A Hay River woman has been named a Wise Woman award recipient, an annual recognition of women put on by the Status of Women Council of the NWT.
Edna Dow was nominated as 2016’s Wise Woman for the South Slave.
Lorraine Phaneuf, executive director of the council, said to win the award the nominee must be recommended by at least two people and be a role model in the community.
“We are looking for community workers – people who are role models and teach their skills to others, and a lot of the time these people go unnoticed,” said Phaneuf.
She said the council could receive as many as 20 nominations in one region.
“Sometimes it is really, really hard to choose,” she said.
Dow was nominated, and then the council chose her based on the influence she has had in her community.
Dow is perhaps best known for her Secret Santa service. It’s a special holiday initiative to get presents and festive feasts to needy families in town which has been running for 25 years.
“There was no such thing as it here before,” said Dow. “I was brought up by my mother to always give to others. If a woman needed food, my mother would give her half of ours.”
Although Dow was hesitant to list her contributions to the community, she did mention a few ways she has been able to help others.
“A woman in Calgary heard about me up here in the North, and she sent along brand new coats,” she said. “I know who needs them – I know who doesn’t have enough here. And people are so thankful.”
Dow is mother to eight children, and has raised many more in the community. She said when she would hear of a child that didn’t have a safe place to go, she would take them in.
“I raised them all to help with Secret Santa, and to help with bringing baking to people,” she said.
Despite all of this, Dow said she was surprised when she received the call informing her she had won the award.
“I said, ‘Why me?’ I was shocked,” she said. “You just keep doing what you do, you don’t think of getting an award while you’re doing it. I do it because it’s in my heart to do it. It feeds my soul. And I think everyone in the community does a little bit that the rest of us don’t know about too.”
Dow will be a guest of honour at this year’s award ceremony in Yellowknife on March 8. It will mark the 25th ceremony for the annual event, and Phaneuf said there is a special program planned for the women including a showcase of women’s art and writing, a traditional clothing show. Local musicians are expected to perform as well.
“It’s such an honour to work on a celebration that shows the accomplishments of women,” said Phaneuf. “So often we work with important issues like leadership and family violence, so it is nice to have an event that goes solely to celebrating women’s achievements. Not what we didn’t do or can do but what we’ve done. Women who work every day in their communities unnoticed – making sandwiches, taking care of kids and elders, volunteering at fundraisers – these women are all humble. It’s my favourite event of the year that we do by far.”
Dow is looking forward to travelling to Yellowknife for the awards.
“It’s exciting, I love meeting new people,” she said. “But I am feeling selfish. It’s all paid for.”
“I’m very honoured that people think of me as an example in Hay River,” said Dow. “It amazes me, because there are so many other people that are deserving of this.”