The best of the best: Estevan 2019 Women of Today Awards

The Estevan community was celebrating its outstanding women as the Quota International of Estevan held its 21st annual Women of Today Awards on April 17.

Dr. Allison Christie of the Estevan St. Joseph’s Hospital received a standing ovation as she was walking towards the stage to accept the TS&M Outstanding Contribution to the Work Place Award.

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“I’m absolutely amazed. There is a lot of people here that have done a lot for the community, and I feel that I’m very honoured,” Christie said.

A lot of people thought that Christie should have been awarded a long time ago, but until now she always backed out of offers to be nominated.

Christie completed her medical education in Glasgow, Scotland, and dedicated over 35 years of her life and career to helping people in Estevan. The mistress of ceremonies Lorelei Lachambre noted that Christie probably helped at least half of the audience to be born, and since their first days she was providing care and support to hundreds of people. Enduring multiple physician shortages throughout her career, she always puts in extra effort, she stays late and takes extra shifts, supports medical students, and always with a calm demeanor and sense of humor. And after years in the medical field, she still finds joy in her work.

“Close continuity and working with people in the hospital. It’s teamwork that I enjoy most of all,” said Christie.

Other nominees in this category were Lois Feaver of Estevan’s Golden West Broadcasting, Ashley Lattery from Murray GM, Sara Pippus, who is community education liaison with Hillcrest School, and Lorranda Smelt of South East Eye Care Ltd.

Louise Vandenhurk and Lorette Zohner of Estevan DQ Grill & Chill/Orange Julius received the Ida Peterson Memorial Award as Outstanding Entrepreneurs. Just as Ida Peterson, who was the first woman mayor in Saskatchewan and didn’t give up when facing challenges, these two businesswomen took a lot of risks and put a great amount of work on themselves when they decided to join the entrepreneur community. They purchased the Estevan Dairy Queen in 2003 and it was a totally new page for them. They had to learn to maintain the equipment, order products, manage staff and inventory and balance books monthly. They went through a major renovation, upgrading to Grill & Chill, and later experienced the biggest challenge as the building was badly damaged by an electrical fire in 2012.  

“You stretch, you grow, you develop, become independent, stronger,” that’s what Zohner enjoyed about having a business.

And they had to do all of that as they were rebuilding to open up again and to keep enjoying the path they’ve chosen.

“In the community like this, you come in here and they support you with everything that you do. It’s humbling; it’s humbling to watch, it’s humbling to be part of this community… Working with the staff, working with the people, with children, kids groups that come in, and happy people that leave our store all the time. It’s just a happy place to be,” said Vandenhurk.

Julia “Reese” Handley received Shirley Orsted Memorial Award as Outstanding Young Woman of Today. Being a Grade 12 ECS student she is strongly involved with the community life.

“I do a lot of extracurricular activities. I’m a dancer; I’m part of the cheer team at school, involved with track and field team as well. I volunteer with the school's rep club, so sometimes we go to Hillcrest to help with breakfast program there on Thursdays. I’ve gone to Humane Society on weekends before. I’m going to try to keep positive in the school environment to do that. I’m also a mentor for the Grade 9 … just to help them to transition to high school,” Handley said.

A strong leader, she is also a team player in basketball, volleyball and golf, and always shows a strong desire to be of service to her community. At times balancing between school and part-time job, Handley finds it crucial to make time to help others.

“I think it’s important to give back to those. Having everyone who was helping me while I was transitioning to high school, as I was growing up was really important to me, so I just really like to do that for others as well,” Handley said.

Other nominees in this category were Ricki Graham and Emma Gunnlaugson.

The most nominations were for the Southern Plains Co-op Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award. Pam Dechief, who is a widely recognized and dedicated local event ambassador, was the 2019 winner. Described as the “spark plug” behind the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games, she also has long served the Estevan & District Music Festival and assisted with the 2018 SaskTel Tankard and Home Hardware Canada Cup curling competitions.

“I feel that it’s been an important part of my life to take an active part in being a volunteer for the community of Estevan. It has made our community a better place to be. We are all here with each other and we work for our children, we work for our seniors, we work for each other. And to give of yourself is truly, truly a nice feeling,” Dechief said. 

She also was a Red Cross volunteer since 2006, previously led Girl Guides and was a constant fixture at Pleasantdale School. She says her involvement started with her own kids, but later she took it much further.

“A lot of my projects have been with my children and activities that they were involved in, but lately I’ve been doing other projects where I have gotten to know new people in Estevan and foster new friendships and we all are in it to better our community,” Dechief said.

Other nominees in this category were Cheryl Anseth, Debbie Hagel, Kandyce Meili, Connie St Onge and Dyana Wright.

Funds raised through the luncheon will be used to support a variety of needs within the Estevan community.


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