Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX student Claire MacDougall wins award for her work giving back to the community

October 25th, 2019
StFX student Claire MacDougall (right) accepts the Kay Thompson Desjardins Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce.

Claire MacDougall saw a need and wanted to do something about it. 

The third year StFX physics and math student from Halifax, NS noticed that people threw out a lot of school supplies each spring, and that didn’t sit well with her. 

“I was thinking about ways we could not do this. It’s a lot of waste that ends up in the landfill, and there are people who could benefit from it,” she says. 

Ms. MacDougall had read a report from the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition and was aware of the issue of poverty in the community and how expensive school supplies can be. 

Around the same time she was mulling over an idea of what could be done, she learned of a new StFX award, the McKenna Leadership Project Development Grant that provides a student with a 12-week summer salary to work on a project that addresses a need in the community or at StFX.

She applied and was chosen as the inaugural recipient. Through the summer she collected new and gently used school supplies and in late August hosted a very successful pay-what-you-can Back to School Ice Cream Social event in the Warren Gardens outside StFX’s Coady Institute. 

Her project turned out to have such an impact that her work was honoured with the Kay Thompson Desjardins Award for Social Entrepreneurship from the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce.

The award, which is named after one of the pioneers of the Antigonish Movement who worked for Moses Coady and StFX Extension, recognizes Desjardins’ contributions to the StFX Extension Department and her advocacy for human rights, and highlights the important role social enterprise, and those involved in social entrepreneurship, have had. The award was sponsored this year by StFX’s Centre for Employment Innovation and presented Oct. 23, 2019 at the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Business Gala and Award Night. 

“I was really excited to receive it,” says Ms. MacDougall, who notes it is really important to her to make an impact in her community. 

Throughout the summer, she approached businesses and local residents and started collecting new and gently used school supplies. She also received a $750 award from the Youth Rising Foundation to buy school supplies. She says she received much support from the community. As news of the initiative grew, people donated items and she said Father Gary MacPherson made an announcement during mass at the StFX Chapel and more people dropped off items. 

A friend on the StFX football team and his coach wanted to get involved and organized an initiative in which Stephenson Property Management would donate $100 to the project for every StFX touchdown completed.

Ms. MacDougall met with area principals, community members and StFX professors for feedback on how best to distribute the items. 

“I decided the best way was to have an event that could be a celebration, that didn’t take away people’s dignity, that could be anonymous.”

She says a great crowd attended the ice cream social, where people could pick up a new backpack, a list of school supplies and go shopping for supplies they needed. The event was pay-what-you-can, with all money raised to put towards buying supplies for next year’s event. 

Ms. MacDougall, who previously played for X-Women soccer, was joined by many of her teammates as volunteers at the event. 

Even though her internship is complete, she is still working on the initiative and hopes to make next year’s event even bigger with a few smaller events around Antigonish County for those who can’t make it into town. 

As she will graduate after next year, Ms. MacDougall says she has some volunteers in place now and her hope is the initiative will continue on as a StFX society and continue for years to come. 

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