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Banquet Honors Community Award Winners

Citizen, Youth, Business and Group recipients recognized

When the town of Outlook takes a night to honor those in the community who go above and beyond the proverbial call of duty, it’s always a fun, light-hearted evening filled with good food, good people and deserving accolades.

This year’s Community Appreciation Awards banquet was no exception.

The 7th annual event, organized by the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce, was held on Friday night, March 31 at the Outlook Civic Centre, with over 100 in attendance to see the award recipients properly spotlighted.  This year’s winners included Bob Stephenson, the newest Jim Kook Citizen of the Year; Matthew Hogan, Youth of the Year; Jacq'y Jaye's Boutique & Espresso Bar, Business of the Year; and the New Pool Fundraising Committee, Group of the Year.

Emceed by Sharon Bruce of the Chamber of Commerce, the evening started with a catered supper by Chris’s Kitchen, while the Outlook Ice Hawks hockey team served as bartenders for the event.

After the roast beef meal was enjoyed, as well as dessert, Chamber President Michael Stushnoff introduced the guest speaker of the night, Kendal Netmaker, an Indigenous entrepreneur and motivational speaker who came from humble beginnings to become a successful businessman in the world of sports clothing and apparel, known as Neechie Gear.

Netmaker came from a troubled childhood in which his mom left his dad and his family stayed with his grandmother, which resulted in some extremely tight living quarters.  He was bullied as a kid for coming from a reservation and having next to no money, but he eventually struck up a friendship with a kid from South Africa, whose family made a big impact on Kendal when they not only paid for him to take part in organized sports, but also gave Kendal’s family their own vehicle to use.  From there, Netmaker continued trying to make personal strides and believe in himself, and even after eventually being offered a job at RBC from Stushnoff himself at one time, Kendal turned him down because he believed in his Neechie Gear business idea.

“To turn down all these jobs was crazy, but I needed to give this all I got,” he said during his 40-minute talk, describing where he was at with the business idea in January of 2012.

From there, Netmaker rented space on 20th Street in Saskatoon, and eventually got out of there and took a kiosk at the 8th Street mall to sell his clothing and apparel.  It wasn’t long afterward that he decided to get official store space in the mall, and the business really took off.  In December of 2012, Neechie Gear was so popular that Kendal posted sales of $100,000.

“If I can take something and grow it from nothing, anyone can do it too,” he said.

After Netmaker’s address, a brief intermission followed before the official award presentations took place.  Outlook Mayor Ross Derdall joined Bruce on the stage to hand out the awards, with the first one going to the New Pool Fundraising Committee for the 2016 Community Group of the Year.

Each award presentation was preceded by PowerPoint video clips that highlighted each recipient, and in the clip featuring the pool committee, Julie de Moissac spoke about the project’s beginnings, including just why Outlook is in need of a new pool facility and what fundraising efforts have been held in the years since the committee was formed, which was back in November of 2013.  These efforts included cabaret-style shows and a New Year’s Eve dance, as well as a live auction in May 2015 that raised over $50,000.  As well, the committee has been fortunate to have the support of generous people in the community, such as the unbelievable donation of $500,000 by area producer Cor Van Raay.

In lieu of a trophy signifying the award, the pool fundraising committee was given a donation for the project; a fitting gift for a group of dedicated volunteers who are still working hard to raise much-needed funds for the new aquatic facility, which is set to begin construction in June of this year.

“Because I’m a person who is promoting, I can’t miss this opportunity to say that we need another $500,000,” said Tony Peter.  “There’s only one place we can get it!  Today, we’re very pleased to receive $5,000 from Mid-Sask Community Futures, so we just keep on going.  Thank you!”

The next presentation was for the 2016 Business of the Year, Jacq'y Jaye's Boutique & Espresso Bar.  In the introductory video clip, owner Jacq’y Carlson touched on shopping local and being the most attractive option possible to customers, as well as the rising importance of social media when it comes to promoting a business or the products and services that it provides.

The business, which used to be a Sears outlet and recently decided to stand out on its own and focus more on Carlson’s brand vision, also offers a coffee shop atmosphere in addition to the clothing store, and the combination has been proving to be popular with Outlook shoppers.

“It’s like I always say, ‘Come for a coffee, leave with a wardrobe’,” said Jacq’y.

On the stage, Carlson shared her thanks and gratitude to her staff, and said it wouldn’t be possible for her business to be as successful without the support of family, friends and shoppers.

The next presentation was for the 2016 Youth of the Year, which went to Matthew Hogan.  The young man, involved in sports as well as local initiatives such as Meals on Wheels, believes in giving back to the place he calls home.

“I try to keep involved in younger teams in our school, as well as our student leadership and trying to set a good example for younger students in school,” said Hogan.  “I try to volunteer, but even just interacting and talking with youth, and playing games and helping to teach them things.  I just like to be a good person.”

“Thank you everybody,” Matthew then said on the stage.  “I’m honored to be chosen to accept this award.”

The final award of the night, the 2016 Jim Kook Citizen of the Year, went to Bob Stephenson, Outlook’s former Mayor who presided in that role for the better part of two decades.  In the video piece preceding his award presentation, Stephenson touched on his long tenure as Mayor, especially what the Town has done from 2004 to present day.

“They weren’t my achievements, they were Outlook’s,” he said.

Taking to the stage, Bob was gracious and visibly humbled as he accepted the award at the same ceremony that he himself was a fixture at for many years.

“Life takes you funny places,” he said.  “I grew up as an RCMP kid, so we moved around; Imperial, Watrous, Elbow, Kamsack, Rosetown.  My parents grew an appreciation for Outlook, and when my father retired, that’s where we came back to.”

“I knew kind of early on that I wasn’t cut out for the city life,” he said.  “I enjoyed my summers here, and I enjoyed the people and the community – I always have – and that’s what kind of brought me back.  That’s what makes it easy to come here tonight.  The years I spent as Mayor were pleasurable, and I worked with good people.  It’s not hard to go and do things for this community because this community allows you to do what you have to do.  It was an easy community to govern and set the tone and direction for.”

Stephenson also touched on his family that now calls Outlook home again, and said he was honored to receive to the award; something he never thought he’d be the recipient of.

As this year’s Community Appreciation Awards came to an end, the question now lingers as to who will be spotlighted next year at the event, and who is currently making Outlook a great place to live to warrant such an honor.

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