The Ontario Co-operative Association

The Ontario Co-operative Association

September 28, 2007 13:58 ET

Ruth Blackburn to Receive Co-operative Youth Mentorship Award

GUELPH, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 28, 2007) - A woman credited with influencing young people and helping to mould them in their future endeavours will be presented with the Ontario Co-operative Association's Youth Mentorship Spirit Award on October 17th. Ruth Blackburn of Thunder Bay Ontario, who passed away in July 2007, was known as an "untiring volunteer" who had the drive and foresight to introduce the Co-operative Young Leaders (CYL) program to Thunder Bay.

A keen supporter of CYL for over 6 years, Ruth created, lobbied and sat on the camp's Thunder Bay-area youth selection committee. Over many summer weeks, Ruth would make the trek to southern Ontario and facilitate the program, positively impacting many young lives and hearts. Ruth enthusiastically promoted the program and encouraged other staff to become involved. Originally participants were selected from among Superior Credit Union's youth members; Ruth introduced the CYL program to a wider audience when she encouraged the nine credit unions which make up the Northwestern Ontario Credit Union Alliance (NWOCUA) to support it. Lorne Kellar, president of the NWOCUA, says that through Ruth's efforts, the Alliance was able to offer a series of annual CYL scholarships to area young people.

Ruth Blackburn was also a mentor to young people in the co-operative system, training, teaching and guiding young employees at Superior Credit Union and at regional conferences. According to Scott Kennedy, CEO of Superior Credit Union, if there was a co-op cause, "you could count on Ruth to be there, usually in charge." For five years, she helped organize and present the "Choices" program, a credit union-sponsored initiative which focussed on providing high school students with the tools they needed to make the right choices in their lives.

Lea Matyuska, manager of Bay Credit Union says that Ruth enlisted people and organizations beyond her employer, such as NWOCUA and the Thunder Bay and District Credit Union Manager's Association, to find ways to support and finance youth programs.

Ruth was involved in the credit union system for over 30 years. She truly believed in the co-operative way and built a career within the credit union community. She began working with the CPR Employees Credit Union and grew with the credit union as it merged and expanded, eventually becoming the Chief Operations Officer at Superior Credit Union. She was very proud to have achieved the designation of Fellow of the Credit Union Institute of Canada. It was with great sadness that she had to leave work in December 2006 to battle cancer.

Her legacy lives on. Lauren McCutcheon, a first year university student at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, credits the CYL program and Ruth Blackburn for the leadership skills she now possesses. She recalls how, as a facilitator, Ruth would encourage and challenge the CYL participants to do their best. Lauren says, "I am a better person, leader and member of my community for having shared some time with her."

Ruth was nominated for the Co-operative Youth Mentorship Spirit Award in April 2007, but passed away before learning that she was the recipient. Her family will receive the award on Wednesday October 17 during the 9th annual Co-operative Spirit Recognition Awards banquet and ceremony.

The nomination was made by Bay Credit Union and the Northwestern Ontario Credit Union Alliance, with support from Superior Credit Union and Gay Lea Foods Co-operative. The awards ceremony, the crowning jewel of the Co-operative Conference and Gala, takes place at the Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West in Burlington Ontario.

The Co-operative Conference and Gala, now in its 7th year, is a two-day event that brings together co-op sector supporters, champions and friends from across Ontario and beyond for professional development, meetings and networking. The conference includes tours of Hamilton-area co-ops and more than a dozen workshops and sessions. This October, the Spirit Recognition Award banquet, a tradition in the Ontario co-operative sector for almost 10 years, will celebrate the successes of 10 of Ontario's most distinguished co-operators, including Ruth Blackburn.

The Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op), host of the Co-op Conference and Gala, and the Co-operative Spirit Recognition Awards ceremony, is a resource and common voice for Ontario credit unions and co-operatives in the areas of co-operative development, government relations, membership and communications, and lifelong co-operative learning.

Contact Information