Community Papers

Cranbrook's Gail Brown–CFUW Woman of the Year

Gail Brown, CFUW Cranbrook Club Woman of the Year 2014. - Photo submitted
Gail Brown, CFUW Cranbrook Club Woman of the Year 2014.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Our 30th anniversary – how fitting!

In the reading of the nomination document and seven letters of support for Gail Brown for CFUW Cranbrook Club’s 30th Anniversary Woman of the year 2014 award, it was obvious to our committee that this dynamic woman is well loved, admired and cherished in the East Kootenay. Several glowing adjectives came up time after time to describe this terrific woman:  visionary, passionate, inspirational, and dedicated.

When Daphne Kelgard, head of the committee to nominate Gail Brown as Woman of the Year 2014,  called her with the news that she had in fact, been nominated, and was selected, Gail said, “I was ASTOUNDED!  It was an emotional call!”

Spending an hour with Gail certainly proved her nominators correct! MLA Bill Bennett is one of many who are truly awed by Gail’s confident persistence. He wrote, “Gail is an extremely important person in the East Kootenay, and actually in the Province, because there is nothing more important to the future of our society than our children. Gail is blessed with unusually keen insight and an ability to move challenging policy ideas forward in the complicated world of politics and diminished government resources. Gail is one of our treasures, someone who has earned our respect for the way she gets down to business without partisanship, always focused on only what will help our children.”

When asked about how she managed to succeed to achieving her goals in the midst of naysayers, Gail said each of her projects has a concrete goal. Not to be thwarted when an idea came to her in her various paid and volunteer careers in Cranbrook, she designed a plan, surrounded herself with like-minded people, and through many little steps, lots of effort and time, the ultimate goal was achieved. A prime example of this is the Kootenay Children Development Centre. She, with “lucky moments of connecting with good people and maintaining these relationships”, has been able to overcome what others said she and her cohorts could not. “None of these are ‘my’ projects, but rather achievements made with an idea that grew with the help of citizens of this community. I am proud to be part of this membership of men and women; a team of like-minded people to share goals in making everything a little bit better,” she added.

Joy Graham wrote in her letter of support for the nomination of Gail that she “recognized how isolated people could feel in their individual communities and programs and did her utmost to bring people and information together. This ability of hers,” Joy wrote, “ultimately led to the many successful ventures, including the formation of the present (East Kootenay) Child Development Centre.”

Gail maintains that Cranbrook is the perfect-sized community for anyone to go from a concept to a finished project. There are enough willing volunteers, resources and space that a larger city would swallow one’s idea up in or, in a smaller setting, get lost due to restrictions a small town has. “I have been able to have ideas, share these and see a project to the end.”  This is the fuel Gail enjoys and uses for her next idea!

Gail understands large communities. She was born in Vancouver and spent most of her life in the Lower Mainland until she and her husband, Wayne Staudt, came to Cranbrook in 1979 “to try out a new community. We love Cranbrook and all it has to offer,” she added.

Through the years, many well-meaning people have asked Gail to do “other work” in areas where children and families are not the main topic. “I have never strayed from children and families,” she stated, “I have remained focused on this despite many efforts and opportunities to leave.” The East Kootenay is so lucky to have a steadfast and loyal woman working on their behalf for over 30 years.

Pat Chisholm, a well-known Registered Nurse in Cranbrook, is the East Kootenay family Support Coordinator. She stated, “Gail is a lifelong learner and continues to challenge, motivate and inspire others to do the same. She utilizes research to inform her decision making, however, if local and relevant information is not available, Gail is the first to promote ‘doing it ourselves’. This approach has led to Gail authoring several reports and publications.”

Pat Chisholm goes on to say, “Not one to shy away from controversy, Gail has been instrumental for many years in pointing out gaps and highlighting missed opportunities in Cranbrook and in the East Kootenay; especially those impacting women, children and families. Although recognizing weaknesses in an essential component to making change, what never ceases to amaze me is Gail’s ability to see opportunities, envision a better system, and motivate groups of people to take action to ensure that challenges are addressed and a ‘made in the Kootenays for the Kootenays’ solution is developed.”

Speaking to that, Gail said that she is always looking ahead, moving forward, learns from everything she does be it successes or failures, and never looks back. That is why she never does the same thing twice and is always creating new projects, learning new things. “I like to see from the inside how things work,” she said. “I want to be knowledgeable and understand, and I know I can learn that by being on the inside,” for instance, being a school district trustee. “You can’t make things better without thoroughly understanding them and how to better ‘it’,” she added. The hundreds of people Gail has touched know this about Gail. Gwen Noble, Executive Director of the Community Connections Society of S.E. B.C., wrote, “Gail had the vision for a Child Development Centre in our region for many years and was heavily involved in the conception, the advocacy and fundraising to finally achieve this goal.”

Gwen Noble said, “She (Gail) is passionate about supporting children and families and her passion is contagious.” This was also the thoughts of John and Brenda Birrell, who ran the exciting dog sled races at Boot Leg Gap in support of the Friends of Children fundraising. They added that as a result of Gail’s “absolute sincerity to do whatever it took to make a difference to enrich families’ lives, John made a commitment to help oversee the construction of the new facilities for the Kootenay Child Development Centre.”

Longtime friend and co-worker from Edmonton, Denise Salanski, wrote that Gail’s tireless involvement to ensure the Cranbrook Children’s Festival expanded, transformed and flourished under her role as chairperson and volunteer. She can intricately weave her passions of working fundraising and human needs together.

Denis also wrote, “Gail has continually given and will continue to give with forthright honesty and passion. If you cross her path it is a guarantee she will provide you with excellent, honest, humourous and strategic information.”  Gail said that she is analytical in the moment. “I never have to second guess as I have analyzed everything”.  She went on to say she looked for problems and potential hang-ups and has been very careful with her planning. She doesn’t have to sweat the small stuff because it has already been dealt with. “I always have a reason for everything I do; a calculated effort and have rationale for what I do. I am never alone because of my good relationships with like-minded people who are as enthusiastic about projects as I am.”

Daphne Kelgard, who headed the nomination for Gail Brown for this year’s Woman of the Year, wrote. “It would be difficult to find a candidate for Woman of the Year who better exemplifies the principles of the CFUW than Gail Brown, whose entire adult life has been dedicated to improving the outcomes of children, especially but not particularly, in the East Kootenay.” She goes on to say, “It has been Gail’s genius that she has been able over and over, to find goals that other cans, and do, share.”

“The real test of Gail’s leadership abilities is that she could retire in 2011 without detriment to all the various organizations and agencies she had been instrumental in creating and supporting, added Daphne. Many people can, because of their own abilities and energy, contribute significantly to a community. Only a few have the leadership qualities to find, or create organizations and ’co-operations’ that inspire others to invest their energies in perpetuating these entities. The reason once again is to ensure Gail’s defined goal which is that the vital work of supporting children and their families continues uninterrupted. Her contributions have been to the betterment of the entire community.

Joy Graham summed up her letter of support by saying, “Her ‘can do’ attitude is an inspiration to all! She is an excellent role model and a shining example of what a ‘Woman of the Year’ can accomplish!!”

The CFUW Cranbrook Club encourages all former Woman of the year recipients to this 30th Anniversary celebration and to celebrate Gail Brown’s award as Woman of the Year 2014. The ceremony will take place Monday, March 3rd at the Manual Training School that is attached to the Cranbrook Public Library. Although the celebration will start promptly at 4pm, those wishing to have a chair should consider coming early.

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