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Helpers: Women’s group celebrates 75 years of doing good work

The Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women has expanded beyond its mandate of encouraging university education for women, and now supports several causes while providing members with good company

The Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

Established in 1948, its first president was Grace Hartman, who became the city's first female mayor in 1966. The current president, Teresa Stott, encouraged by her mother, Kathleen, a long-time member, joined CFUW in 2013 and began preparing for the job for almost a decade.

"At my first meeting, Christine Tworo, then president, asked if anyone was interested in becoming president, and I said I was," said Stott.

Tworo mentored her over the years and, in 2021, Stott, who is 41 and the youngest member, stepped into the key leadership role.

"As soon as I met Teresa, I saw she had a great interest in the advocacy work that CFUW does nationally and provincially," said Tworo.

"Despite working full-time and having a young family, she has held numerous executive positions and been the CFUW Sudbury president during the past two challenging years due to COVID-19."

One hundred years ago, when the national organization was started to promote higher education for women, it was a radical and unpopular idea. And while women have come a long way, there is still work to do. The organization also champions women's and children's health issues, diversity and environmental concerns.

While CFUW has a serious mission, which involves raising money for scholarships for young women, it is also a lively and curious collective that provides life-long learning opportunities, as well as a chance to meet other like-minded women and have a lot of fun.

Monthly meetings with an informative guest speaker are held the third Monday of the month at Grace United Church in Minnow Lake.

Members can also take part in numerous interest groups that meet throughout the month to talk about the latest books or explore topics such as antiques, films, gardening and wine.

There are several highly anticipated socials each year. The Christmas party and silent auction, and the June year-end dinner and book sale are held at Bryston's in Copper Cliff.

CFUW members also support a community outreach program, assisted by generous citizens, numerous community organizations and businesses, which helps families in need at Christmas. Over the past years, $200,000 has been raised for the Adopt-a-Family program.

The committee was honoured for its good works with the Rainbow District School Board Community Partner Award in 2020.

In more recent years, the program has assisted refugee families from Syria and Ukraine with clothing, furniture and grocery gift cards.

"They are an amazing group chaired by Barb Booth," said Stott.

The Adopt-a-Family committee also collects toiletries that are given to elementary schools to distribute when needed.

In February, a team of CFUW members and friends took part in the Coldest Night of the Year Walk at Science North and raised more than $1,200 for the Samaritan Centre.

This June, CFUW, with partners YWCA and LEAF Sudbury, will present Canadian author, playwright and actress Ann-Marie MacDonald in conversation with club member Judi Straughan at the 27th annual Celebrate Women event.

The award-winning writer is best known for her 1996 book “Fall on Your Knees”. Her most recent book, "Fayne," takes place in the 19th century near the border of Scotland and England.

Tickets for Celebrate Women, to be held Monday, June 5 at Sudbury Secondary School, are $20 and will be available soon at Apollo Restaurant (844 The Kingsway) and at Adoro Oils and Vinegars (1984 Regent St.).  There will be a reception and book signing after the presentation. For more information, visit the CFUW Sudbury website.

Over the past 25 years, Celebrate Women has hosted numerous prominent woman authors and journalists including Joy Fielding, Elizabeth Hay, Sally Armstrong and Jan Wong.

Despite the name, women do not need to be university or college graduates to join CFUW. The dues are $85 per year. There are currently about 85 members, and many have been involved for several decades. 

One of Stott's tasks during her term as president has been to participate in club renewal. She is working with Brenda Koziol, Jane Cox and Tworo on that initiative. Like all service organizations, there is a need for a new generation of members to continue the good work.

"The refresh committee is looking at new ideas to re-energize CFUW Sudbury as we emerge from COVID," said Tworo.

"It is hoped to build on the previous great work by the executive and general membership to find positive solutions to the challenges of executive recruitment and increase our membership."

Tworo said she cherishes the friendships she has had over the years as a member of CFUW Sudbury, "as well as the opportunity to continually experience and learn new things while making a difference both locally and nationally and to a small degree, internationally.

 "I heard someone call it 'friendship with a purpose!' I love that line."

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer and a member of CFUW Sudbury. Helpers is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.


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Vicki Gilhula

About the Author: Vicki Gilhula

Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer.
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