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A first for Children First
Group named volunteer of the year by the territorial government

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Children First Society is first when it comes to volunteer groups in the NWT.

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Children First board members Fraser Pearce, left, Melinda Gillis and Jean-Francois Bisaillon celebrate the group being named the volunteer of the year May 10. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

The organization, which is constructing a new childcare building downtown, was honoured as volunteer of the year by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs during the NWT Association of Communities conference in Hay River on May 10.

Chair Melinda Gillis, the dynamo behind the group, said the award came as a total surprise to her and board member Paula Guy, who both accepted it on behalf of Children First.

"Angela Young submitted an application on behalf of Children First and it was a big surprise to us," Gillis said May 15. "It was a shock. She got a lot of letters of support from the community, which is very warming."

Young had many good things to say about the organization she nominated.

"The kids who will be attending this new facility will experience something no child in Inuvik has had the opportunity to experience before: an early childhood building designed for kids," Young said after the award was announced.

"I think that's something that can't be stressed enough. Without the dedication of the volunteers who have worked on this for the last 10 years, future generations of kids in our community could still be attending programs in random buildings around town."

Gillis said she was very touched about the secret application.

"We were so honoured," she continued. "It's a great opportunity to showcase the work we've done here in Inuvik and to showcase it territorially. A lot of people, when they announced the award and gave the backgrounder on our organization, were just in awe for what we've done and what we've raised in our community of 3,700 people."

The project has been in the works for a decade, and Gillis said she wanted to thank the many people who've been involved.

"(The award) wasn't just for the board that exists right now," she said. "It's for the many people who came before and the ones who are still on the board. It's a really good recognition for all the work that's been put into this project."

Gillis said the award plaque will be exhibited in the new building once it opens for business in the fall.

The current board has eight members: Sheila White, Jodie Pongracz, Danielle Nason, Kate Smith, Jean-Francois Bisaillon, Fraser Pearce, Gillis and Guy.

"In our minds, this award is for each and every individual who has given their time for our board, for our fundraising events, for keeping this project moving forward," added Guy. "People such as Delores Harley, Patricia Davison, Teresa Ross and Arlene Jorgensen are the foundation of this initiative and deserve a huge amount of credit for their work.

"Without them, we would not be where we are today with a beautiful, purpose-built building for our kids that will open its doors on Aug. 12."

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