerism means a lot, and has given her so many different opportunities. Shantz also gave a special thanks to her husband Dale Shantz. “I’d like to give a special recognition to my husband Dale because he’s been a very supportive husband. He’s given me all the freedom to be involved in things over the years and has supported me.” Shantz finished off by saying this award was a great way to say farewell to Thompson, as the family will be moving in June.
The third award went to Norma Leahy, who was nominated by her two granddaughters. Leahy grew up in Blackpool England, and lived through World War II. Leahy arrived in Thompson 1973, with her young family, and spent 50 years as a nurse.
Leahy has worked on many different boards in Thompson, as well as sitting as an elder for the University College of the North. Leahy was a founding member of the Thompson Crisis Centre, represented northern Manitoba on the national YWCA board, working for equality of women and girls, and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II golden jubilee medal in 2002 by the governor general for her work within the community of Thompson and Canada as a whole.
Leahy thanked her two granddaughters during her acceptance speech, the organizers, and the other nominees. Leahy finished off with a saying by Stephen Grellent, which she lives by. “I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I will not pass this way again.”
The final award, which was the Chantelle Chornoby Memorial Award for young women, went to Brielle Beardy-Linklater. Beardy-Linklater grew up in Nelson House and Thompson, and is a courageous leader for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Beardy-Linklater is the second transgender female to ever win the award across Canada, and to her that’s an accomplishment, not only for herself but also for the community of Thompson. “I would like to say a personal thank you to my mother for showing me tough love over the years, and raising me right. You’ve taught me morals and values I’ll carry on throughout my life, and will pass through others.”
Beardy-Linklater spoke about being an aboriginal trans woman, and facing racism, sexism and transphobia daily in the workplace, but with the help of the community, and different women Beardy-Linklater moved past her dark times, and hopes to be an inspiration to others. “I do believe it takes a community to raise a child and there are many wonderful women in Thompson, too many to name, thank you for raising me, and inspiring me to be the young woman I am today, and I will continue to fight.”