President Michelle Phillippi 2022
To all Branch Presidents,
This past year has been a difficult time for all our Members and, as leaders in your Branch, I commend you on your efforts to keep your Members connected and supported.
The time is coming that many of the restrictions will be eased and meeting in person will once again be possible. We are all looking forward to renewed friendships and interest in community events.
Please ensure that the safe protocols included with this letter, as directed by the office, are adhered to, as the safety of our Members and the liability insurance is dependent on this.
The membership fee structure for 2021-2022 will go unchanged. With the tenuous balance of our budget, we rely on the commitment of those who value Women’s Institute to make it through the year financially. We recognize the hardships that many have faced over the past year and we are grateful to all who have contributed to our organization’s foundation so it remains strong for future generations.
Opportunities abound to increase the membership in your Branch and help grow your organization by perhaps sponsoring a new Branch. As lifestyles have changed, and having been isolated for so long, many may be seeking friendship and interest in a group such as ours!
The Membership Coordinator and her committee along with the other Provincial Coordinators have been working hard on a new “Let’s Grow” Guide for Recruiting New Members and it will soon be available to all. While formatting the Strategic Plan last year, the Directors identified several opportunities for increasing the membership to start thinking about now.
- Are there new members in your community;
- Are there local Cultural groups & new Canadians;
- What are the local organizations/service clubs in your area;
- Consider and discuss a common activity to bring Members together;
- Determine local needs to find a project;
- Consider making the meeting flexible;
- Plan for a party next year to celebrate WI’s 125th
Women’s Institutes in Ontario have survived 125 years because women have always known we are stronger together and when we work together we can and do make a difference.
Thank you for ‘hanging in’ and I look forward to knowing our Members are once again enjoying the companionship and interaction so enjoyed by being a Member of WI.
Lastly, please mark your calendars for Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 7:00pm for a virtual “Open House” with Provincial Officers. Stay tuned for details in the coming weeks!
A new year begins.
Who would have predicted last November that our AGM would be held virtually and attended by WI Members from across Canada and England! This has been an amazing year with many new challenges and learning opportunities for us all!
As mentioned in the Annual Report, the new Strategic Plan 2020-2023 has been a major accomplishment that we hope will carry our organization forward to a bright future over the next 3 years. We ask that all levels review and adopt it as their own. When we all work together, we have a much better chance of success.
GET SET! Nothing lifts the spirit like a party and 2022 will be a year to celebrate 125 years since the first WI Branch was formed. What a great opportunity this presents to remind your community who we are and what we can do! Two (2) special graphics have been designed to help promote WI and make 2022 special. They can be accessed through the website or by request. If you wish to include the FWIO Crest for fundraising, please make your request to the office for approval. There is also the WI Rose quilt pattern that was made available at last year's AGM. I look forward to hearing what is being done with that! Start making your plans this year to have the best party ever!
Together again (soon). The FWIO Board issued a Directive for safe Branch gatherings when local Health Authorities permit them. Contact the office for additional information. Because there are more Members using virtual platforms, perhaps there is enough interest for each Area or District to purchase a one-year subscription with Members contributing to the cost to enable Branches to use it as they wish. When we progress to less restricted gatherings, it may be possible for small groups within a Branch to gather and share the visual gathering with other groups. The Membership Coordinator is ready and willing to assist.
While everyone’s Christmas will be different this year, we can all find some way to make it memorable and record it for your Tweedsmuir for future generations.
May each of you be blessed with Joy, Peace, and Hope this season.
Mary Shortt, FWIO President
Autumn is my favourite season and I love watching the trees around my home change their colours.
Directors have had a busy month with a 3-day Board meeting plus a Strategic Plan meeting – all by Zoom & teleconference.
Branch Meetings: We discussed the safest way for members to meet as Branches and have established a directive with all the protocols for members health and safety, along with mandatory reporting to the Provincial Office. The information is linked below or can be sent to you on request.
The Erland Lee Museum and Office remain closed until further notice. Staff are available to assist members by phone or email. In the meantime, the grounds are being maintained and the Curator, Mara, has devised a walking tour of the outside.
The Provincial AGM will be virtual this year, so mark November 26th on your calendar and watch for more news as to how you might be able to join the event. This is an exciting opportunity for members to attend when they might not otherwise have done so.
