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Women's hands place on top of one another

Sheltering hope

In Pincher Creek, an emergency shelter stands as a beacon of hope for women grappling with the realities of domestic violence and crisis.

Established by the Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter Association, this refuge extends its hand to those navigating the darkest corridors of family violence, providing essential support and sanctuary for women and children.

The need for such a shelter was recognized in 1988, following a forum on family violence issues sponsored by Matthew Halton High School. In 1992, PCWESA registered as a non-profit organization and, five years later, the shelter opened its doors in Pincher Creek.

Since then, this haven has offered hope to women experiencing violence within their families.

The shelter’s operations are finely tuned to offer a lifeline to those in need. When a woman seeks assistance, a carefully orchestrated process unfolds. A simple phone call sets in motion a chain of support.

 

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“Women can access the residential program of the shelter by calling the shelter to request space. We have criteria that we use to determine if we would be a fit for women who are calling to request space,” says the shelter’s executive director, Lori Van Ee.

In crisis situations, women and children can stay at the shelter for up to three weeks.

“We are only an emergency shelter that provides safe, accessible shelter for 21 days, while women and families are seeking more long-term housing,” Lori tells Shootin’ the Breeze.

Asked about times of high demand, Lori says the association stands ready with contingency plans to ensure that no one is turned away in time of need.

“If we cannot accommodate any individual or families, we would always ensure that they are able to get to another safe shelter. In an emergency, we could utilize the cots that we have at the shelter, that were donated to us by Matthew Halton High School, until we were able to find space elsewhere for the women and/or families,” she says, underscoring the community’s unwavering solidarity and support.

 

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The safety of occupants is paramount. Lori emphasizes that security measures, including round-the-clock staffing and surveillance systems, safeguard residents from potential threats, ensuring their peace of mind as they navigate the path to healing.

Beyond providing a safe haven, the PCWESA runs several projects to empower women to rebuild their lives beyond fear.

“We provide education to individuals and families accessing our shelter on domestic violence, safety planning and how family violence affects children,” Lori explains.

“We assist women in accessing different resources and services to meet their needs and achieve their short-term goals. We offer various programs within the shelter to help individuals and families become more confident and improve their well-being.”

Currently, the shelter operates three programs: residential, outreach and child support. The residential program aims to provide a safe and supportive environment for women and their children, while the outreach effort assists women in setting goals that will enable them to live more productively and independently.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Through community outreach and advocacy efforts, the shelter team strives to raise awareness of domestic violence and its far-reaching effects, collaborating with local stakeholders to amplify the message of prevention and intervention.

The child support program facilitates age-appropriate activities for children staying in the shelter, as per the PCWESA website.

Lori is undeterred by the absence of designated funding for southwestern Alberta in the 2024 provincial budget.

“I am happy for the shelters that were able to receive the funding,” she says. “This funding allows those shelters to operate at a greater capacity, being able to support more individuals and families who are seeking their services.”

The Pincher Creek Women’s Emergency Shelter continues to be a support system, providing vital support and sanctuary for those in need, as they journey towards healing and empowerment.

 

 

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Woman looks down at photo of her daughter and a heart-shaped rock in her hand.

Finding hope through the language of hearts

In the quiet corners of Betty DeCecco’s world, love weaves itself into the fabric of everyday life in the most unexpected of ways.

Since her daughter, Debbie DeCecco-Orleni, passed away in 2009, Betty has found herself navigating the expanse of grief, her heart aching with the weight of memories and the void of loss. Yet, amidst the shadows of sorrow, a glimmer of hope emerged.

Betty’s life changed when Debbie died of breast cancer in May 2009, leaving her heartbroken. Betty was passing her days when a glimmer of hope emerged, unfurling in the tapestry of dreams.

On a December night in 2014, Betty had a dream in which she found herself enveloped in the ethereal embrace of her daughter’s presence. Debbie’s voice, soft as a whisper, echoed through the realms of slumber, urging Betty to seek solace in the symbolism of hearts.

“I still remember that dream. Debbie was there. She told me, ‘Look for hearts, and you will see me,’ ” Betty shares, her voice breaking with emotion.

 

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Though the dream faded with the morning light, its message lingered, etched into Betty’s heart like an indelible promise. She started decoding the message of how she could see hearts. Years passed by and again, in December 2019, she had the same dream. Unable to shake off the message, she felt even more restless.

