Meet SEWN member…
(Volunteer) Treasurer, SEWN
Elaine Connors has spent most of her life ‘flying under the radar’, especially on the Sunshine Coast.
When she and her husband Jim moved to the coast in 1988, Jim got to know a lot of local people through running their store (Sunshine Coast TV) in Sechelt, but Elaine was busy off the coast, selling water and wastewater treatment equipment to municipalities and industries throughout Western Canada. She was one of very few women in the field and much of her time was spent standing around open holes with a group of men, staring down.
“Aside from my immediate family, the only people I knew on the Sunshine Coast were the public works people at the SCRD, Sechelt and Gibsons, and the environmental manager at HSPP,” she recalls.
When Elaine retired in 2015, she knew she needed to find something to connect her with the community.
“I was still young, and had lots of energy, and wasn’t ready to stop contributing to society. I had the opportunity to do something and didn’t need to be paid for it.”
At the same time Elaine was looking for connection, the fledgling Self Employed Women’s Network was looking for a volunteer to do bookkeeping. Not quite kismet, but very close.
“Through my business I had become involved in a charity called ‘Water for People’, and I knew that empowering women results in positive impacts in the local community. I thought my 30+ years of experience in self-employment, sales and communication might help the members of SEWN.
Encouraging people to join SEWN sometimes means focusing on things other than just promoting their specific business. Although the online directory is beneficial to those who have businesses selling on the coast, there are many members who see the broader social implications of participating in the society.
“We have had a few members who haven’t renewed because they feel they’re not getting their $30 worth. I think those women have very narrow and self-serving goals, and they’re just short changing themselves in the long run. Selling stuff to others is not what SEWN is really all about. Most of our members understand that though, so we have a very strong base membership. We have to charge for membership, because we have overhead expenses, such as the website, but everything else is done by volunteers.”
Elaine is emphatic that the real purpose of SEWN is to promote peer to peer communication. “We allow the members to tell their stories, ask for help or share their knowledge. My participation in SEWN is always focused on these goals.”
Elaine has benefitted from her association with SEWN in a variety of ways. “I’ve found someone to tune my piano, others to provide healthcare services, have attended writing workshops and even dabbled in watercolours”, all found through the SEWN website directory or the postings on the members only Facebook page.
She has also developed friendships with fellow SEWN board members.
“The board members are fabulous, successful, intelligent and busy,” she says. “I cannot express enough my admiration for these women who are running businesses, raising children, and still have the time and energy to engage with the community and do all the work required to keep SEWN running.”
Because it is a ‘working board’, all initiatives run by SEWN, such as the AGM/Spring Socializer and annual Fall Business Fair, are organized and run by the board, or volunteers from within the SEWN membership.
Aside from the public events, there is the day to day operation of the website, keeping the financial records, and generally answering enquiries and emails. “That’s where I come in,” Elaine says. “I like flying under the radar. Being the person who just gets things done so that other people can succeed.”