Oxford County Celebrates International Women’s Day celebrated in Ingersoll Sunday at the Unifor Local 88 Hall with a pancake brunch.
There was live music from Tillsonburg band Paige’s Ashes, displays from women’s groups and organizations that support women were on site, and guest speakers, set up by a new organizing committee in the event’s 11th year.
“At the end of last year when I hosted the event, the organizers said, ‘If you want to put the call out to others to see if somebody wants to take on the task, then by all means,'” said coordinator Sabrina Pierson, from Ingersoll. “So I put myself forward first and said ‘This has to continue… so who’s with me?’ A lot of women stepped up.”
“The event is so important,” said Pierson. “I know we have a lot of women’s events during International Women’s Day week in Oxford County, but ours, we really strive to make sure it’s inclusive. It’s a free event and the doors are open for everybody – men, women, children. We feel that is really important for our event.”
Pierson said it’s important to recognize that women are the foundation of communities.
“When we take a moment out to celebrate that, that shows the community that we are valuing women, that we are celebrating women, their efforts and their contributions to the community. When we have speakers that tug at our heart strings, that tell us stories that we heard today about loss, about resiliency. I think it recognizes that there are definite struggles for women in our community and the world globally. When we hear stories about trail blazers, it reminds us that we have to continue to the fight. Continuing on someone’s legacy is so important because when we stop, we’re not doing all their years of hard work any justice.”
In addition to guest speakers, two appreciation awards were presented – from the community – recognizing effort in a voluntary capacity.
“We emphasize ‘volunteer’ because there are definitely a lot of women doing fantastic work in their careers, serving women in our community, but it’s also important to know and recognize those who are doing it on their own free will, their own mission to recognize women, support women,” said Pierson.
The appreciation award has been presented since the event’s inception 11 years ago, sponsored by Pat Bonn of Remax A-B Realty Ltd, an original committee member.
Last year the committee recognized 18-year-old Makenna Hall as the best nomination, and Pierson suggested two awards in 2020 – youth and 18-plus categories.
The new youth appreciation award, she said, recognizes the impact that youth have in the community.
The awards are also open to self-identified females, Pierson noted.
“That is probably unique and we would like to consider ourselves trail blazing in that sense, that we have opened it up for self-identified females.”
The first 10 years of Oxford County Celebrates International Women’s Day were held in Woodstock.
“Because it’s an Oxford County event, that is one of the reasons we decided to rotate it,” said Pierson. “It has traditionally been in Woodstock over the years, but we’re going to rotate it to ‘share the love.'”
The event will rotate back to Woodstock next year, or possibly Tillsonburg, she said, adding that Unifor Local 88 – site of Sunday’s event in Ingersoll – was a big supporter.
GROWgirls organizers receive ‘appreSHEation’
The 2019 Oxford GROWgirls planning committee was recognized Sunday as the first youth category winner of the annual AppreSHEation Award at Oxford County Celebrates International Women’s Day in Ingersoll Sunday.
Demonstrating leadership, caring, and compassion well beyond their years organizing the November 2019 event, said Sabrina Pierson, the committee included representatives from Woodstock schools CASS, HPSS, WCI and St. Mary’s Catholic High School.
GROWgirls (Growth, Resilience, Opportunity and Work) gives Grade 9 students in Oxford County to increase confidence and self-worth. The 2019 event included keynote speaker Tessa Virtue.
“Planning an event of this scale is not an easy task, as you can imagine,” said Pierson, reading the nomination letter. “The GROWgirls committee not only took the lead during each planning meeting, they also took the lead in securing many donations – and that is not an easy thing to do. About $5,500 through grants, plus other donations came through to make sure that GROWgirls would continue, and the event that Makenna (Hall) created would continue on for years to come.”
Woodstock’s Emma Jull and Haley Cocker from College Avenue Secondary School accepted the award on behalf of the 20-member committee.
“These two young women presented to Woodstock City Council to secure free busing for equal access for all students to attend the event,” said Pierson. “And they spearheaded this committee, that really made GROWgirls 2019 a huge success.”
