For the Townsman
“She may be little, but ‘Oh, my!'” was one expression recently stated in reference to the well-known East Kootenay busy woman Donna Grainger.
How true—Donna may be short in stature but is tall as a local fir tree in what she had given, shared and done for the entire East Kootenay community.
Donna had a huge amount of publicity in mid-January when she announced her planned retirement from her career with the East Kootenay Foundation for Health (EKFH). From that, more than one group of people in the area planned on nominating her for the CFUW Cranbrook Club’s 34th Woman of the Year Honour.
“Like many of our nominations, the nomination for Donna was a no-brainer,” said Cathryn Henley, chair of the Woman of the Year Committee of the CFUW Cranbrook Club. “The committee voted hands down,” she added.
Sheilah Moore, Woman of the Year 1991, was the head of one of the nominating committees. She wrote that Donna has been a champion for the people of the entire East Kootenay and their health needs, and heartily recommended Donna for our consideration as Woman of the Year 2016.
“From that wonderful article in the local papers about Donna in January, we all know that her career with EKFH was more than a job, but rather a purpose that she gave with passion to the benefit for all East Kootenay citizens young and old, well or not.”
There is more to Donna than her nearly 11 years as the Executive Director of the EKFH. Brian Clifford wrote in his letter of support of Donna’s nomination.
“Donna has built strong relationships in all the communities of the EK valley educating the public in the needs of additional health care. These relationships would blossom, and then the take was to nurture these and ensure she was available in their personal times of need.”
He added, “It was not abnormal to see Donna responding to a hospital patient or family member in a time of need as they went by her office door at the EKR Hospital entrance. They would be overcome with a recent diagnosis or family loss and it was Donna’s shoulder that provided some vital and immediate care.”
Well-known Cranbrook volunteer and another former Woman of the Year (2010) recipient, Sandy Zeznik wrote in her letter of support of Donna, “The old adage of ‘work never done’ certainly applies to Donna, as she organizes fundraisers on weekends, evenings and during her regular working hours.”
She added, “During the huge fundraiser for the Stereotactic Mammography unit, I and other members of Abreast in the Rockies Dragon Boat Team worked with Donna. We were always impressed with her thoughtful, compassionate management of this million-dollar campaign. She is quick to help out with anything that needs to be done – and with a smile.”
Chris Shumka, Health Services Director at EKRH wrote, “Donna has exceeded in her role through tough economic stress and has brought much -needed equipment to the communities of the East Kootenay. Donna volunteers much of her time to fundraising in the community, assisting the many health care auxiliaries in the entire east Kootenay, working with service clubs to help make their events successful, as well as comforting families in need.”
When this writer was sitting in her office, the phone was ringing and people were at the door!! She said she had been busy with calls from all over congratulating her for being recognized with this prestigious honour.
Donna’s last fundraising efforts have been completed, being much-needed equipment for the new ICU that will be opening in the Spring.
“I have realized my personal goals for the EKFH, now, and feel it is time for a fresh face to continue from here,” said Donna.
All letters of nomination for Donna talked about her many talents, from tossing off a poster on her computer, to comforting an upset child with a stuffed animal in the regional hospital foyer. All nominators stated, “Donna’s energy and passion for the betterment of the East Kootenay communities is second to none. She is caring and compassionate, intelligent and knowledgeable, and willing to help share her expertise with others. What is truly amazing is that she does all this and continues to address the needs of her family and friends.”
So who is Donna Grainger when she is not fundraising and campaigning for the EKFH?
Donna was born in Kamloops and was moved to Marysville with her two brothers and parents when she was five. “I will be 60 in April and proud of it,” stated Donna.
Donna said that throughout her entire youth, she was always busy like her parents, brothers and her grandmother.
“I figure skated, was on committees and clubs in school and always doing something,” she stated.
When she was 16, she worked at the Kimberly Golf Club, but her first job after leaving Selkirk College was as a secretary for Finning. From there, she worked for BC Hydro for 23 years, here and in Vernon. She did everything from chasing delinquent bills to working as the Power Smart representative.
Her favourite job within Hydro was as the Communication Officer at the Bennett Dam Sinkhole Remediation Project. Donna was the liaison between engineers, management, media and the labourers to help bring all parties together to finish off the large project.
Donna returned to the East Kootenay and was part of the Delta-St. Eugene grand opening. She also worked her own business, but was encouraged to apply for the position with the EKFH when it came up 11 years ago.
All those years of successfully using her talent as a people person, of building and maintaining relationships, her all-round active lifestyle and brilliant personality won her the EKFH position which in turn has been a huge windfall for every individual in the East Kootenay.
“I love working with crews of all kinds. At the EKRH it is wonderful to see how all teams, from logistic to maintenance, are all treated the same and work well together,” Grainger said.
Brian Clifford brought his letter on nomination to an end by writing. “Donna’s influence in bringing health care in the valley to another level because of her fund raising prowess, her keen interest in health care and her ability to build an retain relationships deserves recognition for the woman she is: “small in stature but tall in heart!”.
To that Donna said, “There is absolutely no way the goals I had upon taking this job could have been realized without the people I work with and surround myself with. I simply represent the voice of the community, it is the communities that tell us what they need.”
One wonders how she doesn’t burn out with her never-ending busy schedule, her ability to be the go-to person for those in need and still tend to her own life and recent losses of loved ones.
“The Cranbrook and Kimberley Hospice Program was amazingly helpful for me. I am very grateful to them for keeping me grounded,” Donna admitted.
Donna also likes her quiet time. She loves her time with her husband in their R.V. at any campground facing a mountain or lake, with the candles burning and listening to Andrea Bocelli.
“I am very similar to my grandmother who was active in the Eastern Star, was a key person in the startup of the Marysville Thrift Shop and just so happened to be Citizen of the Year in Kimberly in 1967.”
Like her, Donna is a ‘project person’; a doer, but she also has a strong spiritual side to her that has guided her through the trials and tribulations in her life.
As she enters her retirement, Donna said, “I have exceeded my personal goals for the EKFH. She believes that the communities in the East Kootenay understand and see that the work the foundation undertakes truly impacts people’s lives.”
When asked how she feels about being selected as Woman of the Year 2016, she said, “I am more comfortable seeing other people succeed. I am a little uncomfortable having the limelight shine on me.”
In her thank you note to all those in the nomination process, she wrote: “I am at a loss for words – Thank You! I truly don’t know what to say; thank you so much for making my day. My mom always thought that one day I would be recognized as a woman of the year; I cannot believe it, as I approach her first anniversary (of her death) that her dream has come true.”
Many people are lined up to have Donna volunteer on their committees and clubs, but she and husband, Leigh, who is now retired, have decided to take time to focus on themselves as a couple and as individuals.
They have plans to travel, but for the most part, to stay within two to four hours of home and really explore “our own backyard”. Once refreshed and having had time to start the next journey in life as a retired person, you can bet Donna will be once again active and giving to the community.
The Cranbrook Club has 12 members locally and is a member of CFUW National, a non-political, voluntary, self-funded, bilingual and non-governmental organization of women university graduates in 110 clubs across Canada that works to improve the status of women and girls, education, peace, justice and human rights. CFUW holds special consultative status at the United Nations (ECOSOC) and belongs to the Sectoral Committee of education of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. CFUW is the largest of 61 national affiliates of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW).