Kim Charlesworth 2017 Citizen of the Year

Kim Charlesworth is 2017 Citizen of the Year

Champion of healthy change in Nelson and area

Kim Charlesworth has had a healthy habit of making some down-to-earth improvements in Nelson and area.

From guiding the Nelson Food Cupboard as it created a large downtown garden to helping local farmers through the Kootenay and Boundary Food Producers Co-op, the former Nelson city councillor has been involved in many causes that are environmentally friendly.

Now, after 15 years of making a positive impact, Charlesworth is being honoured as Nelson’s Citizen of the Year for 2017.

She was very surprised when told about the award.

“It’s just amazing to be recognized for wanting to improve my community,” Charlesworth said, adding, “so many others do as much or more than I do without recognition.”

Susan Warren, one of those who sent in a nomination, said there were countless reasons to recognize Charlesworth, including her bid for a seat in the legislature during the 2017 provincial election.

“She galvanized the green energy in this town by running an amazing campaign for the seat in the legislature last spring,” said Warren. Charlesworth garnered 28 per cent of the votes in Nelson-Creston and finished second.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Charlesworth attended Dalhousie Law School in Halifax, where she met and married Greg Brewer. She practised law briefly before taking time to raise a family. Kim and Greg have two children, both living in Toronto.

Charlesworth said she first took an interest in the importance of healthy eating when her two children developed food allergies.

“I had to switch diets for them,” said Charlesworth, adding it made her that much more aware of sustainable food.

She added, “Food has been central to every part of my life. Growing it, cooking it, everything.”

Charlesworth and her family moved to Nelson in 2003 when she took on a management position with Service Canada.

Around 2005, Charlesworth became a board member with the West Kootenay EcoSociety.

“It wasn’t until I worked for the EcoSociety that I finally realized the connection between health, poverty, climate change and food security,” she said.

Charlesworth served one term on Nelson City Council (2008-11) and was a lead on the development of the City’s Path to 2040 Sustainability Strategy and the Community Energy and Emissions Action Plan (CEEAP). This involved extensive community consultations to create the framework that would shape future city policy and procedure. The Path to 2040 has now been integrated into decision making processes at both staff and council levels.

Charlesworth joined the Nelson Food Cupboard in 2013 and has helped the organization transition beyond providing emergency food bank services, including the development of a 4,000-square-foot garden.

Warren points out that Charlesworth was also a founding member of GE-Free Kootenays, which explores ways to create a region free of genetically engineered organisms by individuals, farms or agricultural corporations.

Charlesworth described the formation of the KBPFC in 2015, saying “a group of us got together and brain-stormed” to re-create a sustainable, local food economy.

Warren said this was the ideal cause for Charlesworth.

“Kim decided what she really wanted to do, was work on re-localizing our food systems. And this involved helping local farmers.”

For Charlesworth, progress has been made with the KBPFC but the battle is far from over, saying, “real change won’t occur until we level the playing field.”

“Success for the local farmer is impossible without real policy change at the provincial and federal level,” she said, explaining there is too much assistance for large industrial farms.

Charlesworth, who sits on the Central Kootenay Food Policy Council, has also been involved with Glacier Gymnastics, the Centre for Innovative and Entrepreneurial Leadership (CIEL), and the Advisory Council for Habondia Society, a non-profit association that helps members to organize and participate in activities that empower themselves, families and community.

Charlesworth, who has also written columns for the Nelson Star, said she has a strong stake in so many causes “because it’s what I love to do.”

Charlesworth will be honoured during a banquet at St. Joseph School, 523 Mill St., on April 6. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the dinner is at 6 p.m.

Tickets ($35 each and $40 after March 30) are available at the Nelson Star office, 91 Baker St., or by phone at 250-352-1890. Tickets must be pre-purchased and will not be available at the door.

The Citizen of the Year has been recognized in Nelson since 1963, said Bob Tremblay, the Grand Knight for the Nelson Knights of Columbus.

“Citizenship is belonging to and participating in the wellness of our city, our country and our neighborhoods. Citizen and patriotism are only the words but action is the reality. We have had a very rewarding support of our citizens in nominating individuals who make Nelson a home that has neighbors that care and offer help without having to be asked or be paid to do so. Thanks to the Nelson Star’s support since 2014 as a co-sponsor we are pleased to congratulate Kim Charlesworth as recipient of the 2017 Citizen of the Year Award,” said Tremblay.

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