Gail Haakstad: Spearheading Advocacy and Community Involvement in the Peace Region
Gail Haakstad's journey through life reflects a profound commitment to the Peace Country, leaving an indelible mark on the community she calls home. Born and raised in the region, Gail's path has been one of resilience, compassion, and an unwavering dedication to making a positive impact. From her roots in Berwyn to her thriving career in real estate, Gail's story is a testament to the transformative power of community involvement.
Gail's connection to the Peace Country runs deep. Born in Berwyn, she traversed through Pouce Coupe and Dawson Creek before settling in Grande Prairie in 1969. Her early experiences in the male-dominated recreation environment of the 60s and 70s forged a pioneering spirit that would define her future endeavors.
After completing two years at Mount Royal College in Calgary, Gail served as the Recreation Director in Oyen, Alberta. Her return to Grande Prairie in 1977 marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career with the City of Grande Prairie Recreation Department, eventually ascending to the role of Director. Gail's journey reflects not only her professional achievements but also her resilience in breaking down barriers in a traditionally male-centric field.
In 1980, Gail embraced a new chapter as a mother, experiencing the joys and challenges of parenthood. Her dedication to family extended beyond the home, as she embarked on a fulfilling role as a teacher's assistant at Montrose Junior High School, leaving an enduring impact on the lives of young students.
Relocating to Edmonton for her husband's studies at the University of Alberta in 1986, Gail returned to Grande Prairie, where she and her husband opened Unique Gallery, a testament to their entrepreneurial spirit. Twelve years later, Gail transitioned to a successful career in real estate, celebrating her 21st year with Royal LePage.
Gail draws inspiration from her mother and grandmother, both representing love for family, community, and empathy for others. Their influence has shaped Gail's values and fueled her commitment to community service. This positive upbringing is showcased in her involvement in various initiatives and support for organizations like the Hospital Foundation, Northwestern Polytechnic, The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie Live Theatre, Odyssey House Grande Prairie, Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, Rotary International, PARDs, Salvation Army, Rotary Exchange Student, DansConnection Performing Arts, Northwestern Community Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association, United Way, Pace, and many other local fundraisers such as Victoria’s Attic Support The Girls, The Red Dress Event, and various sport teams and local art events.
When asked about the pivotal moment propelling her into action, Gail reveals that her motivation originated from a deep commitment to creating a safer environment. Motivated by her role as a mother to three daughters, Gail became an advocate against escalating violence towards women in the Peace Region. She expresses, "The urgency to secure a better, safer environment for my daughters and all women in our community ignited a fire within me, propelling me to spearhead initiatives and advocate for measures aimed at curbing violence, fostering awareness, and cultivating a culture of respect and safety for everyone."
Currently, Gail remains passionate about supporting women's shelter initiatives, the arts, health, and education. Her focus on mental wellness reflects a deep understanding of the social fabric of the community and the importance of holistic well-being.
Gail's journey has not been without challenges. From facing the emotional toll of her mother's Alzheimer's diagnosis to tragic losses, she navigated life's hurdles with unwavering strength. Her ability to balance caregiving responsibilities, professional success, and community involvement underscores her resilience.
Gail emphasizes the essential role women play in community building and advocacy for workplace equality. She also acknowledges the work that remains and encourages women to keep advocating for themselves and their peers.
For women aspiring to make a difference, Gail's advice is rooted in kindness, love, and understanding; “Embrace your passion, be persistent in your efforts, and remember that even the smallest acts of kindness can spark significant change. Making a difference begins with these fundamental values and the belief that our collective actions can create a brighter, more compassionate community for all.” She also underscores the paramount importance of prioritizing personal physical and mental health as the foundation for societal contribution or change for others.
Gail's personal growth is rooted in lifelong learning, personal development, and an openness to new ideas. Her work ethic and commitment to the community serve as an inspiration for others embarking on their journeys. Gail hopes her legacy will inspire others to prioritize community engagement and personal well-being.
As part of the '30 Women for 30 Years' campaign, Gail expresses: “I hope that the women that come behind us understand the importance of giving back to our community but also, the importance of looking after their mental and physical wellbeing. Looking after ourselves is the most important thing we can do in order to help others.”
In conclusion, Gail Haakstad's journey is a testament to the transformative power of one individual's commitment to community, empowerment, and positive change. Her legacy serves as an enduring source of inspiration for generations to come in the vibrant and thriving Peace Region.
To learn more about 30 Women for 30 Years or to nominate a woman who you think has made a positive impact in the Peace Region, click here.