More years passed, and Betty searched, her eyes scanning the world with hope. Then, on a crisp October day in 2023, she stumbled upon a heart-shaped pebble nestled among stones scattered along the roadside. Shocked, yet inexplicably comforted, she knew this was no mere coincidence — it was a message from her beloved daughter, a beacon of love guiding her through the darkness.

Since that fateful day, Betty’s world has become a tapestry of hearts as she finds them everywhere — in spilled soup, in the crystalline embrace of winter’s first snow and even in fallen leaves. Each heart-shaped apparition is a whispered assurance from beyond, a testament to the enduring bond between a mother and her daughter.

Betty found solace in the presence of these tokens.

 

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Heart images

Do you see what Betty sees?

 

“They were not mere coincidences but cosmic affirmations of my daughter’s love,” Betty tells Shootin’ the Breeze, while showing the pictures of hearts she found everywhere.

In the embrace of each heart, Betty found the courage to confront her pain and to unravel the tendrils of sorrow that bound her heart.

In the last year, Betty has shared her journey with her near and dear ones. Some have offered solace, while others remain skeptical, unable to fathom the depths of her experience. Yet, in the warmth of Betty’s presence, even the most hardened hearts soften, touched by the rawness of her emotion.

“Many people told me that it’s just coincidence, but I know that even though she is gone, she is still communicating her love in this way,” Betty says.

And so, in the quiet corners of Crowsnest Pass, among the hearts Betty has kept saved in the form of photos, a mother finds peace in the midst of pain. Her journey is not about closure but continuation, a testament to the timeless bond between a mother and her daughter, forever etched in the hearts of those who dare to believe.

 

Indoor and outdoor view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

 

Pincher Creek Women in Business group snowshoeing

Empowering entrepreneurs

The women of Pincher Creek are poised to drive the region’s evolving business and leadership scene, and Pincher Creek Women in Business is at the forefront of this transformation.

Established in 2018 under the Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce, this group is dedicated to supporting women in their professional development, empowering them to steer their ventures toward success.

“We realized that most new businesses in our area are being opened by women. So, we developed the Pincher Creek Women in Business group to help support women in business, to help educate them and help them with networking,” says committee chairwoman Jill Bruder.

The initiative stemmed from recognizing women’s growing participation in the region’s business landscape, as highlighted by the chamber of commerce board of directors. Leaders like Marie Everts and Cassie Ducharme laid the groundwork for this transformative endeavour, igniting a movement that continues to empower and connect local women.

With over 400 women participating, the group has become a beacon of inclusivity and empowerment. Unlike traditional organizations, Pincher Creek Women in Business has no formal memberships or registration processes; the ethos here is simple — anyone, regardless of her stage in business or industry, is welcome.

 

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“We started very, very small with zero budget, just trying to see what was needed in our community,” Jill explains.

“Our committee is completely volunteer-driven, and we use people’s contacts to find presenters. We do not have a formal registration process. We just open this up to any woman who wants to come.”

The group hosts events throughout the year, ranging from seminars on navigating difficult conversations in the workplace to workshops on leveraging social media for business growth.

They have even delved into more light-hearted activities like snowshoeing and outdoor yoga, ensuring that gatherings are informative and enjoyable for all participants.

Beyond the networking and educational opportunities, the group aims to foster mentorship and support for women at all stages of their careers. Recent events have facilitated open discussions on the challenges of entrepreneurship, allowing women from various backgrounds to share insights and experiences.

 

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“We have everyone from house painters to nail technicians to bankers to hotel managers, and everything in between,” Jill notes. “Our goal is to provide a welcoming place to support women, educate them and provide networking experiences for people in all levels of business.”

Looking ahead, Pincher Creek Women in Business is poised to further engage with the next generation of women entrepreneurs, recognizing the importance of nurturing young talent and providing opportunities for exploration and growth.

As it gears up for its upcoming event — Perogies, Planning and Partnership —the group reaffirms its commitment to supporting women in business and creating a thriving ecosystem of empowerment and connectivity.

The event, scheduled for April 11, promises not only to build perogies but also to forge new local partnerships, symbolizing the essence of what this group represents: collaboration, camaraderie and community spirit.