We strongly encourage members to join our team. Never think you are too young, too old, too inexperienced, or too distant. Serving as a Coordinator or volunteer is an ideal way to contribute to your organization so it stays strong through the pandemic for future generations. Coordinator positions open are: Education Coordinator (New), Digitizing Coordinator, Tweedsmuir Coordinator. These are elected at the AGM so please contact the Provincial Office for a nomination form.
Interested in the progress on the Strategic Plan? We have a draft Framework for Goals and Strategies that we created because of the Questionnaire in the spring. Follow the link and thank you to the members who took the time to respond.
As always, I am available by phone or email if you have any questions or concerns.
Stay well, stay safe and continue to support each other and your communities as you have done for the past many years.
To all WI Members,
In a flash our summer has almost gone! In March, none of us expected to have our lives so completely changed and we should now be making final plans for a wonderful Area Convention/AGM and the chance to renew friendships, hear an interesting speaker or music, display items of the past year from Districts and Branches. Instead we are learning new ways to communicate with each other and looking at an unfamiliar future.
And through this difficult time, WI Members across Ontario remain steadfast, supporting their WI sisters and finding ways to continue to work in their communities. Many Branches have tried different ways to hold a ‘meeting’ and stay connected, showing how this ‘Sisterhood of women’ continues to support each other.
Due to the concerns for COVID-19 and the health and safety of our Members, Areas are not able to meet as expected. It is recommended that for this year Areas will be allowed to cancel their AGM's and all executives hold their positions for one year. This would include the AVD and alternate AVD. Some are holding Zoom meetings, some are using the email method. The office has provided Zoom and teleconference support when asked.
Our membership committee has been hosting a Zoom gathering each month for all Ontario Members to join for a bit of fun and conversation. A new world awaits.
Your Board of Directors has had to do the same – emailing, teleconferencing and Zoom meetings instead of the usual discussions around the table. We are currently working together on the Strategic Plan using the information provided by our Members earlier this year. We are also exploring guidelines for alternative methods for formal meetings with the probability of using one for our official AGM on November 26th.
We encourage Area and District executive to continue to reach out to the Branches to offer support and communication between each other, to lead by example, and consider the words in the Mary Stewart Collect; that we should realize that it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life we are one.
By sticking together and supporting each other we will get through this historic event and our organization will survive and prosper.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
Mary Shortt, President
Hello WI Members:
As most of you are aware the Board has been discussing the new Strategic Plan.
We want to thank all the members who took the time and overcame the many communication difficulties we are facing to send in a high percentage of responses to the questionnaire.
We recently met virtually to review and discuss the many responses we received and have created a summary of each question based on the most common or frequent replies.
One of the requests was that there would be feedback, so we are sending the summary of member responses back through the contacts to be shared with the members. See the 3 pages accompanying this letter.
This is a long process and the Board of Directors are giving all the responses serious attention.
Over the next few weeks, we will be putting together ideas of how to address these issues and creating a draft plan. Once the draft plan has been devised, we will be sharing it with the members for their consideration.
Thank you all for your continued support of each other and your communities these past 4 months.
Stay well and stay safe.
On behalf of the Board of Directors,
I hope this finds our Members remaining well and safe while able to enjoy these sunny, summer days.
I have been wondering if there are any records of how Women’s Institutes and their communities dealt with the pandemic of 1918 – 1920. There must have been Branches then, but the idea of WI Members writing the histories of their local communities did not begin till the mid 1920s.
What we now know as the Tweedsmuir Books are a wonderful source of study for historians, educators, researchers, authors, and residents. I know from my own experience that when these books are brought out for display at local functions the residents – new and old, including myself – happily turn the pages and consider lives lived in the past.
We are all actually living an historic event! Every community and individual has had to adjust in the past 3 months and there have been many wonderful innovations, ideas, learning opportunities and changes that may stand the test of time and remain in our ‘new normal’. The pandemic may have caused difficulties or sadness for families, which are personal stories that hold lessons for future generations. Many have had to learn new skills or bring back old ones to meet the challenges of adjusting to change.
What a wonderful opportunity for us to take up blogging, journaling or story telling! Especially when many of the local newspapers have disappeared and are no longer a source of local events as they happen. Tec-We-Gwill WI (Simcoe Area) has already asked their Members to record a “day in the life” for their Tweedsmuir, but this could also be a personal journal that will only be read some time in the future.
