President’s October Message

My thinking this month is about communication and especially how important the visual component is. For me, virtual video (PowerPoint) and Zoom meetings are second best to in-person interactions. But after six months of social distancing and isolation, they are giving me such joy! I actually felt a high at our September General Meeting on seeing all of your smiling faces! Of course, another factor is how impressed I am at how many of you have moved out of your comfort zones and learned how to access and participate in online meetings. I look forward to seeing even more of you joining in the fun in the coming months. Our October 13 meeting will be especially interesting as we contemplate how to proceed with our fundraising plans.

I am noticing that current restrictions mean I have more time for on-line meetings and thus I am spending much more time in front of my computer. And, although I am quite IT challenged, I am also discovering that I can attend virtual events such as webinars and guest speakers of other organizations. We may be house-bound, but we can still seek out opportunities to hear speakers from other groups who are learning to get the word out, such as the Niagara District Council of Women (of which CFUW St. Catharines is a member), and which is very advocacy oriented. Visit and/or contact any organization’s website and register for an invite.

If your Interest Group is temporarily on hold, you can go online and access the websites of other CFUW clubs, (just type in Welland or Hamilton CFUW for example). Another option is the Ontario Council which publishes a newsletter called OC News, and organizes the now online Speakers Series, the first of which is on October 3.

Click to read Click to read: Ontario Council News and Speaker Series

 Also, CFUW National sends out its Club Action Newsletter with links to events such as “My Journey as a Neuroscientist” by an award recipient on October 16th, and a Gun-Control Webinar on October 6th with speaker Dr. Wendy Cukier (a Ryerson professor) and organized by the Nepean CFUW club.

Club Action Newsletter September 10
Club Action Newsletter September 15
Club Action Newsletter September 16
Club Action Newsletter September 18

If you want to see our International Grandmother in action, go to the GWI website and watch some videos of speeches to several UN Councils. An interesting event which just took place September 12 was the GWI Membership Marketplace Webinar Launch. Marketplace webinar password: GWIMembershipMarketplace

One stream called Peer to Peer (P2P) provides an innovative method of communication between GWI members across the globe to foster friendship, share skill sets, and experiences. From language lessons to craft classes, it provides opportunities for sharing and learning world-wide. The second stream helps foster the twinning of NFAs (National Federations and Associations) to jointly take on projects such as Human Trafficking and Violence Against Women. The website also describes other on-going programs.

May Newsletter

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The UN Commission on the Status of Women is the largest annual gathering of the international women’s movement.This year, the 62nd year, the emphasis was on the challenges for rural women and girls. To read the report by Gail Neff, a CFUW St Catharines member, and one of CFUW’s delegates, CLICK HERE.

March Newsletter

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This month’s featured scholarship recipient is Vanessa Smith, a graduate of the NCDSB Lifetime Learning Centre. As with other recipients, Vanessa wants to give back to the community by tackling mental health issues. To learn more about Vanessa & to view the Newsletter in full, CLICK HERE . . .

President’s November Message

I had the pleasure of attending the Business and Professional Women (BPW) Provincial Conference Banquet at the end of September. The two-day conference was hosted by the Niagara Falls Chapter which was celebrating its 100th anniversary of working to improve the economic, political, employment and social conditions for women. I was warmly welcomed and so surprised to be introduced feeling very proud of the room’s recognition of our CFUW Chapter. BPW is the founding organization of the CCEW: Canadian Coalition to Empower Women.

The Canadian Coalition to Empower Women was formed to advance equality between women and men, girls and boys in Canada; recognizing it is essential to build strong economies, establish more stable and just societies, and improve the quality of life for all women, men and their families in communities across Canada.

This coalition was one of the workshop topics at the CFUW AGM held here in St. Catharines 2016 which I did attend so I was somewhat familiar with how it fits with the UN’s Sustainable Goals and in particular the goals of gender equality.

I met with the Canadian Federation BPW vice president who enlightened me about this coalition and the fact that CFUW has signed the “Statement of Support” .

Our club can sign this important document lending our voice to the growing number of more than 94 leaders from businesses and governments as well as community service organizations that have stepped up to promote gender equality across Canada.

Back at home, I would like to thank our own Program Standing Committee for a wonderful meeting in October. The speaker was Margaret Wente and so many members came out to hear her interesting presentation that the room was full. Our new layout enables members and guests to enjoy the delicious refreshments all evening while enjoying the fellowship around the tables. The November speaker is equally interesting so please come and invite a friend to hear the dynamic indigenous lawyer, Jodie-Lynn Waddilove.

Nancy Ferris-Hostick, CFUW St. Catharines President, 2017-18

President’s September Message

It’s Fall!  Welcome back to routine, to school, and from holidays and cottage life. Welcome back to CFUW. Many of our committees stayed busy throughout the summer to make the coming year interesting and attractive to our new and returning members.

