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The Insider: Learn from the Greats

An Interview with Cheryl Anderson

By Tormaigh Van Slyke

Cheryl Anderson’s community service roles are too numerous to mention. Below are a few. The fifth of seven children, Cheryl learned to work hard and give back to the community from a young age.

Cheryl was born in 1947 to Louis and Kathleen Sokoloski, grain and cattle famers from the Weberville area.

In 1966, she married David Anderson, and together they raised two boys, Jeffrey and Gregory.

Cheryl has volunteered in every provincial election since 1974.

Later, she would be elected four times and serve 14 years as a County of Northern Lights councillor, deputy reeve and reeve.

Cheryl also served 14 years as a board member with Mighty Peace Tourism, 14 years with the Grimshaw Aquifer Committee, and 14 years with the Grimshaw and Regional Healthcare Attraction Committee.

She was also on the Peace River Healthcare Attraction and Retention Committee for about four years and now serves as a public-at-large member.

For six years Cheryl was a member of the Weberville Fire Department—before they had a hall or a truck.

For two years, she’s been on the Weberville Revitalization Society board. and this is her second year on the St. James Anglican Church vestry.

Quite recently, she finished serving eight years on the Community Futures Peace Country board.

What got you into volunteering and serving your community?

I come from a long line of people who are very community- and politically-minded. I believe this goes back to the 1800s when my family first came north. Originally, they came to Fort Vermilion, but we’ve been in Weberville for many years now.

My dad worked diligently in the Weberville community, and my mother was the political one. It was the table talk at meal time—politics and world affairs. We didn’t have TV, just radio, so we’d listen to the news.

My parents were always involved in something, and they’d usually involve us seven kids. It could be the community picnic or Farmer’s Day or a Christmas concert at the old hall, anything.

My father had a hand in building the new Weberville Hall. He helped put power poles in when we first got power. Then, the telephone poles when the time came. He was always there to help a neighbour.

As a volunteer, what you give, you receive 10 times more back. I look at the many, many friendships that were developed and nurtured over the years. You see each other often, you work on challenges, you have healthy discussions, debates. It makes your heart sing. Then, there are all the gut-wrenching laughs.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to overcome?

Shyness. I was raised on a farm, and you don’t need a whole lot of friends when you have six siblings. I was very, very shy—very much an introvert. I had to work to overcome that—I mean really, really work.

I was privileged to be a stay-at-home mom, and you don’t really meet a lot of people when you’re busy raising two little guys at home. David worked away a lot too.

So, when the kids grew up, I went and got an education in the field of computers and data entry. That really opened doors for me. That’s when I thought, “Cheryl, if you have the will, the determination, and the focus, you can accomplish anything.”

They say you are what you repeatedly do. What are morning routines that keep you on track?

Well, everything has changed for me in the last year. My morning routine was spent with my husband, who I had 57 glorious years with. We would have breakfast together and do our daily bible devotions.

I still get up early. I enjoy my cup of coffee and my daily devotions. I grab my Kindle, have a second cup of coffee, read and gather my thoughts. Then, it’s time to get moving. It’s summertime, so I get outside. I enjoy the sanctuary of my home and yard and the quiet time.

What mottos do you live by?

The first motto is, “Christ is my pilot; I’m the co-pilot.” Then, it’s “Be open to change; it’s inevitable,” “Look after yourself,” and “Live each day as if it were your last.”

Then, there’s “Forgive yourself.” That’s a big one. Inevitably, you’re going to fail. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, forgive yourself, and say, “I can do this.”

The 80-20 rule suggests 80% of outcomes result from 20% of your efforts. What are some of your 80-20s?

The first thing that comes to mind is my work on the Community Futures board. It’s my most recent, past role—it was a dream position. I was on the board for over eight years. I’m going to really miss it, but policy says board members have to leave after so many years, so I have to take at least a year off.

With the help of Community Futures’ amazing staff, we help pave the way for entrepreneurs. First, the staff sits down with them to ensure they really develop a strong plan. They go through the whole gamut.

Then, if everything is feasible, we—as a board—make the final decision to lend money. For those chosen, we watch their business grow in the community. Often, they will pay their loan off, and come back for another loan because it’s time for them to expand.

The ripple effect, as it travels, is just amazing to watch. It’s a privilege to be part of it and to support local entrepreneurs by purchasing their products.

You’ve done a lot of public speaking as part of the many roles you play. Do you still get nervous?

Oh, yes. That’s why I like to be prepared. I’m not a good off-the-cuff public speaker.

Working with Elections Alberta helped. I worked several elections with my mother who was the people person. I was a paper person, but it was my duty to do all the training, and that really got me in front of people and communicating.

Also, my husband was a sounding board and a confidant. If I had to make a speech, I would write it and pass it by him. We would discuss it, and he would give a bit of input here and there. Mostly, he just encouraged me to go for what I wanted, which gave me confidence.

Is there anything you would like to add?

I’ve been blessed to work with so many amazing people throughout my life. Many are still part of my daily life—in my new career of semi-retirement.

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