Angela Parnal will be leading the charge, showcasing the spirit of collaboration and partnership that defines Pincher Creek Women in Business.

 

 

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Jennifer Parker of Pincher Creek with Slaviša Bradić-Brada

Local judo sensei becomes Canada’s first female international instructor

Two weeks ago, Canada added Jennifer Parker as the first woman on its list of internationally trained and certified judo instructors.

Jennifer, the head instructor of Pincher Creek’s Barracuda Judo Club, received this certification after a 12-week theory course culminating in a practical session in Dunavarsány, Hungary. There she was tested on fitness and knowledge of judo techniques.

“One of the things I love about judo is there’s no shortcuts in it,” she says. “You can’t just show up and be amazing.”

Jennifer’s own journey in judo has been defined by decades of studying and practicing, “always chipping away at trying to learn and improve” herself.

Having the International Judo Federation judo instructor certification means Jennifer can be a resource to other local instructors and participate in international tour events.

The training covered not only the technical side of judo but also muscle physiology, exercise theory, and judo history and rules.

This is also a stepping stone in her trajectory as a judo referee. Currently, Jennifer holds continental certification, meaning she can be invited to referee any Pan-American tournament. Being recognized internationally as an instructor is a major stride towards refereeing international tournaments.

“I can’t believe I’m the first woman to do it,” she says, noting her inspiration from the women instructors and coaches who came before her.

 

 

As Judo Alberta’s gender equity committee representative, Jennifer’s first project after receiving international instructor certification was organizing the annual girls camp, a two-day overnight training camp for young girls in judo.

“Judo is an interesting sport. When you are on the mat, you are alone in the race, but you’re still part of a larger team,” she says. “So it’s important to have a welcoming and inclusive environment where women and girls feel safe, to start judo, to try judo, to stick with judo and to excel in judo.”

Though male teammates vastly outnumber women through most of the sport, girls camp offers sessions where girls can learn and grow in a space that’s made just for them. This year’s camp focused on healthy choices and workshopping specific techniques and Kata, meaning judo in its pure form.

“This is a safe environment where girls can come meet other girls from around a bunch of female coaches that are there to help out,” Jennifer says. “It is about support and friendship and the values of judo.”

When women first started practising judo, they did so in secret classes. Jennifer had the opportunity to meet one of these women who pioneered girls’ participation, Keiko Fukuda, and reflects on her as an inspiration. She was one of the first female students of the inventor of judo and the highest-ranking woman in history.

“Somebody had to go first, and somebody had to be the only girl and somebody had to change in a closet because there wasn’t a woman’s change room for her,” Jennifer says.

“All of these people had tenacity and perseverance and they shared their skill and helped judo grow. So I am so grateful to them for paving the way.”

 

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Somya Lohia

From aspiration to achievement: my journey as an immigrant

In the dimly lit confines of my basement, I was drawing a bright picture of my Canadian dream in my mind. Amidst the shadows, I envisioned myself interviewing a celebrity. However, the abrupt scurrying of a rat and a resounding thud from above snapped me back to reality, reminding me that it was time to prepare for another day at the local retail store.

Six months had passed since I moved to Canada, leaving behind a safe job as a journalist and my life in India. With my dreams packed neatly into suitcases, I arrived in Toronto. I felt hopeful as I stepped out of the airport. The towering skyscrapers, the impressive office buildings, the pristine roads, intricate flyovers and the luxury cars passing by — each sight nourished the seed of confidence within me that I was on the cusp of a successful career and a future filled with prosperity and luxury.

However, that “seed” of hope was quickly crushed as I reached the rented basement in Brampton that has become my home in this foreign land.

Perhaps you wonder why I chose to rent a basement studio. The answer lies in the exorbitant housing costs in Canada, especially in major cities like Toronto. Renting a basement emerged as the most economical choice for a newcomer. Little did I know that this economic choice would come with its own set of challenges.

Prior to my arrival, my social media feeds were brimming with videos showing everything about Canada — the food, the stores and the extensive list of attractions to visit. But the reality of residing in a cramped basement with compromised safety, steep rent, tough landlords, lack of natural light, and crawling rats and worms was never revealed in any glossy video. The constant thumping and noise from the floor above have become the soundtrack of my new life.