On September 5th our Executive meets for the first time using its new format put in place to help streamline the meetings by reducing the number who must attend from 26 to nine. Only Standing Committees chairs are required to attend the meetings. Standing Committee members report to the Executive through their chairs although they are welcome to attend if they wish. By way of a reminder, every Executive meeting is open to any CFUW member. If you would like to attend a meeting, please let me know.

As we look toward the upcoming year, we focus on the need to once again “Tell Our Story.” I have chatted with long term members who remember how involved we were in telling the community who we are and what we have accomplished. Through community involvement in information fairs, a table at the library or Brock University or through personal contact, we let the community know about CFUW.  This year, we invite you to “Tell Our Story” through visiting our website for information, liking us on our Facebook page and spreading the word at community events through displays and casual chats. The Communications Standing Committee is working on new ideas but need everyone’s help. “Tell Our Story” every chance you get. It’s a theme for this year.

The Program Standing Committee has put together a new brochure and a spectacular speaker’s series. Be sure to share the information with others and invite them to our meetings so they learn about our work first hand.

The House Tour Committee is on fire with this year’s list of houses and activities. Jean and Sharon will update us at the September meeting. Good news!

The Membership Standing Committee will organize us with mailings, member details, and wonderful Interest groups. Please check out the list of these groups as there are new ones plus all our favourites. Tables will be set up at the September meeting for you to visit & obtain information and meet former group members.

I would like to thank the Club for the opportunity to attend the AGM in Richmond BC last June. It gave me a chance to see this great organization from another perspective. We had many positive discussions but it will be another challenging year for us as many of the issues from the last few years still linger. I hope that you have visited our website plus the CFUW National website to stay in touch with these issues. You can click here to connect with CFUW National.

Thanks also to Heather Hall for her leadership last year. What I’m looking forward to the most this year is meeting members and hearing your stories because they are very much a part of the CFUW St.Catharines’ story.

Nancy Ferris-Hostick, CFUW St. Catharines President, 2017-18

President’s March Message

Last month I mentioned the awards that CFUW National gives out to organizations across Canada.  One of those awards is the CFUW Creative Arts Award of $4,000, presented biannually for promotion of interest and involvement in the creative arts.  Nancy Ferris-Hostick and I visited the Niagara Folk Arts Centre with this award in mind.  And were we impressed! Carousel Players has taken their theatre out of the Court House at King and James Streets and given it to the NFA Centre in exchange for free practice space in their large auditorium.  This means that small theatre groups, who cannot afford to bring their productions to the Niagara Performing Arts Centre, now have a home, a wonderful 50 – 60 seat theatre with all the amenities in their beautiful building behind the main building at 85 Church St. It also means that NFA can provide space for youth creative arts productions for their expanding immigrant population.  The application is being worked on as I write, since it must be submitted by March 1st.

Other great things that came out of our Valentine’s general meeting were the passing of the New Structure for the Executive and the accompanying changes to the Constitution and Bylaws. We have several positions available on the Executive for next year and hopefully this change will make it easier to recruit new members and make the executive meetings less arduous.

As to where we are at with the proposals for the distribution of the Silent Auction monies, several Executive members are researching the options and will present their findings at the Charitable Fund meeting on Feb 28th.  Recommendations will be brought to the Executive Meeting on March 7th and I will have information for you at our next meeting on March 14th.  I do want you to know that we are all taking this process very seriously and want to be as transparent as possible.

Our March 14, 2017 meeting is an Open Meeting, which means that you are welcome to bring friends and family (females only). This is a great opportunity to introduce potential members to the club. With our speaker being Margaret Wente, a columnist with the Globe and Mail everyone is sure to be impressed.

As I sit here overlooking the lake on a sunny, warm day I can now believe that Spring is on its way. So happy!!

Heather Hall, CFUW St. Catharines President 2016-17

President’s Message January – A Touch of Turbulence

On December 12, 2016, I received, as scheduled,  the CFUW’s Task Force Report “On CFUW’s Way Forward”. The report was mandated by the 2016 AGM to look at the status of GWI and their proposed dues increase. It contained 40 pages and 12 attachments and stated that it was not a conclusive report, but rather a report “to give information to our members so that we could reflect and discuss the very complex decisions on the “Way Forward” for CFUW.”

Another comprehensive report arrived from CFUW-Etobicoke reporting on their Ad Hoc Committee, which they struck in October 2016, also to gather information about GWI and the dues increase.

These reports were in preparation for a National Meeting that would take place on a Conference Call from 6:00pm to 8:00pm on January 30, 2017. During this call, I would be voting on CFUW-St. Catharines’ decision to stay in GWI with a fees increase, or opt out of GWI.