“We just want to thank everybody for recognizing what we did this year and awarding us with this amazing honour,” said Jull. “But we also want to thank Makenna (Hall) for starting this in the first place and letting us take on what she was so passionate about.
“GROWgirls was such an amazing thing to attend last year and to be a student leader at. I could talk for hours about how important and impactful GROWgirls was for the community… Through struggles with mental health, Haley and I from Grade 9 to Grade 12 now and our journey through high school, GROWgirls was something that we could have used when we were in Grade 9. We’re really glad now that Grade 9 girls have this opportunity to connect with one another and connect with supports throughout the community. One of the girls said she had know idea there were so many people in the community who believed in her and wanted to support her…
“The purpose of GROWgirls is just basically to empower Grade 9 girls, female identified, and give them the opportunity to hear people speak about female empowerment and have resources at the event that they can reach out to,” said Jull.
“It’s a lot about connection with each other and with support in the community,” said Cocker.
“Ultimately my main goal was to inspire these young girls to avoid the same stigmas and struggles I faced dealing with mental health,” said Hall, organizer of the inaugural 2018 event.
Approximately 300 students attended the 2019 GROWgirls event, and 500 including student leaders, teachers and community supporters.
“It definitely grew from the first year, for sure,” said Hall, estimating the 2018 event had about 250 people. IDCI and St. Mary’s were added in 2019.
There is room for growth, they said, with the possibility of adding Tillsonburg Glendale HS in March 2021.
“We want to say a special thank you to everyone who took part in the event,” said Cocker. “Especially our teacher supporters, the community supporters that came out the day of, and the committee. This award shows that no matter how old or how young you are, everyone has a voice, and you can all make change. So thank you all for recognizing that.”
Dineen shares 2020 AppreSHEation Award
Linda Dineen, a Guider with 5th Ingersoll Brownies, very much appreciated the adult category AppreSHEation Award she received Sunday afternoon at the 11th annual Oxford County Celebrates International Women’s Day pancake brunch in Ingersoll.
But not on her own behalf. She gladly accepted it on behalf of all her Guiding sisters – sharing the award with the leaders and youth of the Girl Guiding community.
“Because it’s a real team effort,” said Dineen, named Happy Owl by her first Brownie group 30 years ago. “So this is on behalf of the other leaders, as well as the kids.
“It’s so important – building those skills and confidence. We sort of design challenges in the (Girl Guiding) program that are presented to the girls in a way where they are supported in figuring things out.
“A lot of Guiding is taking action for a better world. That’s a line in the Brownie Promise. ‘I will take action for a better world.’ That’s why we are involved in a lot of community events like the Tree of Lights and the Santa Claus parade. We collect socks, hats, mitts – winter clothing – for the Inter-Church Christmas Relief hampers at Christmas time. And we make tray favours for hospital patients for holidays throughout the year – each unit in Ingersoll takes a day or two.”
It’s one of the reasons she has enjoyed 30-plus years in the Guiding movement.
“You don’t it because you want to be appreciated – that’s the thing,” she smiled.
While accepting the award, Dineen recalled a story from the days of Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell.
“In 1909, a few years after he started the Boy Scouts movement, Robert Baden-Powell decided to invite all the Boy Scouts to a rally (jamboree) in London, England, and 11,000 boys showed up. And Robert Baden-Powell was so very, very pleased and very surprised. But as the boys marched by, at the end of that parade, he got an even bigger surprise. Twenty-four girls. And when those girls marched by Robert said, ‘Who are you?’ And those girls replied, ‘We are the Girl Scouts.’ He said, ‘There aren’t any.’ And the girls said, ‘Yes, there are. We are the Girl Scouts and we want to do Scouting just like the boys.’ 110 years later there’s now 10 million Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in 150 countries around the world.
Guiding, she said, “Is truly a rewarding experience. In 30 years, I’ve had so many opportunities to build confidence and to build skills by working with other women and with these young girls. The girls – they are amazing. They laugh. They challenge me. I love getting to know them and figuring out what makes them tick.”
Ingersoll has seven Guiding units, for girls ages 5-6 to 17-18.