Cheryl Ashlie was shocked when she was named Citizen of the Year award at the Maple Ridge Community Foundation’s annual fundraising dinner on Saturday.
Ashlie said that while she’s appreciative of the award, the fact that so many deserving people were left out of the nomination process speaks to the amount of care and attention people are giving to the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
“We’re like a little machine with all these armies of people who come out, so it’s a tough one to pull one person out,” Ashlie added. “My expectation was not to get it, but when I heard my name called I was actually pretty humbled.”
Ashlie, a former city councillor and school board trustree, has been involved in the community for over two decades and has woven a wonderful web of connections and support throughout it.
She has led and contributed to projects and programs, including the Alouette River Management Society, the MS Walk/Run. She’s also served on several volunteer non-profit boards and committees and has supported community events, such as the Terry Fox Run, Ridge Meadows Hospice Vista Run and local Christmas hampers.
Jan Hickman, the foundation’s director, said the five-person committee had an incredibly tough time paring down a diverse group of nominees. But when the dust settled, everyone agreed that Ashlie was a tremendous person to honour.
“We live in an outstanding community for volunteers, it’s just one of a kind,” Hickman said. “Dr. Matthew was a philanthropist of the highest standard, without Josine’s music our community just wouldn’t be, but Cheryl’s accomplishments were just more varied.
“She was just so involved in so many things, but any one of these three could have been the choice.”
One of the major projects Ashlie helped work on is the Youth Wellness Centre, which is approaching the end of its 12-month pilot project. The centre provides support to youth and families facing substance use or mental illness issues. Ashlie found inspiration in the resources they’ve already been able to generate for them.
“To come on to the committee that looked at the gaps … I just felt the buzz in the room at that point and knew we were going to make it happen,” Ashlie said.
She was a part of the committee that has been able to obtain the services of Dr. Matthew Chow, a child psychiatrist who works in tandem with the centre. With a referral from Chow, a youth advocate is assigned to the child and family, which includes individual appointments and a Thursday night drop-in time for free.
“For kids in need to have him come in was really rewarding. He just loved our model and became a champion and advocate for us,” she said. “It’s a journey mapping what a family goes through in the whole spectrum of need.”
Despite volunteering for almost 30 years in the community, Ashlie said she still has a drive to help people. Most recently she was a constituency assistant for outgoing Liberal MLA Doug Bing, all the way through his provincial re-election campaign. But now she’s taking some time off from politics.
In turn, she’s setting her sights on a new project: the new Ashlie Board of Consulting.
“I’m going to take the summer and develop that. It’s helping people function a little better as a non-profit board and guiding better board governance.”
She said she wants to take the time to thank the hundreds of volunteers in the community, as well as Eikelenboom and Dr. Mathew for all of their efforts.