Angeconeb celebrates 30 years

Posted: April 10th, 2018

It’s time for a coffee break on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 21- the last day of Tikinagan’s Supervisors Meeting. The two-day meeting is being held at the Lac Seul Events Centre, which is situated in Frenchman’s Head and about a five-minute walk from Judy Angeconeb’s house. Judy, an Assistant Director of Services for Tikinagan, is sitting at one of the tables, colouring intently on an activity sheet and taking a moment to herself when she looks up to see her husband, Ron, pushing a cart into the meeting room. She has no idea why he’s here but soon realizes what’s going on as she sees the cake atop the cart in front of him.

“That was a big surprise,” she laughs later as she talks about the celebration that afternoon. The cake was just one gesture Tikinagan Child and Family Services made to honour our longest serving employee yet. Judy is celebrating 30 years here at the agency.

As she stands in front of over 70 employees, she opens the gift handed to her by Rachel Tinney, Director of Services- an iPad. She opens up the tablet box and sees the inscription on the back: Celebrating and Honouring 30 Years: 360 months; 1,565 weeks; 7,830 work days; 187,920 hours… For Judy Angeconeb, Thank you for all you do.

“My granddaughter was reading the back of the iPad after I brought it home and then said 'wow, somebody did a lot of calculating',” laughs Judy.

After Judy read that inscription aloud in front of the supervisors, she paused to reflect on the time that has passed by these last 30 years. One thing that stood out most to her, maybe the best gift she’s received from the agency she half-jokes, is her culture and language.

“I spoke my language up until I was about five or six, then I went to residential school and of course we weren’t allowed to speak it there,” she shares. “I remember trying to talk to my mother in later years and she couldn’t understand what I was trying to say so she told me just to speak in English so that maybe she could understand what I meant… that really hurt as a child. But working here, we talk a lot in the language. And I can clearly understand it, but I have to think before I answer back. So it’s a gift Tikinagan has given me- celebrating my culture and language. And I really think it’s so important for children to continue speaking it.”

Staff like Judy, is why Tikinagan was created – so we could have our own people delivering services to families in our communities. And she grew into a position of leadership in our agency – from a secretary to the Assistant Director or Services, proof that the answers are in our First Nations. Thank you, Judy, for sticking with us and for your 30 years of dedicated and caring service to families and communities,”
- Lorraine Crane, Tikinagan Board Chair

Judy started off in March 1988 as a Clerk Typist at Tikinagan. She had completed an office administration course through Confederation College and her job here was her first job in an office setting. Over the next few years, Judy worked throughout the Sioux Lookout office in the areas of administration and data entry. While predominantly working in data entry and information systems, with titles like Database Operator and Systems Manager, she had short stints working in finance and HR.

“You know, Tikinagan supports our workers wanting to get their education and training they need. What enabled me to stay for 30 years is the flexibility,” she explains. “My supervisors and mentors allowed me to explore what I wanted to be and what I wanted to learn.”

She’ll also tell any employee now that Tikinagan continues to do this and to her is what makes people stay. “I really, really enjoyed Finance, when I did those six-months- it was totally something different. It’s what your heart tells you. If you need a break, just go do something else for a short time, just a breather. And maybe you want to go and do something totally different from finance, maybe you want to be a Family Service Worker.”

Judy did just that in 2004, when she applied for the Direct Services Supervisor position in Lac Seul First Nation, her home community.

“I was just sitting there one day and thinking I have to do this kind of work, maybe frontline, and help my people. Of course I didn’t have any experience in frontline… but I applied and I was successful. In order for me to know what I was doing, they gave me a caseload during my probation period. It was a real eye opener for me!” she admits, and says the experience gave her the kind of empathy she needed as a supervisor working in frontline.

In 2006, the death of her father hit her hard and Judy needed time away from working directly with people. She came back to working as the Information Systems Service Coordinator and was later asked to fill in as acting Service Manager.

“I said sure, I’ll give it a whirl,” she laughs. After filling in and then successfully interviewing for the position she held for two years, Judy then went back to frontline to be a Family Services Worker in Lac Seul in 2012. She returned to the position of Service Manager a couple of years later and then became the agency’s Assistant Director of Services, where she works with management as well as oversees training for Tikinagan’s service model, Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin.

It was the added experience in frontline where she worked one-on-one with high-risk youth and families facing crises which opened her eyes even more while working in management. And ultimately, Judy says it’s these kind of experiences and working throughout the agency that keeps her connected to Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin.

“With Mamow, everybody has to get together at the table and let’s see what works and what won’t work. That’s the most important piece of it. Talking with families and not just going to homes when families are in crisis, but to go during the good times and try to be the best support we can be, and ensure they have access to resources,” she says passionately. She still vividly recalls speaking to a parent who called Tikinagan for assistance and telling them “you’re doing a good job. What you’re doing… that’s what Tikinagan would do. You’re being a good parent and what you need is support.”

Her passion for helping families still burns bright, as she continues teaching Mamow to new employees and ultimately supporting the families and children our employees work with.

She also still remembers everyone who mentored her and helped her throughout her career.

“Hazel Mills, she’s probably my first mentor. When I first started 30 years ago, Hazel Mills was my supervisor. She’s the one that allowed me to leave and move from admin to finance to HR and that kind of thing. She was a good supervisor and took me under her wing and taught me a lot of things,” Judy recalls. “And of course Arlene McClendon, Barb Hancock, Thelma Morris, Rachel Tinney and Michael Hardy,” Judy adds. She notes that are all of these mentors have been and continue to be very strong leaders, with their own unique strengths that have supported Tikinagan throughout the years.

Judy is a very dedicated hard working person as well as being very kind and compassionate. I truly enjoyed working with Judy and still see her from time to time and pleased to see that she has never changed. Always has a smile on her face or has a little story to tell. Well done Judy!!!"
- Hazel Mills, former employee

Judy and her husband Ron have three grown children and seven grandchildren ranging from the age of one to 17. When she’s not working long hours and keeping busy in her role as Assistant Director of Services, Judy loves to spend time with family and read. She knows retirement will happen, one day, but for now she continues to do important work and probably doesn’t notice that she herself is an incredible mentor to many here at Tikinagan.