Eleanor Williams, former Provincial Tweedsmuir Coordinator, has been doing some journaling and has offered some suggestions:
- Have one person write the story from a community perspective for the Tweedsmuir
- Each Member to tell their own story of their time in isolation for COVID-19 (this could go in their Grandmothers Legacy or be a record for future generations)
- A community view of the Black Lives Matter/ Indigenous Concerns/ Race & Religion (what was/is the local perspective/involvement. Usually Who, Where, Why, What, How works as a starting point.
So, let your words and pictures teach your descendants and offer greater insight into the lives and thoughts of how families and communities survived the 2020 pandemic. We are all historians!
WE NEED YOU! The Provincial Tweedsmuir Coordinator position is vacant and if you have an interest in preserving the history of our organization and having a vote at the Provincial AGM, please consider this position. Contact me if you have questions.
“May you turn a key to open a door that leads to an attic with a trunk full of laughing memories.” – Eve Merriam – A book of wishes for you.
CALLING ALL MEMBERS!
As we all struggle to adjust to the change in our world, we appreciate more than ever belonging to a group of women that reach out and support each other. Even though we are limited/restricted by regulations designed to keep us safe, we are all missing the physical interaction of our WI sisters.
Now is the time to think about the future. Now we have the time to consider what our history has taught and what our future will be for WI.
Your Regional Board Director will be reaching out to all Members to answer a few simple questions. We NEED your response as the best way to inform FWIO of what the Members need and want.
Because of the restrictions, we are asking that the Branch President or a designated Branch Member contact each Member either by phone or email to gather the comments.
These should be returned directly to your Regional Board Director and will become part of the new Strategic Plan moving us forward for the next 3-year period.
We hope to have the replies no later than June 15.
Who is your Regional Board Director?
Central Area – Kathleen Beall
Cochrane-Temiskaming Area – Connie Murray
Eastern Area – Sandy Miller
Grey-Bruce Area – Ada Haasnoot
Guelph Area – Kathleen Beall
Hamilton Area – Barbara Stones
Kingston Area – Valerie Smith
North Central Area – Connie Murray
Northern Area – Connie Murray
Northwestern Area – Ellen Chojko-Bolec
Simcoe Area – Ada Haasnoot
Southern Area – Margaret Ogar
Trent Valley Area – Valerie Smith
President-Elect, FWIO – Michelle Phillippi
President, FWIO – Mary Shortt
Please stay well, stay safe and stay home as much as possible.
For Home and Country,
Mary Shortt, President
Hello WI Members,
We hope that you have been keeping well since our last E-Blast was sent on April 2nd. Please remember to share this information with your fellow Members or encourage them to sign up directly to receive these communications. We appreciate the questions that you have been asking and have some updated information to share with you.
Office & Museum: The FWIO Provincial Office and Erland Lee (Museum) Home remain closed until further notice, as dictated by provincial guidelines. Staff are working remotely and are available to assist you as much as possible.
Meetings: The Board recommends that Branches and Districts continue to avoid meetings during these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage everyone to continue to listen to the advice of the experts at all levels of government in determining when it is safe and permissible to reschedule your meetings.
Officers: The Board suggests that officers at Branch and District levels remain in place and extend their term of office until next year. While this might not be possible for everyone, it is a fair option while you are unable to hold normal elections. Remember that if at any time your officers do change, please notify the Provincial Office and other levels, if necessary.
Membership Fees: Membership fees are FWIO’s main source of income. Therefore, it is important that Branches try to collect fees this month, possibly by asking Members to mail cheques or send e-transfers to their Branch Treasurer. Please avoid meeting in person, as advised. We realize that the circumstances make this process more challenging, but we are confident that Branches can send their fees on to their District Treasurers and then on to FWIO as usual.
The Provincial Office is able to accept payments via e-transfer, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if this method is more convenient for your District (or Branches without a District). Under these extraordinary circumstances, penalties for late submission of fees will be relaxed this year. We ask that you please contact the Provincial Office or your Board Director if you experience any difficulties meeting the June 30th deadline.
Forms/Reports: We request that Branches and Districts try their best to complete and submit reports. Annual forms were mailed to Secretaries and are also available on the FWIO website in a fillable format. Please contact the Provincial Office if you require assistance.
We appreciate your patience and cooperation as we work together to navigate this unprecedented situation.
In these difficult times, it is important that we stay connected with each other and keep the lines of communication open. Though we can’t meet in person, we can still pick up the phone, send an email or text message, chat on Skype or FaceTime or use social media to keep in touch. Don’t hesitate to reach out.
