The Queen Pin Award

Karen Dean: 2020 Queen Pin Award Recipient

QueenPins Halifax is delighted to announce that on Thursday, December 3rd, Karen Dean will be presented with the Fourth annual Queen Pin Award.

The Queen Pin is an award given to a woman who has demonstrated extraordinary effort to improve her community. We choose to give this award to amplify the voices of those in our community who are under recognized and underappreciated. Each year we find someone who exemplifies what it means to be resilient, persistent, and does things because they are the right things to do. Ultimately, we want to thank her, and let her know that what she does is appreciated.

Karen Dean is the epitome of a deserving Queen Pin recipient. Through hardship, she finds strength. When others hide, she finds kindness and compassion. When our community was on the ropes, she was finding a way to lift us up.

Karen Dean leads a movement of women who are redefining resilience. She leads by example, having found success repeatedly as a serial entrepreneur and now as founder of the Define the Next Chapter coaching program and the Resilience Reboot.

Recognized by the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards as a Nominee in 2014, Karen has been a mentor to women in business throughout her career and was mentored herself by Arlene Dickinson of Venture Communications and CBC TV’s Dragon’s Den. Karen holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a certificate in Small Business Development Training.  She is a Certified Knowledge Broker and Professional.

Karen also shows her dedication to her community through extensive volunteering, including roles as a founding member of several community and business development organizations. She was one of only two women to ever be elected to the Board of Directors of Farmers Co-operative Dairy Limited, and she has also served as a board member for the Early Intervention Association of Nova Scotia and the National Holstein Convention in 2011.

Karen is the proud mother to three amazing humans who she points to as not only a source of joy but as her greatest accomplishments. Karen is a survivor of domestic abuse by more than one abuser, and has faced challenges from toxic family relationships to helping her children through illness to protecting them from abuse. Her advice for other women springs from a mountain of lived experience, and she’s passionate about her new mission to help other women find their resilience and live their best life, a purpose she lives in her own life every day.

The Pin

The Pin is designed and donated by Charm Diamond Centres, a Canadian family owned jeweler, for the Queen Pin recipient. The pin is a token of our appreciation for all the work that the recipient has done for her community. 

Krista Dunn: 2019 Queen Pin Award Recipient

QueenPins Halifax is delighted to announce that on Thursday, November 7th, Kirsta Dunn will be presented with the Third annual Queen Pin Award.

Krista was born and raised in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in a lobster fishing family and still has strong ties to her hometown. After graduating from high school she went on to Saint Mary’s University, graduating in 2003 with a major in Psychology. Shortly after graduating from University, she realized she wanted more hands on skills training and went on to complete the Human Services Diploma with a concentration in Addictions Counselling at NSCC. It was during her student placement at Phoenix, an organization in Halifax that works with at risk and homeless youth, that she realized she loved working with youth and started to realize the extent of the issues facing marginalized folks. This began her journey working with folks in the community around issues of homelessness, poverty, addictions, mental health, intimate partner violence and more.

Eventually, an opportunity to assist in opening the first emergency youth shelter in her hometown of Yarmouth arose and she relocated back to Yarmouth to be the Project Manager on this initiative. 

Once back in Halifax, she worked at Phoenix once again as the Team Lead in their Youth Shelter. 

It was shortly after having her son that the Housing Manager position became known to her at the YWCA Halifax. She knew right away that the organization and the position were a great fit for her. A new mother herself, being able to support a program that helps young, single mothers and another that supports women experiencing homelessness was a great way to continue to work in the community and address issues faced by women. There is a magic about how non profit organizations like the YWCA work so tirelessly to come up with unique solutions to problems affecting its community and I’m happy to be a part of it. Krista says that she couldn’t do it without such a supportive and amazing team. It is that, and the resiliency of the folks they serve that make it easy to get up and come to work everyday.

The Queen Pin is an award given to a woman who has demonstrated extraordinary effort to improve her community.


Do you know someone deserving of the Queen Pin? Have they made real change in their community? Complete the form below and tell us their story. Our next Queen Pin will be given at the 2019 Fall Fundraiser.

Karn Nichols: 2018 Queen Pin Award Recipient

Karn was presented with the second annual Queen Pin Award on Thursday, April 19th, 2018.

Karn Nichols believes that the language of art transcends barriers and allows our souls to shine. She has been a volunteer with the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning since 2009, and three years ago became the chair of the board. Each week, Karn contributes between 10 and 20 hours of her time. Her influence and hard work is a key factor in keeping the organization viable, strong, and an essential community partner in supporting youth at risk.

Located in downtown Dartmouth, the MacPhee Centre gives Nova Scotia youth a voice through the arts. The Centre empowers young people from 12 to 19 by connecting passion with purpose, and inspires creativity and confidence by offering unique programs in visual arts, music, videography, creative writing, and technology in a safe and inspiring space.

Karn believes that the best and most gratifying work is done when passion and purpose intersect to satisfy society’s deepest needs. In 2009, she took a huge leap of faith and left a 20-year career to pursue an MBA at Saint Mary’s University. Out of this leap grew a mission and a passion to make a difference in her community.

