Awards and testimonials on Monday highlighted the annual Y Peace breakfast in the Pictou County Wellness Centre’s community room.
The breakfast helped launch Y Peace Week which this year is being observed from November 16 to 23.
The YMCA of Pictou County hosted the breakfast and conducted proceedings that also included an address by special guest speaker Dr. Robin Neustaeter, assistant professor in adult education at St. Francis Xavier University who teaches at the Coady International Institute.
Madi Cromwell and Joe McCarron from the Y youth leadership group praised the Y. “We are so fortunate to have such an exceptional facility,” said McCarron. “The YMCA gives me a feeling of belonging,” Cromwell added.
YMCA’s executive director Tammy Goodwin drew on the image of songbirds and the different perspective they have at the top and bottom of a tree.
“At the Y, everyone belongs; everyone is welcome to share each other’s perspectives,” she said.
Autism Nova Scotia Pictou County chapter president Allison Kearley spoke on behalf of the organization that received the Y Peace Group Award for promoting peace through leadership, network support, raising awareness, partnering with other groups and developing inclusive programming.
“It is an honour to be standing here this morning on behalf of our small but mighty executive board,” she said.
Kearley noted the office the chapter has opened in downtown New Glasgow and cited the autism swim program offered at the Y. It has grown from 12 participants in January 2014 to the current 54 swimmers from ages three to adulthood.
Dr. Brad MacDougall received the individual award for his volunteer work with the Walk With A Doc program and Exercise in Medicine sessions that have empowered participation. “The Y makes it very easy when it comes to promoting physical activity. With a more active community, I think it’s a better community.”
Jessica Stewart and Raven Eldstrom received the youth award for creating and leading the Northumberland High School’s Karma Closet that features food and hygiene items, school supplies and clean laundry. The program is free, anonymous and supports students and their families.
“We can make a difference in our communities and make the world a little brighter,” Eldstrom said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County executive director Margie Grant-Walsh spoke about how she overcame her fear of water and swimming from when she was a child. She joined the Y swim program to learn to swim with confidence. “It was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life,” she said.
Neustaeter’s address was about the true meaning of peace and the elements of food security, safety and eliminating barriers. She drew on the irony of Y Peace Week’s position after Remembrance Day and before the holiday season.
“Peace is to have food on the table,” she said. “Peace is the ability to meet our needs. I think it’s a definition of peace that resonates around the world. The Y definition is what peace is, not what it’s not.”
From left: YMCA board chairperson Jodi Matlock stands with Y Peace Youth Award recipients Jessica Stewart and Raven Eldstrom and YMCA executive director Tammy Goodwin.