Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

Ch­eryl Ponee earns ac­co­lades from law en­force­ment peers for com­mu­nity ser­vice

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY LAWRENCE POW­ELL THE SPEC­TA­TOR BRIDGETOWN

When Ch­eryl Ponee teaches fit­ness classes at Train­ing for Life in Mid­dle­ton, the classes are al­ways filled to the max.

“So full that peo­ple ask to be put on a wait­ing list,” said Sandy Mur­ray at the new fit­ness cen­tre at the old dairy at the end of Vic­to­ria Street.

Most of Ponee’s stu­dents prob­a­bly know that she’s been an RCMP of­fi­cer for the past 20 years, but what they might not know is that she’s the 2018 re­cip­i­ent of the At­lantic Women in Law En­force­ment’s com­mu­nity ser­vice award.

The award was open to any woman in­volved in law en­force­ment, whether it be RCMP, mu­nic­i­pal po­lice, pro­vin­cial po­lice, CBSA, fisheries, or the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Const. Ponee was nom­i­nated based out of the En­field, East Hants de­tach­ment be­cause of the amount of com­mu­nity work she did there through work and on her own time.

She picked up the award at a gala cer­e­mony in Monc­ton on Nov. 8.

While her En­field of­fice nom­i­nated her, Ponee was posted to the Bridgetown de­tach­ment in June. She im­me­di­ately dived in and con­tin­ued her com­mu­nity in­volve­ment - this time in the An­napo­lis Val­ley.

Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence Ponee raises money and sup­plies for stray dogs in Cuba, teaches a va­ri­ety of fit­ness classes, and works with chil­dren at lo­cal schools. She even works with par­ents.

“I just did a par­ent in­for­ma­tion ses­sion to ed­u­cate par­ents on In­ter­net safety at An­napo­lis East Ele­men­tary School, and I’m do­ing stuff here in the evenings too,” she said from the Bridgetown RCMP of­fice.

Asked why she does it, Ponee had an easy an­swer.

“I think it’s be­cause you ac­tu­ally do see that some­times you can make a dif­fer­ence. I see that es­pe­cially work­ing with youth,” she said. “When I was leav- ing En­field I re­ceived so many emails and mes­sages. I didn’t re­al­ize the dif­fer­ence I guess I was mak­ing in the com­mu­nity un­til I was leav­ing. Peo­ple reached out to me.”

Ponee, a Cox­heath, Cape Bre­ton na­tive, was at the En­field de­tach­ment for about eight years where she also worked with young peo­ple.

“I think it means a lot that kids - and ev­ery­one - can see a dif­fer­ent as­pect of policing. It’s not all about be­ing out there to ar­rest bad guys,” she said about com­mu­nity- based, proac­tive policing. “There’s a lot more to policing than do­ing that.”

Pil­lar

Since mov­ing to the Val­ley, Mur­ray said Ponee has quickly be­come a pil­lar for a lot of peo­ple.

“In the short time that Ch­eryl has been do­ing classes at Train­ing for Life she has been de­scribed as hav­ing given oth­ers new­found strength, a sense of be­long­ing and hope,” said Mur­ray. “Ch­eryl in­spires us all. We have women who have been in such low spots in their lives that they didn’t know where to turn next.”

It’s not all about lift­ing weights and do­ing zumba and box­er­cise. Mur­ray said Ponee has in­spired th­ese women to push through and to re­al­ize they’re not alone.

Mur­ray re­mem­bers when Ponee first dropped by Train­ing for Life. She knew the RCMP of­fi­cer with the con­ta­gious en­ergy was some­body they not only wanted, but needed.

“At first in­tro­duc­tion one might feel this girl is all busi­ness, but af­ter a short time it be­comes ob­vi­ous that Ch­eryl Ponee is very pas­sion­ate about help­ing oth­ers, both peo­ple and all furry friends,” said Mur­ray, who helped Ponee with fundrais­ing for the group Cuban Dog Tales Res­cue.

While her RCMP du­ties and her work in the com­mu­nity are sep­a­rate things, the award rec­og­nizes both, and Ponee be­lieves they are con­nected.

“The only way I’m go­ing to know ev­ery­body around here is by be­ing in­volved in the com­mu­nity, so as soon as I got here in June I was right away try­ing to meet peo­ple and get in­volved in dif­fer­ent things and dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Ponee said. “I think it’s im­por­tant if you’re go­ing to be liv­ing here and policing here that you get to know your com­mu­nity and what the needs are and to be in­volved in it.”

Ponee ad­mits she gets just as much back as she gives.

“I’ve met a lot of amaz­ing peo­ple here that I’m good friends with now that I’ve felt I’ve known for years,” she said. “I’m get­ting in­volved in things so I don’t feel like an out­sider. I’ve hon­estly only been here since June but I feel like I’ve lived here for years. And I love that feel­ing.”

LAWRENCE POW­ELL

An­napo­lis District RCMP Const. Ch­eryl Ponee holds the Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Award she was pre­sented by the At­lantic Women in Law En­force­ment dur­ing a gala cer­e­mony in Monc­ton ear­lier this month. She works with school chil­dren as an RCMP mem­ber and in the com­mu­nity through fit­ness classes and as part of a dog res­cue group.

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