 

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Isolation was another significant challenge. I soon realized that the landlords and people nearby were polite but they didn’t want to be friends. They thought that newcomers like me were only temporarily dwelling in such accommodations, aiming to move into condominiums once we secured stable employment.

The solitude, cold days and the darkness of the room began to take a toll on my mental well-being, and the daunting task of building a career from scratch exacerbated my anxiety.

If you find this alarming, brace yourself, for this was merely the beginning; the real challenge emerged as I began my job search.

Having been a journalist for eight years in four reputable media houses in India, I initially pursued opportunities in my field. From scouring job boards online to reaching out to editors via emails and even knocking on the doors of their offices, I did everything possible to land a job. However, negative responses made it clear that I needed to be flexible to survive in this new environment.

After a series of unsuccessful attempts, I set aside my laptop and decided to explore job fairs — the bustling carnivals of employers offering opportunities in a vast hall showcasing promising careers.

Dressed in my finest attire, I headed out to attend one such event in downtown Toronto. As I navigated the city, rehearsing the lines I had meticulously prepared for potential employers, I could feel my anticipation building with every step. Having completed the initial formalities, I stepped inside a large hall with hope rekindled and that persistent “seed” of ambition in my heart — albeit for only a few fleeting moments.

 

 

Inside were hundreds of people like me, all vying for a chance at a career breakthrough. I stood in queues for every company to submit my resume, and hoped that at least a few companies would respond. I rarely got to utter my well-rehearsed lines, as the recruiters were busy piling up resumes, politely stating they would get in touch with the most promising candidates.

I have since ventured to several job fairs with the same hope and determination, each time depositing my professional aspirations onto stacks of paper, delivered to waiting hands. The much-anticipated calls and emails never came.

Amid the gloom of my basement and the seemingly unyielding career challenges, two things keep me going: nature and people. From sunny afternoons to breezy evenings, nature always succeeds in cheering me up. The surrounding pine trees, colourful flowers, lush parks, trails and serene lakes have become my lifeline. They provide solace and rejuvenate my spirit to face the hurdles ahead.

Equally uplifting are the diverse people I encounter in this culturally rich country. Every evening as I venture out I know that some people will greet me. In parks and during chance encounters, people from various backgrounds offer kindness and support, unknowingly bolstering my resolve to face another day in my modest dwelling.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Months passed, and, despite my best efforts to secure a writing job, I had no choice but to accept a position in retail to make ends meet in this new land. Engulfed in the whirlwind of hourly payments, weekly schedules and battling the elements to reach the store on time, I found myself far from the direction I had envisioned.

The computer, once a tool for crafting impactful articles, assisted me in processing orders and handling billings. My interactions had shifted from reporting on the public’s grievances to helping customers find the right outfit.

While the store job differed greatly from my original aspirations and I was facing immense challenges, the “seed” of aspiration remained firmly planted within me, nurturing the hope that one day I would achieve my dreams in this country and once again write to bring about a positive change in Canadian society.

And now, as I pen these words, a new chapter unfolds. I am thrilled to announce that I have secured a position as a reporter for Shootin’ the Breeze, a Pincher Creek-based newspaper.

With this opportunity, I embark on the path towards realizing my dream of becoming a renowned journalist in Canada. With gratitude in my heart and optimism in my soul, I step forward, ready to script the next chapter of my Canadian adventure.

 

 

Chelsae Petrovic

Petrovic ‘eager to collaborate’ with front lines through health-care appointment

Livingstone-Macleod MLA Chelsae Petrovic will use a new government role to continue advocating for front-line health-care workers, she said on social media last week.

Named by Premier Danielle Smith as the parliamentary secretary for health workforce engagement, Petrovic is “eager to collaborate with heath-care professionals across the province, engaging directly with those on the front lines to understand their needs and concerns,” she posted on Instagram.

“Together, we will work towards building a health-care system that prioritizes the well-being of both patients and providers.”

Just before her successful run last year to represent Livingstone-Macleod, the UCP candidate was accused of victim-blaming and made cross-country headlines. She suggested in a podcast that some heart patients could be held accountable for their condition because of health and lifestyle decisions.

Petrovic, who spent more than 13 years working in Livingstone-Macleod as a licensed practical nurse, admitted then that she could have chosen her words more carefully. But she did not apologize, saying comments pulled from a full-length podcast failed to capture nuance and context.

