Shelley Thoen-Chaykoski

Leisure Services Director, Town of Foam Lake

"If I do not laugh at least ten times per day...I have not had a good day!"

My life, so far has really been focused on "serving community" and simply wanting to help provide the highest quality of life for the citizens in my rural area. The vehicle of choice, (for the past 31 years) has been to serve in the delivery of Leisure Service: sport, culture, recreation, tourism and heritage.

Growing up on a farm in Viscount, Saskatchewan, I soon learned the value of hard work and dedication. In addition to this, being from a family of six girls (my dad was the lone male in our home), we were taught that being female does not, and should not, restrict our dreams or aspirations in any way. Armed with a good a work ethic, a positive self-esteem and a particularly strong interest in sport and recreation, nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goals. I completed the Recreation Technology Diploma program at Kelsey Campus in Saskatoon and began to search for work. For some reason, even as a teenager I was drawn to the idea of being a Recreation Director in a rural community. My first job was with the Government of Saskatchewan's Department of Culture and Youth- working out of the North Battleford Office. This job provided me with a great "provincial perspective" of the recreation delivery system in our Province. The lure of community still was with me, and in 1980 I accepted a full time Recreation Director Position with the Town of Foam Lake (in east-central Saskatchewan). (Side Note: to this day, the community of Foam Lake in regards to recreation, it is one of the most progressive thinking and supportive towns I know of.)

My career plan was to work in Foam Lake for a couple of years and then advance to a larger community or city, however, the love of a good man kept me in Foam Lake and the love of my work and the people have kept me in my career in Foam Lake!

A 20 year old woman starting in the community recreation scene, back in 1980, was not out of the ordinary. Many rural areas hired females. The trend at this time had already shifted to hiring a skilled worker, as opposed to a man who plays on the senior hockey team. The early 80's was also a great time for jobs, many communities were venturing into the hiring of recreation professionals. Proving myself to the community took time and my basic philosophy of "dig in and do it" proved to be a great way to show my commitment, dedication and willingness to learn. These are all basic elements of building relationships and trust with the people I worked with.

What does a Community Recreation Director do? You ask? Well in basic terms…

I PLAN, ORGANIZE, STAFF, DIRECT, CO-ORDINATE, BUDGET, FACILITATE, EVALUATE AND REPORT on all aspects of delivering sport, culture, recreation, tourism and heritage, services, facilities and parks for Foam Lake and area. That is a mouthful and it certainly is a desk full as well!

The Challenges of such a position?

  • Maintaining a sense of focus in a job that contains such a wide spectrum of duties and responsibilities. It's a constant lesson in multi-tasking.
  • Being the only one in town that does this work, therefore seeking and finding professional support and understanding. This was achieved by maintaining memberships in career related associations, as well as offering and accepting the support of the recreation director in the next town.
  • Keeping volunteers engaged and motivated has been, and will continue to be, a challenge for recreation professionals. Volunteers are still the backbone of what we do!
  • Because you have organizational skills everyone wants you to be a part of their respective group in town. My community has over 60 community-based recreation and service groups and they all want a piece of you! Learning to say NO is a tough lesson to learn in a small town.

The Rewards of such a position?

  • Knowing that my efforts to provide quality service really are important to people. The politicians often refer to recreation and leisure as a "soft service", but if you try to cut a service, you will soon see the citizens become "hard core" in their demands to keep and maintain these services.
  • The friendships and relationships that I have built through my work with volunteers, as well as with fellow professionals in the field, are a part of this job that is priceless. I shall forever treasure these relationships.
  • I love to plan and I love it when a plan comes together for a successful program or project. Our Provincial Motto (in English) is "From many peoples' strength". Working to co-ordinate the strengths of our people has always been and will continue to be an ultimate high for me!
Women have played a huge role in the progress and development of Recreation and Leisure Services in our province and country, and will continue to do so. I am very proud to say, I have had a hand in this development, at the community, provincial, and National levels I hope that my positive career experience may help to inspire other women to be everything they want to be and more. I love what I do and I love where I am - it does not get better than that!

  Town of Foam Lake Leisure Services