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Dynamic women earn Soroptimist awards

Chilliwack is home to many phenomenal, strong women, and several are receiving recognition by a local club.

Chilliwack is home to many phenomenal, strong women, and several are receiving recognition by a local club.

Single mom Rebecca Lin won a $2,500 grant from the Soroptimist Club of Chilliwack last week, a welcome  sign to the new Canadian.

"I am very grateful and very lucky. This is a big help for me, for my schooling," she says.

Lin settled in Canada two years ago so that her five-year-old daughter Emma could be closer to her Chilliwack dad. Lin is pursing a career as a teaching assistant, and is enrolled in the community support worker program at the University of the Fraser Valley, a path that can use her skills from a decade of teaching college in native Taiwan. She is also an after-school program assistant at Central Elementary Community School, and works part-time at the RCMP centre.

Some of her time in Canada has been frustrating, she says. When she first arrived, it was stressful having no support network, and no job. But she says Chilliwack helps its single moms. She has found a good group through the Sardis Community Church's DoorWay program.

The Soroptimists' women's opportunity grant is another sign that the Chilliwack community is there for her.

"Maybe it's not a big deal for other people, but it means a lot for me, in a new country, to have big support, and make progress," says Lin. "I want my daughter to be proud of her mom. I really appreciate family and the good friends here, they just appear when I need something or someone. I hope I can inspire other women."

It was her enthusiasm and her motivation to move forward in life despite challenges that won her the grant over the other nine applicants. This year was the most interest that Soroptimist Club of Chilliwack has received for the program, and the club was able to distribute $500 grants to each of the two runners-up.

Another local inspiration is Kate Lister, who was named this year's Woman of the Year in recognition of her decades of volunteer service in Chilliwack.

"Kate (Lister) is a tireless volunteer and her focus over the past 28 years has been to develop and provide affordable housing for those with chronic mental illness," said club president Anita Rogers in a release.

When Lister's son developed schizophrenia at 19 years old, Lister faced difficulty finding affordable housing for him. In the three decades since, she has fought for affordable housing for people with mental illnesses in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. She is now one of the volunteer managers of the Chilliwack Housing Society, looking after the 10-unit Canfield House.

"We not only look after the apartments and the people in them, but we know the people in them," she says. Today's housing options for people with mental illnesses are much better compared to thirty years ago, but finding safe and decent places will remain challenging.

"People are starting to open up about mental illness. Back then, it was almost never spoken of. There is also much better medication now," she says. "But they still need a place to live that they can afford."

Winning the Woman of the Year is a "real honour," says Lister.

Chilliwack teen Brittany Clough also received the Violet Richardson award for her above-and-beyond local volunteering. The prize comes with a $500 grant, and another $500 for her chosen charity, the Dove Foundation.

The formal awards ceremony will be held on April 24, at the City of Chilliwack Council Chambers (8550 Young Road) from 6 p.m. Debbie Fortnum will sing and Joanne Hankey will play the harp.

“Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend this ceremony,"  said Cari Moore, Chair of the Woman of the Year Award Ceremony Committee.