Please stay safe, stay well and stay home as much as possible.
For Home and Country,
Your Provincial Board
Hello fellow WI Members:
Thank you all for being socially responsible by staying home and doing your part to ‘plank’ the curve. We are all in this together to stay well and keep it from spreading.
We are going through an unpredictable time and we are having to spend a whole lot of time in our own space, not able to physically meet up with friends and family. We are missing our WI hugs and laughs, stories and news. But I know our members will figure out ways to communicate and support each other.
Years ago, the telephone would be the only option to connecting to each other and it is still a good choice. The sound of another person’s voice reassures us we aren’t alone and can bring a bright light to someone on the other end of the line. Pick up your phone and call someone.
Many are turning more and more to e-mail, Facebook, and other social media applications. These can allow for actually seeing each other while you chat and some allow for several to chat together. Sharing our anxiety or telling a joke with friends can make the day a bit shorter.
A few days ago, I looked up contact information for our local health services and found an email to their comments and complaints department. I sent them an email to thank them for their care and for sacrificing their physical & mental health to help others. A couple of days later I got a response thanking me and that the message would be passed along. It only took me a few minutes but if we all did the same thing for our health warriors, our EMS, the police and the Fire department they might be glad to know that the WI community is behind them and they are appreciated.
Please stay home and stay well.
Mary Shortt, FWIO President
I am honoured to have been elected as the President of FWIO at the AGM in November 2019. I am looking forward to working with our Regional Board Directors who are representing all parts of Ontario on your behalf.
My name is Mary Shortt and I am from Brighton, which is in Trent Valley Area. My first memory of WI is when I was 6 and went from the one room school to Mrs. Chatten’s house where mom was at a WI meeting. There was a skunk involved but that’s another story.
I became a Member because I wanted to be involved in an organization that advocates for and promotes education for women. It was at the Kingston Convention that I realized the potential of this organization and since then, I have remained interested in how FWIO relates to the individual Members.
Does this sound familiar? I have bone china dinnerware for 12 place settings I collected prior to being married over 50 years ago; numerous china cups and saucers I received at my trousseau tea and community shower; silverware (always tarnished) and a variety of silver and china cake plates, countless ornaments I have lovingly collected while travelling with my husband and family while he was in the armed forces; boxes and albums of photographs documenting my entire life – and my kids and grandkids aren’t interested in having any of it!
As a Real Estate Broker, I saw homes filled with beloved reminders of a life well lived and families who have little interest in keeping them. When my mom left her house to move into a retirement residence, she said “I will only take what I need and will leave the rest for you to look after”. I realized she felt obligated to look after and protect these tangible reminders of her past for her children. I recently heard the term “Proof of Life”.
You may not think this is relevant, but this is what I think has happened to our WI and while I am not an advocate for change for the sake of change; I do believe that in order to survive and grow, change must happen.
This is the last year for our current Strategic Plan and a perfect time for our Members to send ideas to their Regional Board Director and Area Voting Delegate.
What do you want our legacy to be?
Will you allow our organization to stagnate and die?
Or change to have it grow and fulfill its potential?
What do you see WI being in the future?
How do you think we should get there?
How are you going to be involved?
Let us consider why we are holding onto so many of the traditions established 120+ years ago and what we must put aside, with gratitude and acknowledgement to our past, but no longer relevant to our future?
There are three C’s in life: CHOICE, CHANCE & CHANGE. You must make a choice to take a chance to make change.
Our organization started with a group of determined women sitting around their dining room table discussing a problem in their society and how to solve it. This is called networking. We hear a lot about networking.
In this current age, we are well placed to promote ourselves as a Women’s Network. We can do and be who we were at our beginning – just differently.
Our survival depends on new membership and we could do that quickly by creating new Branches that will conduct their meetings differently. Gatherings may be less formal and focus on the topic of interest. Roll call could be simply signing in as they arrive and they might not sing the Ode, repeat the Collect, or say Grace.
But WI women will get together – either physically or digitally – and be involved in making their homes and communities better places and by exchanging ideas, they will strengthen and inspire the women in each of their areas which will benefit Women’s Institute as a whole.
I look forward to contributing in some small way to the continued growth and prosperity of WI as we continue – “straight forward and unafraid.”
Wishing everyone good health in the coming months.
Yours for Home and Country,