Elizabeth Ward recognized for exemplary volunteerism
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
Sioux Lookout’s Elizabeth (Liz) Ward has been recognized as one of the region’s brightest young stars.
On January 27, Ward and 19 other young professionals were celebrated at the 4th bi-annual Northwestern Ontario Visionary Awards (NOVAs), a gala evening hosted by SHIFT, Thunder Bay’s Young Professionals Network.
Held at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay, the awards recognized the top 20 under 40 young professionals in the region for their leadership, community engagement, business and professional achievement, volunteerism, civic pride, and mentorship.
Ward was recognized as a community champion for her volunteer work in Sioux Lookout.
“I was nominated for the award. I got an email form SHIFT saying, congratulations! You’ve been nominated. If you want to accept (the nomination) these are the steps you need to take,” Ward explained.
“With the application, they have you fill in all the things that you’ve done as a volunteer. I had included my Girl Guide work, Second Chance Pet Network, some work I’ve done with the Sioux Lookout Shrine Club just to name some of them,” she continued.
Ward has been volunteering in the community since moving here five years ago.
“Within my first year I was already volunteering with the Sparks, with Girl Guides. It’s been growing from there. I’ve been finding more groups to volunteer with,” she said.
Asked what she enjoys about volunteering she shared, “Everything! I just like to get together with different people. You get to meet new people that way. It’s nice to be able to make some changes in the community for the better.”
“The quality of the nominees was extremely high this year,” said SHIFT president Samantha Mihalus. “The top 20 were selected from a total of 79 nominees. It’s amazing and so inspiring to hear about how Northwestern Ontario young professionals are making a difference in their communities.”
Mihalus further stated, “This was definitely the biggest production the NOVAs has ever been in its eight-year history. The winners are an impressive group of careerists, game changers, leaders, and champions of their communities who mentor and inspire others. There is remarkable talent in our young professionals, locally and regionally, and the NOVAs recognize their contributions and tells them that their work matters and that they are valued.”
Ward’s boss, Fresh Market Foods co-owner and general manager Todd Nadon agreed with Mihalus.
He commented, “Tracey (Bullock, Fresh Market Foods co-owner and general manger) and I were super, super, super proud of Liz. All the skills that she encompasses in our business are exactly what she brings into the community. It’s 100 per cent heart all the time. We’re just so proud of her.”
Ward is the administrative coordinator at Fresh Market Foods.
Nadon imparted, “I feel, and the reason that Liz works for me, is Liz has an extremely special set of skills in working with people. She is a heck of a leader. That’s why she does so many different roles within the organization here. She is very good at organizing and executing and that’s what makes her a crazy great volunteer.
“Anything that Fresh Market Foods does volunteer wise; Liz is a huge, huge part of that. She’s being very humble right now. Generally she’s the one organizing and leading a lot of those initiatives.”
He added, “Liz does a ton of work that is completely thankless. I think it’s so well deserved. She doesn’t do it for that reason, but it’s nice that she was recognized because I think she does a ton of stuff that nobody knows that she does. I already knew she was going to win the award.”
Ward commented, “I definitely would say being able to work here gives me the flexibility to be able to do all the volunteer work.”
Ward said of the gala awards evening, “It was quite amazing. They actually did a circus theme. They had a pre-reception and took everyone’s photo for that. They make you walk down a red carpet. Live entertainment throughout the meal… It was amazing what they had put together.”
Ward said she was extremely surprised when her name was announced as an award recipient.
She recalled, “I was in shock, thinking that’s me they’re talking about!”
She continued, “I was excited! A nice thing was that when I was coming off the stage for my photo, one of the judges stopped me just to introduce herself, but she had said she got to read my application and she said it was one of the most exceptional ones. It was a great night!”
Ward said of receiving the award, “It feels pretty good. I’m quite proud of it. It’s a big shock to be nominated and then to win. It’s pretty amazing.”
Asked what advice she would give to anyone considering becoming a volunteer, Ward replied, “What I put in my application actually was find something that you love to do and then do what you can… That little bit will make a difference overall.”