And the winners are...

Every year, the New West Pride Society hands out three awards to people and organizations who make a difference in the LGBTQ community.

The 2015 winners, announced exclusively to the Record, are chosen by the board.

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So without further ado, the winners are…

President’s Award

The New Westminster school board takes home the President’s Award accolade for their implementation of the Gender and Sexual Diversity Inclusion Policy this past January.

“We are just so very honoured and recognize this also is a great responsibly we don’t take lightly,” says chair Jonina Campbell.

The document was an updated version of the Anti-Homophobia policy, one Campbell calls more “action-oriented” and “progressive.”

“It’s a policy that says to all our students, regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity, that we want our school district to be an inclusive safe place,” she says. “Wouldn’t that be nice to get to that point where it’s not even on people’s radar?”

Along with making students feel welcome, the new policy will also establish a committee this fall that will represent all stakeholders involved, Campbell adds.

“It would be sort of the eyes and ears of what is going on in the district, what can we continue to do to support our students and our staff,” she says.

The board will also make a public statement about the policy on an annual basis as a way of celebrating the work that’s being done.

Person of the Year

Century House’s Patricia Smith has been named the Person of the Year for “all her contributions to the Seniors Gay Straight Alliance and the New Westminster community,” a press release from the New West Pride Society states.

“It was a huge surprise to me,” the 80-year-old senior admits. “I’m not quite sure why we’re getting this award. We don’t feel we’ve done a great deal, but Jeremy says we’ve raised the awareness in the community.”

Smith has chaired the group for almost two years now (most recently with co-chair Robert Hughes), and says she got involved with the Gay Straight Alliance because she had been a member of Century House since 2004.

She adds the organization has come a long way since its establishment in 2012, with members making connections all over the Lower Mainland.

“We have quite a long mailing list, and we have monthly meetings and we’ve brought in all kinds of interesting speakers,” Smith says. “I think it’s just being a presence here, particularly for the seniors’ community because there aren’t that many places LGBTQ seniors to be together.”

The alliance meets on the second Wednesday of every month at Century House. The meeting runs from 1 until 2:30 p.m.

Organization of the Year

Sher Vancouver – a support group for LGBTQ South Asians – wins the title of Organization of the Year, specifically for setting up the January Marie Lapuz Legacy Fund.

Lapuz, a transwoman of colour originally from the Philippines, was murdered in New Westminster on Sept. 30, 2012.

“A lot of people were still in shock for many years. January was the social glue of our organization,” says Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha of Lapuz, who had the role of social coordinator. “It’s still not easy for a lot of transgender women. Not everyone has the financial privilege as Caitlyn Jenner to help them through their transition.”

The inaugural award, made possible through a $250 donation from the New West Pride Society, will be handed out next January. The recipient has to be between the ages of 16 and 30 and must show leadership and commitment in the LGBTQ community.

Sangha said even though Sher Vancouver has struggled to get back on its feet since Lapuz’s passing, the organization is moving forward with a couple of initiatives. A documentary about trans-issues, directed by Kwantlen journalism students, will be coming out later this year.

Sangha is also re-launching the Out and Proud Project, where queer South Asians from around the world are profiled and featured on Sher’s blog.

“We’re trying to rebuild the self-confidence, the self-esteem, the self-identity, to make South Asians and their friends feel supportive.”

To learn more about the legacy fund, visit www.shervancouver.com.

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