Petrovic’s appointment comes as the UCP government prepares to restructure Alberta Health Services into four specializations: primary care, acute care, continuing care, and mental health and addiction.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

After attending public-engagement sessions on the restructuring in Livingstone-Macleod earlier this year, the former Claresholm mayor said she was continuing to take a deep dive into the local situation before returning to Edmonton for the post-Christmas resumption of the legislative assembly.

Petrovic said then that she had confidence in Health Minister Adriana LaGrange

“I was probably her biggest critic when it comes to this,” Petrovic said.

But after Petrovic shared problems and scenarios from the front lines, LaGrange won her over. “She gave me hope for the future of health care,” Petrovic said in February.

A provincial news release on Petrovic’s appointment said that consultation with health-care workers is vital.

“Alberta’s government has been clear that throughout this refocusing process and as the system changes, health-care workers must be empowered in their roles,” the release said, adding that Petrovic will help in that work.

 

Wedding banquet view of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

“Albertans deserve a better, stronger health-care system,” said Premier Smith, the member for Brooks-Medicine Hat, in the release.

“Addressing issues that have been allowed to grow for decades is a major job. Chelsae will play a pivotal role in ensuring that we continue to hear from the hard-working men and women who serve on the front lines of health care. I am confident her work will help lead to a stronger system.”

LaGrange said in the release: “I look forward to collaborating with Chelsae in the weeks and months to come. With her health-care background, she will bring a very important perspective to our refocusing work.

“The voice of every health-care worker is critical to understanding what is actually happening on the front lines and what needs improving. Chelsae will help us incorporate those voices to strengthen the health system for all Albertans.”

The Opposition NDP was not enthusiastic about the government’s choice. A release quotes NDP health critic Luanne Metz calling the appointment “incredibly poor judgment” from the premier that will “cause more chaos” in health care.

Undeterred, Petrovic posted on Instagram: “Our government has emphasized the pivotal role of front-line health-care workers in our health-care system’s refocusing from the onset. In my new capacity, I am committed to ensuring this principle is not only upheld but actively put into practice.”

 

 

My Little Corner Editorial Feature Heading

#InspireInclusion: Celebrate women with us

It has become a tradition for Shootin’ the Breeze to celebrate local women in March, the month that begins with International Women’s Day.

The IWD website says, “International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.”

It belongs to each of us, which means not only to women. We can all benefit from inspiring inclusion, which is this year’s theme. IWD explains it this way:

When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion,

we forge a better world.

And when women themselves are inspired to be included,

there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Collectively, let’s forge a more inclusive world for women.

This year’s Celebrate Women special feature provides the perfect opportunity to share appreciation for the women in our personal lives and in the community. The March 27 issue will focus on the contributions of women and girls in our communities and the amazing things they do.

On March 8, make time to say thank you to the women in your life.

 

 

Margaret Fisher, a woman with shoulder-length brown hair and glasses, shows her award.

Still smiling after 10 years

Town of Pincher Creek employee Margaret Fisher celebrated her 10-year anniversary back in August. “I love the team I get to work with,” said Margaret when asked what she liked best about her job. She is currently an administrative assistant in the town’s tax department and was recognized by council at its Oct. 4 committee of the whole. Congratulations, Margaret!

Photo by Dave Lueneberg

 

 

 

Girl on horseback rides, carrying a large Canadian flag

Local cowgirls set to kick off rodeo festivities

Continuing with local rodeo tradition, the Pincher Creek Ranch Girls will kick off each day of the Pincher Creek Pro Rodeo with choreographed routines on horseback.

The grand entry ride, an annual pro rodeo highlight, provides high-energy entertainment while giving the rodeo organizing committee a chance to thank sponsors, whose generous contributions help make the event a success.

“It’s such a highlight because it starts the rodeo off on the right tempo. It’s always such a fun routine to watch,” says Lynn Lievers, who co-chairs the organizing committee.

“They come in, they look great and they move quickly. The music’s always fun to listen to and it really sets us up to have fun.”

Along with team lead Hailey Grove, the troupe features Gray Bennett, Kate Bennett, Morgan Dingreville, Ava Jessen, Kenna Lewis, Gianna Morris, Angelina Morris, Morgan McNab, Kelly Turnbull and Kim Turnbull. 

