The Queen Pin Award
Karn Nichols: 2018 Queen Pin Award Recipient
QueenPins Halifax is delighted to announce that on Thursday, April 19th, Karn Nichols will be presented with the second annual Queen Pin Award.
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.
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.”