News » Whistler

Grants recognize region's women leaders

Kathy Barnett Memorial Leadership Grants award over $6K to four locals



The Kathy Barnett Memorial Leadership Grant program has awarded over $30,000 to women leaders in the Sea to Sky since it was launched in memory of Pique's co-founder in 2010. But even with so many deserving recipients over that span, the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) has no shortage of potential candidates to choose from each year.

"There is so much opportunity in Whistler because it attracts women from all over the world who come here for the beauty of the natural environment, the lifestyle, and they're intelligent, educated people, so there's a lot of talent in the community," explained CFOW's executive director Carol Coffey.

This year the CFOW will hand out $6,200 to four local women looking not only to further their careers, but also to assist the community they call home.

"The leadership grants are set up to benefit women in the corridor, particularly those who are working or volunteer for charitable or community organizations," Coffey explained. "The idea is for them to develop their skills professionally but also to use those skills to give back to the community."

This year's recipients are: Jeanette Bruce, co-conductor of the Whistler Children's Chorus; Ashlin Tipper, outreach worker for Whistler Community Services Society; Sylvia Dolson, director of the Whistler Get Bear Smart Society; and Jenn Scharf, founder of the Whistler Forest School.

"It's a really special honour," said Scharf, who will enroll in a series of online courses through Simon Fraser's non-profit management certificate course, which she said will help the Lost Lake Park school develop into "a really robust, long-term" organization.

"It's been a real labour of love to bring a small-but-loved program to the community and to work with a whole bunch of motivated families to do that," she added. "I'm just really excited to keep building my skills and pursue some interests, and it means a lot to have support to do that."

Tipper's grant will go towards a counselling methodologies class as part of her master's studies at Yorkville University, which she said will help her in her job as an outreach worker.

"I'm just really grateful to have the opportunity to have some kind of different professional development," she said.

Created in honour of late Pique publisher and CFOW founder Kathy Barnett, a secondary aim of the grant program is to build on "the culture of mentorship and mutual support" that she helped instil in Whistler.

"She really was someone who was extremely involved in the community, but for a lot of people she was also very much a mentor," Coffey said.

Bruce has seen that culture manifest itself in a number of ways through her work as program coordinator at the Whistler Public Library and her most recent role as co-conductor for the Whistler Children's Chorus.

"To be honest I have sort of just stumbled into a few really great female role models since I've been in Whistler. I've really lucked out with (conductors) Alison (Hunter) and Janet (Hamer), who are incredible, and it just so happens that they are women," said Bruce, who will use her grant to attend the British Columbia Choral Federation Directorship Course at St. Mary's Kerrisdale Church in Vancouver. "We're certainly not lacking for awesome, strong female mentors in this town."

This year's recipients will be recognized at a Women of Whistler event next Tuesday, May 17, at Nita Lake Lodge, from 6 to 8 p.m. More information can be found at

To apply for a Kathy Barnett Leadership grant, visit