Farida Gabbani’s life experience might span the globe, but her heart, it belongs in Nova Scotia.

Whether it was career-based, family-based or the countless hours she’s spent volunteering, Gabbani has given tirelessly of herself. On April 19, the Community Credit Union stepped up to honour her contributions at its annual general meeting by making her the first recipient of the Diane Kelderman Women of Excellence award.

Following a brief introduction, Gabbani accepted the award and immediately worked to remove herself from the spotlight.

“It’s an honour to win an award that’s named after a woman who I’ve followed throughout her career and life,” said Gabbani. “Even though I’m accepting this award, I still feel like half the woman she is. Dianne is an amazing person and to be honoured with this award is absolutely thrilling and humbling at the same time.”

The Community Credit Union established the award in Kelderman’s name in 2015. Darrell Kuhn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Credit Union, says the goal was to use the award to start recognizing powerful women who do so much in the communities of Colchester and Cumberland counties.

Starting with Kelderman, he says it’s a tradition that will begin to showcase many deserving women in the area.

“We wanted to do something for Dianne,” said Kuhn. “She’s done so much for the co-operative system and our Credit Union. We started thinking about how we could truly honour her in a meaningful way and this is what we came up with. We unveiled the award to Dianne in 2015 and then waited until 2017 to introduce the inaugural recipient.”

Kelderman was also appointed to the selection committee which will be tasked with choosing a recipient on an annual basis. The group will seek out potential winners while accepting nominations from the community.

Although it wasn’t an easy decision, Kelderman says Gabbani was simply too hard to overlook.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to see the inaugural award go to Farida Gabbani,” said Kelderman. “I have known Farida and her partner, Larry, for many years. They exude community leadership and passion. When you read Farida’s resume, you can’t but go, ‘wow.’ She is an accomplished leader, a lifelong learner and so committed to her community. She’s an incredible woman by any standard.”

While introducing Gabbani during the AGM, Kuhn admits it was difficult to highlight a woman that’s done so much to benefit others.

“This award is presented to an incredible woman who has demonstrated excellence in her field while being a strong advocate for others in our community. That’s in extremely important co-operative principle,” he said. “Farida is incredible. She is best described as a true community treasure. She’s been recognized locally, provincially, nationally and internationally and each of her accomplishments is extraordinary in their own right. She’s the perfect woman to receive this award for the first time.”

Gabbani, among other things, is currently serving as executive director for the Marigold Cultural Centre. She says at a very early age she learned the importance of volunteer work and giving back in an effort to support others.

Others may recognize her as the television Bingo lady or hot dog lady when she used to sell hot dogs outside Scotland Yard late at night while working as a professor at the Nova Scotia Teacher’s College.

“I love doing things that make a difference in the lives of others. My father was a big volunteer. He was an immigrant from Sudan,” she said. “I grew up in England and he was involved in just about everything in our community so I grew up learning that just like both of my brothers. Now, wherever I am, I just want to be involved. I enjoy working. I enjoy being around people. No matter where I’ve been, I love the concept of team work.”

She adds doing what she does wouldn’t be possible without the love and support of those closest to her.

“The support is huge,” she said. “You can’t just pick up and leave without support from your family. Without that support, you’re basically limited. I never would have been able to do what I’ve done without it.”

While he was aware of just how engaged Gabbani was, Kuhn says he got a true taste when he visited the Marigold Centre to share the news.

“I was there sol  ely to tell her about the award,” he said. “After I shared all the details and started to walk out the door, in true Farida style, she asked me if Community Credit Union has purchased a seat in the Marigold’s theatre as part of a fundraiser they’re hosting. I didn’t get out of there without buying a couple of seats. That shows you just how much she invests herself into the things close to her.”

As a recipient, the Community Credit Union presented Gabbani with $1,000 which she can donate wherever she likes.

“All of this, it just pulls everything together for me. It’s icing on the cake to be recognized in your community,” she said. “I’ve worked hard in Nova Scotia. I love Nova Scotia and just having the chance to make a difference in this community has been fantastic.”

Four additional $1,000 donations were made during the AGM to the Central Nova Women’s Resource Centre, Maggie’s Place Family Resource Centre, Colchester Community Workshops Foundation and the Kids Help Phone.