In the words of nominator Heather MacDonald, Executive Director of the MacPhee Centre, “Karn is not just our board chair, she’s our lifeline. She’s strategic, and like an artist is always looking for ways to improve herself and support the organization. She is a lifelong learner who uses her education and experiences to better those around her. Karn has an incredible skill for seeing processes, building confidence in others, and ensuring the comfort of all involved. Her authenticity pulls in every person she comes into contact with. Our community is truly fortunate to have Karn’s talents and skills at work for the greater good. She’s a transformational leader like no other.”

In addition to what she calls her “heart work” with the MacPhee Centre, Karn is Manager of Graduate Career Services at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s. Fifty per cent of the students at the Sobey School are international. This role allows her to tap into her second love, working with international students and new Canadians. She is also the owner and principal at Karn Nichols – People Solutions, where she supports a variety of business needs in many industries, including performance management and strategic planning. Karn has an MBA from Saint Mary’s University, a BSc in psychology from Dalhousie University, and a Certificate in Adult Education from Henson College. 

Karn has also held a number of volunteer positions, including secretary of Junior Achievement of Nova Scotia; Vice President External of Saint Mary’s University MBA Society; Co-President of Families with Children from China; and President of Metro Immigrant Learning Society. She has volunteered for the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia, Feed Nova Scotia, the Blue Nose Marathon, Manulife Dragon Boat Festival, and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

The 2017 & 2018 Pin

The one-of-a-kind Queen Pin was designed and made by Philip Doucette, award-winning Halifax artist and a Master Artisan of the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council. Over his three decade career, he has worked in architectural stained glass, artistic glass fusing, and torch work glass forming. He has designed trophy pieces for such diverse organizations as Nortel and the Diabetes Care Association, as well as Emera and the Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame. Philip is an instructor at NSCAD University, and is represented by Secord Gallery.
The Queen Pin was created by distributing the components of the logo across the two visible surfaces of the piece. An oval of black glass with an iridescent coating is the base, with the Q painted on that surface with a mineral-based pale silver lustre powder. Over this is placed an oval of clear glass, and three small shapes of dichroic glass melt into the surface to represent the red crown. After firing the assemblage to 1460 degrees F and carefully cooling it, engraving is added to the top using diamond tipped tools. The final step was to attach the glass cabochon to a custom sterling brooch back.

2017 Queen Pin Award Recipient: Cheryl Oake

Cherryl Oake’s path to volunteer extraordinaire started with a simple desire to solve a problem for one family. When a girl she knew visited a new Syrian friend’s home and remarked that the family had almost nothing – only the barest kitchen necessities and very little furniture – Cherryl sprang into action.

With her first callout for help on Facebook, she was able to furnish that home, but soon discovered three more families in need. Within ten days, they too had beds, couches, tables, chairs, and kitchen supplies. The rubber really hit the road when Cherryl learned of scores of government-sponsored Syrian refugee families in need in Spryfield. “I thought oh my god, we have to do something,” she says. “I put out another call and said this is serious.” After collecting donations of goods and money, Cherryl and a couple of other volunteers rented a truck and through Easter Weekend of last year delivered furniture to 19 families in two buildings.

The Facebook group Cherryl set up now had two or three hundred members, and she became known across greater Halifax as the point person to help Syrian families get on their feet. Hundreds of volunteers and donors have stepped up to help, including Tara MacDonald Fitness, which still makes a monthly donation, and Manor House Furniture, which donates furniture, delivery trucks, warehouse space, and movers’ time. The CBC television show 22 Minutes also made a substantial donation.

Before this, Cherryl says, she had never really volunteered before. “I work at Canada Post. I have a 14- and a 16-year-old. I work full-time and have a house to run. I didn’t go looking for this, and I knew about the refugees, but like everyone I have a busy life and I’m in my little bubble. But I can’t ignore it.”

Cherryl is quick to explain why government-sponsored refugees, who don’t have the benefit of a sponsorship group to get them started, need help. “People ask, ‘They were given money, weren’t they?’ But I tell them if you were in a refugee camp for all that time… Do you feed your family or buy dishes? They bought beds and the very, very basic necessities. Many have six or eight kids. They get a lump sum, but might not get any more money for three months. We’ve seen some pretty frightened and emotional people.”

To date, Cherryl has helped more than 50 Syrian families build comfortable Canadian homes. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and seen the pictures and heard the stories, but you can’t even imagine what they’ve been through,” she says. “When I first started working with them, I learned you have to have tea or meal. I’ve learned to say, ‘Thank you, I’m full’ in Arabic,” she smiles. “They’re just amazing people, so resilient, and I just have so much respect for them.”
On April 20th, QueenPins will proudly present Cherryl Oake with the first ever Queen Pin Award. “You don’t do these things for awards, for sure,” says Cherryl. “And I didn’t do it by myself for sure. But it’s wonderful! It’s great to be acknowledged. The families are happy.”