Kathleen May’s dedication to supporting women earned her a YWCA Women of Distinction nomination

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Main photo: (From left) Kathleen May, Linda Wilson, Sandra Smith, Tanis Wilson, Carol Ferris, Joy Stott, and June Tebby at a Huntsville Women’s Group meeting

On October 26, Kathleen May, lifelong feminist activist and sexual assault supporter, achieved one of her life goals: attending the YWCA Women of Distinction Gala as a nominee.

When asked what the nomination meant to her, May said, “It was so wild. I can hardly describe the feeling. I have aspired to be nominated for years. I’m so proud of myself for achieving one of my dreams.”

“The gala was so welcoming and everyone radiated positivity,” said May. “You could really tell that women were there to support each other. I loved that everyone felt proud of themselves and that they earned their nomination.”

Besides working full-time hours at both the Huntsville and Bracebridge women’s shelters, May volunteers for numerous organizations around the community. One of her biggest achievements so far is the Huntsville Women’s Group, created four years ago after she took YWCA Muskoka’s Women in Business program and had the vision of creating a community group for women.

The attendees meet alongside a committee — a description May uses loosely as she prefers the women to think of each other as family — every Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Sutherland Hall.

The facilitators of the Huntsville Women’s Group are a group of four women: Sandra Smith, Tanis Wilson, Joy Stott and, of course, May.

The drop-in style meetings feature speakers, workshops, crafts, discussions and the chance to socialize over coffee and snacks.

“I wanted to create a space where women can find camaraderie in each other’s company,” said May. “It’s amazing to see so many women of all ages interact with each other. Everyone gets along so well and we are all respectful and supportive of each other. So far we have served over 100 women in the area and a lot of them are returning attendees.”

Each year the Huntsville Women’s Group gets a grant from the District’s Pay It Forward Muskoka program in order to maintain their website, purchase light refreshments for each meeting, and pay for the insurance on their space in Sutherland Hall.

The most important thing to me is to make sure these women feel heard. We listen to their input by running focus groups and asking them what they want to be a part of.
Kathleen May, Huntsville Women’s Group creator

“I joined the Huntsville Women’s Group because it’s such a great way to meet new people,” said Linda Wilson, retired teacher and regular attendee for over a year. “There are a wide variety of activities and speakers and so many interesting women to meet. It’s also a really fun and relaxing environment.”

What’s next for Kathleen May? Not only does she want to keep the Huntsville Women’s Group running and see it thrive, but she wants to fulfil another dream: creating a women’s sustainable community on a plot of land here in Huntsville. She calls the project The Hexagon Women’s Land Co-operative.

“When you empower women, you invoke change,” said May. “I want women to live in a peaceful, safe community while maintaining sustainable tiny homes, feeling supported and loved by each other. I want women to be able to build, to tend the land, and teach each other skills, and over all take care of each other.”

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