Community worker is Woman of the Year

HAVING served her community tirelessly for over three decades, former Alderman Mildred Garfield was lost for words when she was crowned Woman of the Year on Friday evening.

Wednesday, 14th March 2012, 5:00 am

Mayor of the city in from 2001 to 2002, Mildred gave up her political career and devoted her time to work with the local community. For over 20 years Mildred has been working with people with all ages and more recently working specifically with older people and providing a range of services to assist them including organizing holidays and trips and generally making their lives more enjoyable.

Mildred was nominated for the award by her daughter, April Garfield-Kidd, who said: “It was lovely hearing all the stories of what mum has done over the years on Friday night and seeing the genuine delight of people, and the shock at how much she has done and still does.

“Mum moved into the Caw/Nelson Drive area in 1981 at a time when there were no amenities of any kind for the elderly or the young, and she got active within the community and became the type of strong-spined woman that this city is famous for. She started a mobile shop for residents which went down a treat with the elderly and became actively involved in campaigning for facilities for the young people of the area. It took years of determination and hard work, knocking on agency doors and frequently having them slammed in her face, but eventually a youth club was formed and mum became the chairperson and remained in that post for about 20 years.

“Mum also started the Brownies and became a Brown Owl and was behind the setting up of the local NIACRO group which helps young people in trouble with the police,” said April.

However, Mildred also worked tirelessly for the older members of the community, and started a bingo club and inspired others to take action and form a senior citizens group and a bowling club.

Mildred was also involved in the setting up of Caw 2000 and sits on that committee to this day, she is heavily involved in Caw Nelson Drive Action Group, and is a volunteer there as well as a committee member and secretary of the Board.

Other committees on which she serves include Foyle Women’s Information Network, the Board of the YMCA, The Board of Governors at Ebrington Primary and Culmore Primary Schools, the Women into Political Life Steering Group and she also serves as secretary of the Salvation Army Corps locally.

Known as a tireless campaigner and fundraiser, Mildred extended her influence beyond her own community when she became involved in the North South Cross Community Project, and now organises exchanges, courses and programmes for the elderly.

Accepting her award, Mildred admitted that she was “lost for words” and thanked everyone for their good wishes, and congratulated the other category winners and nominees.

Among the first to pay tribute to Mildred was the Mayor, Alderman Maurice Devenney, who said: “Mildred is a tireless worker for the local community, giving up her time to ensure everyone is involved in local activities and events in the Caw area. Mildred is very much involved in women’s development and runs a Women’s Group in the area. She is actively involved in a series of cross community and cross border initiatives and is a respected and well loved member of the community. Mildred is a well known and much loved character with a fun loving personality and is a truly deserving winner.”

The Mayor thanked everyone involved in making the event such a success and paid tribute to all the nominees, acknowledging the important role each played in the lives of people across the city. He said the Women of the Year awards night was one of the Council’s most successful events in support of the local community and voluntary sector and said he was delighted to be part of any event that celebrated women and the important role they play in society.

Joanna Boyd, Women’s Officer with Derry City Council and co-ordinator of the awards, said this year was another great success with more applications than ever before and a huge level of interest across the region.

She said every effort is made to make the event inclusive to everyone with 14 different categories available so that all possible opportunities for recognition can be identified.

The category winners were: Women’s Community Development, Linda Watson; Community Relations, Galliagh Women’s Group; Health, Martha McClelland; Contribution to sport or dance, Janice Cooper; Arts, Andrea Redmond; Formal/Informal Education, Joyce Smyth; Older People, Laura Smyth; Youth, Louise Duddy; Childcare, Madeline Gallagher; Caring, Margaret Gallagher; Young Women’s Award (18 to 25 years old), Michaela Devine, and Women living with a disability, Melissa Devine.

The MC for the evening was Catherine Cooke, of Foyle Women’s Information Network.

During the evening, in place of the customary raffle, donations were taken up in memory of Carol Simpson, one of last year’s category winners, and almost £1,100 was raised which will be presented to the Sperrin Room at Altnagelvin Hospital.