Each day, the team will enter the arena, with each rider carrying a flag embossed with the logo of a rodeo sponsor.

The gals gallop around the ring, performing well-practised patterns to high-energy music.

 

 

In addition to leading rodeo festivities each day, the group assists with escorting cattle from the arena during events to ensure things run smoothly and on time. 

The group will also be featured in the town parade on Saturday, where they will once again fly the sponsors’ flags as they ride their horses down Main Street.

Furthermore, the group will correspond with dignitaries coming into town for the rodeo, working with them to ensure they are properly introduced.

“We’re here to rodeo, we’re here to have fun, and their performance provides a nice way to roll into the rodeo and have the right atmosphere,” Lynn says.

When it comes to the grand entry routine, she says “no one year is ever the same,” so you won’t want to miss the performances.

Heading for Jaunty Journo Jargon by Mia Parker with old-fashioned typewriter

Falling in love with journalism

Since starting at Shootin’ the Breeze as a summer student in 2020, I have fallen in love with all things journalism and decided to study it at Carleton University. This summer marks the end of my first year and I look forward to sharing all of my jaunty journo-jargon with you, dear reader.

So like any good journalist, let’s start with the facts. Carleton University, then Carleton College, was founded in 1942 in an effort to promote formal education through the Great Depression.

The school introduced the country’s first bachelor of journalism program in 1945, in part as an opportunity for returning soldiers. The very first class held only five students — three women and two men.

The program started with a heavy focus on print news but has since evolved to provide formal education on the many methods and media of delivering news.

My draw to the university was the department’s emphasis on opportunities and experiences, and its long course list of seemingly every different method and angle of journalism.

Now, if you’ll indulge me, let’s sit down with our pens and typewriters handy and talk about what you learn as a student of journalism. History is a fun tool for most things, so I’ll take you to the beginning.

With the Renaissance came the new desire for knowledge, literacy, art and wealth, and with the printing press came big strides toward achieving such things. The world saw the codification and standardization of languages, as well as progress to widespread concepts of communication and the spread of knowledge.

The notion of newspapers followed. As the need for mass communication grew, printing became the solution for efficiently producing large quantities of media and printed newspapers emerged in the 1600s.

 

 

Growing literacy promoted these historical developments and newspapers became essential for informing the masses of relevant events and issues.

Just as you may have read Shootin’ the Breeze articles on Covid-19, newspapers were responsible for reporting the small-pox epidemic.

And like books sparked religious reformations, newspapers sparked political reformations. Political change has often been measured as the changes in the ways in which people exchange ideas, and newspapers offer a forum for information and opinions coming from the people, rather than from power. 

News also grew as an important democratic player. The “Fourth Estate” emerged when the media began to have a place in democratic structures in their efforts to keep the public engaged and involved.

Today, you might look to your local paper for the latest on big events and political controversies, but also for the latest on your neighbours and the community you call your home.

In journalism school we talk about all the ways our practice has changed, along with all the ways it has stayed the same.

At Shootin’ the Breeze, we want to share knowledge and community connections with you — to see you in the past, report to you in the present and walk with you into the future.

Right now, you might be holding our print paper in your hands, staring down at an email link, or reading on the Breeze website. No matter how you choose to be with us, we’re happy to share our journalism with you, and I’m happy to share all this jaunty jargon with you as your local journalism student.

 

Smiling young woman wearing a grey suit poses with an old-fashioned printing press

Shootin’ the Breeze community reporter Mia Parker checks out the old printing press in the Pincher Creek Echo exhibit at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village.

Photo by Elena Bakker

Woman with short grey hair and glasses, wearing a grey outfit with a neck scarf, smiles as she reads a thank-you speech.

Town CAO receives a fond farewell

Laurie Wilgosh, chief administrative officer with the Town of Pincher Creek for 14 years, flashes a genuine smile at her March 31 retirement party at the Pincher Creek Legion.

Wilgosh was joined by town and MD councils, current and retired town staff, and her family. 

“It was a great send-off, but it can never be enough. She did a really great job!” Mayor Don Anderberg said.

A woman with long blonde hair and a woman with short brown hair and glasses smile for the camera.

