BRIDGETOWN, N.S. - When Cheryl Ponee teaches fitness classes at Training for Life in Middleton, the classes are always filled to the max.
“So full that people ask to be put on a waiting list,” said Sandy Murray at the new fitness centre at the old dairy at the end of Victoria Street.
Most of Ponee’s students probably know that she’s been an RCMP officer for the past 20 years, but what they might not know is that she’s the 2018 recipient of the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement’s community service award.
The award was open to any woman involved in law enforcement, whether it be RCMP, municipal police, provincial police, CBSA, fisheries, or the sheriff’s office.
Const. Ponee was nominated based out of the Enfield, East Hants detachment because of the amount of community work she did there through work and on her own time.
She picked up the award at a gala ceremony in Moncton on Nov. 8.
While her Enfield office nominated her, Ponee was posted to the Bridgetown detachment in June. She immediately dived in and continued her community involvement - this time in the Annapolis Valley.
Making A Difference
Ponee raises money and supplies for stray dogs in Cuba, teaches a variety of fitness classes, and works with children at local schools. She even works with parents.
“I just did a parent information session to educate parents on Internet safety at Annapolis East Elementary School, and I’m doing stuff here in the evenings too,” she said from the Bridgetown RCMP office.
Asked why she does it, Ponee had an easy answer.
“I think it’s because you actually do see that sometimes you can make a difference. I see that especially working with youth,” she said. “When I was leaving Enfield I received so many emails and messages. I didn’t realize the difference I guess I was making in the community until I was leaving. People reached out to me.”
Ponee, a Coxheath, Cape Breton native, was at the Enfield detachment for about eight years where she also worked with young people.
“I think it means a lot that kids - and everyone - can see a different aspect of policing. It’s not all about being out there to arrest bad guys,” she said about community-based, proactive policing. “There’s a lot more to policing than doing that.”
Since moving to the Valley, Murray said Ponee has quickly become a pillar for a lot of people.
“In the short time that Cheryl has been doing classes at Training for Life she has been described as having given others newfound strength, a sense of belonging and hope,” said Murray. “Cheryl inspires us all. We have women who have been in such low spots in their lives that they didn’t know where to turn next.”
It’s not all about lifting weights and doing zumba and boxercise. Murray said Ponee has inspired these women to push through and to realize they’re not alone.
Murray remembers when Ponee first dropped by Training for Life. She knew the RCMP officer with the contagious energy was somebody they not only wanted, but needed.
“At first introduction one might feel this girl is all business, but after a short time it becomes obvious that Cheryl Ponee is very passionate about helping others, both people and all furry friends,” said Murray, who helped Ponee with fundraising for the group Cuban Dog Tales Rescue.
While her RCMP duties and her work in the community are separate things, the award recognizes both, and Ponee believes they are connected.
“The only way I’m going to know everybody around here is by being involved in the community, so as soon as I got here in June I was right away trying to meet people and get involved in different things and different organizations,” Ponee said. “I think it’s important if you’re going to be living here and policing here that you get to know your community and what the needs are and to be involved in it.”
Ponee admits she gets just as much back as she gives.
“I’ve met a lot of amazing people here that I’m good friends with now that I’ve felt I’ve known for years,” she said. “I’m getting involved in things so I don’t feel like an outsider. I’ve honestly only been here since June but I feel like I’ve lived here for years. And I love that feeling.”
Did you know?
Const. Cheryl Ponee is involved in implementing an Internet safety program for school children, talks to kids about ‘sexting,’ and educates children about alcohol and drugs. Since cannabis has become legal she said talking to youngsters about marijuana is even more important than ever.
Did you know?
The Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement Community Service Award is presented to any female officer “who distinguishes herself by superior accomplishment through developing, designing, implementing, and participating in programs involving communities that include neighbourhoods, schools, community meetings, or businesses.”