Selfless spirt keeps recipient from Vernon award ceremony

Jan White Memorial Award winner too busy donating a kidney to accept honour

She was too busy donating an organ to a friend in need to accept the award. That’s Johanna Burko for you.

Burko earned the 2018 Jan White Memorial Award from Vernon Women in Business earlier this month. And in “true Johanna fashion,” her giving and selfless spirit kept her from the event as she was in Vancouver prepping for surgery to donate a kidney to a friend who has polycystic kidney disease.

“She is doing something that’s bigger and truly Johanna,” said Melody Martin, VWIB president.

Burko, 65, was a social worker for 31 who after returning continued in the field but teaching social work classes at Okanagan College. She is now involved in nutritional health as a Usana distributor.

She joined VWIB six years ago as a new entrepreneur and is now the recipient of the organization’s award.

“It’s quite something quite an honour,” Burko said via Facebook chat from Vancouver General Hospital during the awards luncheon.

“Thank you so much for this recognition, I am truly honoured.”

She recalls how she became deeply involved with VWIB when she was asked to join the executive as communications director, producing newsletters and updating social media. She initially said ‘No thank you.’

“I had been sitting on boards since 1970 and I vowed no more boards,” said Burko, who was convinced otherwise.

Serving on the VWIB board turned out to be a tremendously rewarding and fulfilling experience.

“This organization is amazing, so many wonderful women who are tremendously gifted and talented and willing to share their time.

“Thank you for being role models of exemplary leadership, dedicated work and inspirational mentors.”

VWIB member Lacy Donald was almost in tears as she spoke of Burko at the awards ceremony.

“Her energy and her kindness, just her positivity, her willingness to do things like donate a kidney, and her service are part of the reason we chose her to receive this award,” said Donald, adding that Burko recruited her to join VWIB, a group that she too is very proud to be a part of.

The Jan White Memorial Award was created in honour of the VWIB founder who passed away in 2004.

“She was the founder of this organization but I think she contributed in many many many capacities throughout her life,” said Sue Beaudry, a former VWIB president.

“She was always the person that would step up to do whatever needed to be done. She was a hard worker, tireless, she didn’t say no. People recognized that they wanted to remember her and consequently, the Jan White Memorial was put into place.”

Martin adds: “She was a real mover and shaker.”

Last year’s Jan White Memorial Award recipient is Julie Knoblock, Vernon Golf and Country Club general manager.

“Julie was, like Jan, a person who was hard working, I don’t think she ever said no,” said Beaudry.

It is with such women as these that VWIB continues to grow and empower women in their business endeavours.

“I’m excited to see how Vernon Women in Business will evolve to encourage women to build relationships and be given all the tools they need to build successful businesses,” said Burko.


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