LRSD hires mental health therapists

The pair will be tasked with providing culturally appropriate and evidence-informed practices in crisis intervention, assessment, referral and intervention services for students and their families. Additionally, they may support consultation and professional development activities within LRSD.

Students and their families can access this service through a referral process with a school’s family-school liaison counsellor. 

Through this process, the counsellor determines if the student and caregiver will be best served seeing an LRSD mental health therapist.

If it is determined to be the best course of action, a referral will be made and the mental health therapist will reach out to initiate the service moving forward.

Colette, who is Métis, will be working as the Indigenous mental health therapist for the division. Her focus will be primarily on the Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek areas, given their significant Indigenous populations.

Colette previously worked within the school division as the family-school liaison counsellor at Livingstone School in Lundbreck. 

She provided support to students and families experiencing hardships while acting as a liaison between families and the school system.

Holding a bachelor’s degree in psychiatric nursing from Brandon University and a master’s in counselling psychology from Yorkville University, Colette has the experience and education to excel in this role.

“I am extremely pleased to be chosen to fill this new role and look forward to gaining knowledge and sharing experiences with individuals and families in the Pincher Creek and Fort Macleod area,” Colette said in a press release from LRSD.

 

 

Kristen will work in the northern and western corridors of LRSD. This includes schools in Nanton, Stavely, Claresholm, Granum, Lundbreck and Crowsnest Pass. 

Kristen previously spent over 10 years working predominantly for community agencies and Alberta Health Services. 

She holds a diploma in social work from Mount Royal University, on top of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Calgary. 

With a diverse education background and an affinity for helping others, Kristen is excited for this new challenge.

“I am looking forward to seeing the world through a student’s lens and helping support and nurture healthy and meaningful relationships in the process,” said Kristen in the same media release.

The mental health therapist positions are temporary roles made possible through the Alberta government’s Mental Health in Schools Pilot Grant.

LRSD recognizes the importance of having therapists available to its students and felt this was an opportunity the division could not pass up. 

“Oftentimes the ability to access these supports may prove difficult due to travel logistics or financial barriers,” says Holly Stewart, clinical team lead with LRSD, in the press release.

“Having Colette and Kristen join our division and be able to provide these essential services directly and in a flexible, timely manner to our students and their caregivers in the school setting is truly exciting.” 

Colette and Kristen will hold these positions until Dec. 31, 2024, barring any changes.

Two women sit at a town council meeting – Laurie Wilgosh has short grey hair and glasses, Angie Lucas has long reddish-brown hair

New CAO looks to Pincher Creek’s future

Pincher Creek’s new chief administrative officer has set her sights on long-term planning as mayor and council update the town’s policy framework.

Angie Lucas, who officially took the reins late last month, said last Friday that Pincher Creek is already a regional centre.

From its retail shops and parks to its hospital, Lucas said the town and its roughly 3,400 residents are a steady draw for about 35,000 people across southwestern Alberta.

The region is still emerging from an economic downturn that hit before the Covid-19 pandemic, but, “It’s 2023 now, and people want to do business here,” Lucas told Shootin’ the Breeze.

 

 

The town is facing a number of challenges, though, especially its lack of affordable housing. 

“If people want to come here and work, there’s nowhere for them to live. And if businesses can’t get staff, they can’t grow,” Lucas said, noting that mayor and council are on top of the situation.

“There’s plenty of long-range capital planning to do,” which already has Lucas’s staff taking stock of municipal facilities. 

Are we looking after them correctly? What’s our operating budget saying?” she pondered.

 

 

More immediately, the town’s municipal development plan — a living document that broadly envisions Pincher Creek’s future — is now 10 years out of date.

“There’s lots of work to be done internally before we can make changes in the community,” she said. 

To that end, Lucas brings years of experience in Alberta and neighbouring British Columbia, having served in top administrative positions with Calgary’s Tsuut’ina First Nation and nearby Wheatland County. 

Born in England and raised in Australia (Lucas joked that she’ll never outgrow her “Aussie twang”), she holds a master’s degree in environmental design and planning from the University of Calgary.

 

 

Credentials aside, Lucas was the last candidate standing after a tough selection and interview process that started back in September. 

Lucas has been working alongside outgoing CAO Laurie Wilgosh since January. 

Wilgosh will step down for good in March, having held the position for 14 years.

 

 

 

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