Volunteer extraordinaire Cathie Stewart has been named Vernon’s Good Citizen of the Year for 2021.
Junior Chamber International (JCI) Vernon members met with Stewart at Ratio Coffee Wednesday, April 27 to present her with the award, given each year to a person who goes above and beyond for their community.
It was a rare moment in the spotlight for a person who’s typically more comfortable working in the background.
“I tend to be a back-room operator — that’s where my expertise lies,” she said.
Stewart has served as president of the Vernon Jazz Club, run entirely by volunteers. She’s also volunteered with the Okanagan Screen Arts Society, Roots and Blues Music Festival, Okanagan Military Tattoo and Powerhouse Theatre.
The list goes on: she’s a board member for the North Okanagan Community Concert Association and a volunteer at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre, working with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. She’s catered for a number of charitable events and organized silent auction fundraisers at the art gallery.
If you hadn’t already guessed, Stewart is a fan of the word “yes” — and the more challenges she’s agreed to take on, the more people have come to her with opportunities to network and engage.
“Vernon is amazing in that for a community this size, it allows us access to so many things so easily,” she said.
She added that volunteering “broadens your view of the world.”
Her long streak of volunteerism began shortly after she moved to Vernon from Vancouver in 1975. Working at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital, she saw a notice on a bulletin board about the Vernon Crisis Line. She ended up spending years volunteering on the crisis line’s board. And from there her volunteerism broadened.
As a bonus, the Good Citizen award comes with a $500 donation to a charity or cause of Stewart’s choice, provided by title sponsor Kidston and Company LLP.
Stewart said she’d like to put the money towards maintaining the Vernon Jazz Club.
“It is a gem that we can’t seem to get enough people to come and experience. And when they do, they go wow!” she said.
Stewart said the biggest challenge she faced in the past year was assuming the role of president at the jazz club, after the former president unexpectedly passed away.
“The challenge was to step into that position that I never saw myself or wished to have for myself because I’m in the background, that’s where I’m comfortable, so having to do that was probably, from a growing perspective, what I had to do,” she said.
JCI’s Abby Lagerquist said the organization considered about 20 nominees for this year’s award.
“We had our judging panel and we talked for weeks, looked at all the nominees and it boiled down to somebody who does so much here in the community,” she said.