I was sent several notifications for this meeting and was informed as to how the vote would proceed.  At our last Executive Meeting, we decided that we would open the attendance to this Conference Call to our membership and listen together in a suitable location. The discussion about the vote was to take place at our January 10, 2017 General Meeting.

On Wednesday, December 21, 2016 I received a letter from CFUW’s President Karen Dunnett , in which she stated “ I am writing today because I do not see a way forward for me to use my skills and knowledge to assist CFUW through this challenging period.” The letter continues, “It is hard for me to face the fact that the lack of trust and anxiety spilling over from the previous biennium has not diminished appreciably and it is present even at the board level. I have endeavoured to work through these issues and continue to do my job as president; however, my actions in the best interest of all of CFUW have been construed by some, as other than trustworthy and honourable and the resulting tension is concerning. Despite my desire to work with CFUW women to manage this time of change, the heavy demands on my time to address the trust and anxiety problems leaves me without the time to try to bring us together to find solutions, and scarcer time to move CFUW forward in those areas of our emerging growth and influence.
“As a result and with much regret, I feel I must resign as your president.”

Barely four  hours later, I received a letter from GWI’s President Geeta Desai, in which she says “I am writing to share three decisions that the Board and I have made.

“After much deliberation, we have decided to do away with the increase. For your part in this relationship of equals, we are asking that you pay your dues (without increase) on time – the entire amount in January 2017 or at least half in January and the rest in March 2017.

“Given our cost-cutting and austerity measures, we have had to let go Amy Paunila, GWI Communications and Advocacy Officer and Helene Queyrane, GWI Programme Officer. Both women have contributed substantially to the work undertaken by the GWI office.

“The GWI Board, Stacy, our Executive Director and I have had many thoughtful discussions and we are now in the process of creating a Strategic Plan for the next three years that is membership – based with measurable outcomes.
“We hope to share it with you in January 2017.”

So there you have it. I hardly know what to say! Except 2016 has been an amazing year. In February our Syrian family arrived and is now thriving thanks to the CFUW volunteers who have helped them settle in our community. Now as they transition out of our sponsorship and prepare for the birth of their newest child, a boy, I must say that the experience of knowing them has been a life changer, as has being your President. Throughout the year I have had the privilege of attending meetings and getting to know CFUW members from across Ontario and Canada, a pretty impressive group of women! But most of all, getting to know CFUW St. Catharines has been a wonderful experience. Thank you for helping me negotiate this first half of my term and I know I can count on you for your help in 2017. We have much to discuss with the changes of the Executive Structure, the Bylaws, and where we are going to allocate the Gift of Reading monies. Much of this discussion will take place at our January meeting, when I will be celebrating the birth of my newest granddaughter in Vancouver. However, I know that your Vice-President Nancy Ferris-Hostick is well prepared to lead and answer your questions.  So as I am rocking baby Cate … let us all rock in 2017 with renewed enthusiasm for our membership in this extraordinary club. Happy Holidays!

Heather Hall, CFUW St. Catharines President 2016-17

November President’s Message – Council of Women

2016-17-HHall-IMG-0481At our October meeting Shannon Passero suggested that she would come to our meetings just to hear the History Corner! This got me thinking that there are organizations in St. Catharines that I hear about but have little knowledge of. So I thought, since we are women and members of the St. Catharines and District Council of Women, I would take this opportunity to highlight some of what they have accomplished.

Established in 1918, it is an affiliate of the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario and the National Council of Women of Canada. Its first president was Mary Malcolmson, who started the Girl Guides in Canada in 1910.

In the early years they brought in the VON and started the Women’s Canadian Club. They initiated Child Welfare Centres in local churches. They encouraged women to take political office and join committees. In 1929, a “Shop-at Home” exhibition became a yearly event encouraging people to shop locally. So   relevant today.

In 1931 with a surplus of Niagara fruits and vegetables, the Council distributed them to “indigent, thrifty housewives” along with sugar and sealers. I wonder how they qualified!

In 1942, great interest in the Council brought 600 women to the Annual Meeting to hear two speakers from the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. Lobbying at this time included improving conditions in beer parlours, opposing commercialized Sunday sports, and asking for a Social Services Worker and a Policewoman.

In 1967 the Council Women sold 750 coffee spoons in honour of Canada’s centennial enabling them to give charitable donations and scholarships!

In 1976 “Women in Action” was published recounting women who made a contribution to the community from 1876 to 1976.

In 1987 their initiative started the multi-material curbside recycling program.

In 1991 a Read Canada project was set up in two non-profit housing projects.

In 2000, the Council joined the YWCA and CFUW – St. Catharines to have the “Tribute to Women” sculpture built to honour volunteer women’s groups that have existed for at least 35 years. It is outside of the St. Catharines Public Library.