Paying it forward is a recurring theme in Samantha Eveleigh’s life.
After suffering a stroke at the age of 18, she resolved to become a nurse so she could help others as she was helped during a year of rehabilitation. Now, she’s giving back — with interest.
The third-year Baccalaureate Nursing student is the 2019 recipient of Red River College’s Richard (Asher) Webb Social Justice Activist Memorial Award, in recognition of her work at Agape Table and North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, and her leadership in engaging friends, family and fellow RRC students in volunteer efforts.
Eveleigh, 27, says the award is particularly gratifying in respect to her work on behalf of Agape Table, where she has volunteered her time for the past two years, and for which she organized two food drives last year.
“I put a lot of volunteer work and a lot of effort into helping that vulnerable population, especially with food insecurity, so it really meant a lot to me,” she says.
“Growing up, I experienced food insecurity. My family was not really well off. They struggled a little bit in that aspect and so we actually had to use services like Agape Table to make ends meet, so to give back to my community really makes it come full circle. Now that I’m in that position, being able to give back is so rewarding.”
Agape Table serves subsidized weekday breakfasts and provides low-cost, nutritional grocery items for low-income and homeless clients. During volunteer shifts spent cleaning, assisting with food preparation or serving meals, Eveleigh saw there was a need for more non-perishable food items, so she decided to do something about it.
Last summer, she approached friends and family to help out, and together, they gathered 200 items. Buoyed by that success, she sought advice from RRC Nursing instructor and curriculum coordinator Tracey Fallak about mounting a holiday food drive at the Notre Dame Campus.
With support from Fallak and other instructors, she encouraged 10 more Nursing students to volunteer at Agape Table and to participate in the drive. Last December, they collected 700 items for Agape, double the original goal of 350.
Eveleigh took a similar approach to her work with North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, recruiting five additional volunteers from the Nursing program and organizing a project to put together hygiene packages containing paper products, shampoo and other necessities for women living in poverty.
In a letter of reference supporting Eveleigh’s award application, Fallak cited her “pursuit for social justice through community engagement in her volunteer work and her ability to engage and inspire others in their own efforts.”
RRC Nursing instructor Meaghen Chorney, who encouraged Eveleigh to apply for the award, provided another glowing reference. As a student in Chorney’s Gender Studies for Health Professionals course, Eveleigh took part in RRC’s Step Out of Your Box program, in which students can opt for a service-learning experience rather than write a research paper.
She took charge and made her own arrangements to volunteer at the women’s centre and then urged other students to join her when they had difficulty finding placements. Along with exceeding the required volunteer hours, she went the extra mile with the leave-behind component of the program. Eveleigh says she could have fulfilled her obligation by creating a pamphlet, but again, she saw a need she could help alleviate.
Feeling she had already “tapped out friends and family resources,” Eveleigh decided to approach businesses for donations of toothpaste, combs, feminine hygiene products and other personal items to fill 70 packages.
Chorney noted in her letter that Eveleigh understands the importance of “small gestures,” such as holding a baby for a mother who doesn’t have a stroller, and added that “she helps us to see the importance of treating all individuals with respect and dignity.”
Those qualities are in keeping with the values of the late Richard (Asher) Webb, a 1986 Computer Programming graduate who was studying Business Administration at RRC when he died at the age of 49 in 2009. Webb was a life-long champion of the underdog, a community builder and activist whose many accomplishments include organizing Winnipeg’s first HIV/ AIDS conference.
In 2017, his family established the $800 annual award to honour his legacy. It goes to a student who demonstrates leadership as a community activist or advocate who champions “human rights, LGBTQ* issues, anti-racism, public health, anti-poverty, anti-violence and/or community building.”
Keanna Nobiss, a Business Administration student at RRC’s Steinbach Campus, received an honourable mention for her volunteer work with Ndinawe and the Indigenous Family Centre, and for her extensive grassroots community involvement throughout high school.
Formerly in foster care, Nobiss has been active with the Manitoba Métis Federation as a youth council representative for the Infinity Women Secretariat, and as a speaker and advocate for LGBTTQ* issues, anti-bullying and cultural initiatives.
Profile by Pat St. Germain (Creative Communications, 1989)