SalamToronto – On Friday Oct 13, the Iranian Women’s Organization of Ontario celebrated its 8th annual White Dove gala, to raise funds for its operations. The proceeds from this gala will amount to approximately a quarter of IWOO’s annual budget.
The generous sponsors of the event included:
- Joseph Aminian from Homelife Marquis
- Susan Salek from ADP Arts and Wellness Centre
- Farzane Lotfi, Accounting, Consulting and Taxation
- Minoo Mohajer, Central Montessori School
- Pam Prescott, Century 21 Heritage Group
- Behrouz Amouzgar, Lexpand Legal Professional Corp
There were some 270 community members and guests in attendance. Officials from all three levels of government either attended in person or sent a greeting. They included:
- The Honorable Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development who spoke and presented IWOO with a greeting from Premier Kathleen Wynne.
- The Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research Innovation and Science, could not attend due to an out of town commitment but sent a video greeting congratulating IWOO on its nearly 30 years of service to the community.
- The Honourable David Zimmer, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
- The Honourable Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services & Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism.
- MP Majid Jowhari, who presented IWOO with a greeting from Prime Minister Trudeau.
- MP Ehsassi attended the event.
- City Councillor, Shelley Carroll, who sent a video greeting.
Negar Hashemi, President of the Board of Directors gave the opening remarks. She noted that the gala is taking place in October, the Women History month, and on the heels of Thanksgiving. With these two themes (Women History & Thanksgiving) in mind, she spoke about the past, present and future of IWOO. The story of IWOO began in 1989 in Toronto, when 5 women by the names: Faranghis Mohtashami, Parvin Jalili, Mehrak Nazemi, Maryam Khakbaznejad and Maryam Khalili Panah, had the vision to create IWOO to help newly arriving immigrants. Hashemi thanked them for their vision. That vision was courageously carried forward by other mavericks such as Homa Sarlati and Afkham Mardukhi. Hashemi thanked them for their courage.
Today, IWOO is the longest serving organization in the Iranian community in Ontario. It hires 2 full time and 3 part time staff. It serves nearly a 1000 individuals per year by offering programs such as weekly older adults program, literature club, English classes, mental health forums and, in collaboration with partner agencies, a mobile health clinic, a pro bono legal clinic, settlement services and much more. For this, Hashemi thanked the guests, the sponsors, the volunteers and the funders (City of Toronto, Governments of Ontario).
Hashemi thanked the many volunteers, including the board of directors, committee members and several facilitators and workshop providers who generously give their time to IWOO.
Speaking about the future of IWOO, Hashemi highlighted the fact that the Iranian community has grown to almost 200 thousand in Ontario. She recognized that with this growth, the number of community organizations have also grown. She emphasized that if IWOO wants to stay true to its mission of helping Iranian women and their families, it must listen and find what are the needs that are not being met in our community. Hashemi spoke about the importance of coordinating IWOO’s efforts with other community organization to avoid duplicating and competing with each other. For this reason, Hashemi invited the public to attend a community engagement event, organized by IWOO, on Nov 25, to have an open dialogue about the needs of the community, receive feedback and determine its strategic plan for the coming years.
Hashemi also highlighted that the Board of Directors is currently recruiting. She encouraged interested individuals to consider applying. Hashemi announced that, being an inclusive organization, men and women can both apply to join the Board of Directors.
The evening included, for the first time ever, an awards ceremony. In celebration of the many unrecognized accomplishments of Iranian women in our community, this year IWOO presented 10 awards to 10 women in a wide range of categories. In the month preceding the gala, IWOO accepted nominations for the 10 award categories from the community. IWOO members (not the Board of Directors) then voted for the winner in each category. The results were as follows:
- The High Achiever Award – given to Dr Bita Amani
- The Business Impact Award – given to Farah Jahed
- The Creative Spirit Award – given to Shamsi Shahrokhi
- The Innovator Award – given to Shohreh Sabaghpour
- The Entrepreneur of the Year Award – given to Shiva Amiri
- The Law and Society Award – given to Sherry Darvish
- The Making the Community a Better Place – given to Parnaz Sadighi
- The Beating Hearts Award – given to Maryam Saheb Al-Zamani
- The Rising Star award – given to Shima Heidari
- The Sports and Recreation Award – given to Zhila Heidari