By Ewa Chwojko-Srawley

With a penchant for storytelling and a focus on the often-overlooked heroes of our community, Karen Wolfe has, through her articles, recounted the lives of numerous individuals in our community. Volunteers in particular have a special place in her narratives.

Now it is time to cast the spotlight on Karen herself. Without her efforts, the stories that make our community so special would have remained unrecorded.

Karen is a seventh generation Canadian. She has lived all her life in Pefferlaw, where she started her education in a one-room schoolhouse. Later, she attended Morning Glory Public School and Sutton High.

She loved English and always wrote stories just for the fun of it. She was also curious and liked to question things. And what’s the outcome of this mix? A reporter in the making, of course!

After studying journalism at Durham College, she went on to edit and publish several trade magazines, eventually becoming the Director of Communications for CIPA, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.

While the work was rewarding, the daily commute from Pefferlaw to Toronto began to wear thin.

“Initially, the journey was a quick forty minutes,” Karen recalls, “but as the years went by, it stretched to an hour and forty minutes. Eventually, I reached a point when I knew it was time for a change.”

After the amalgamation of old Georgina, Sutton and North Gwillimbury in 1971, Karen felt that Pefferlaw seemed to fade into the background and lose its place in the Georgina conversation. Once a busy civic hub, it bid farewell to the seat of government, the police station and saw the closure of other amenities.

“Being a true Pefferlaw girl, I regretted our change in fortunes,” says Karen.

So, armed with a mock-up of a newspaper full of Pefferlaw stories, Karen visited local businesses to secure advertising support. The inaugural edition of the Pefferlaw Post hit the stands on July 10, 2005, and from that very moment, it became an instant success.  

“It turned out to be the best decision of my life,” Karen explains. “I had the experience and skill set, the software and the equipment, and I combined these with my curiosity and passion for my community. I only wish I had started it sooner!”

Karen says digging for the stories to fill the paper brought her closer to her community.

“I would drop by our local coffee shop every Thursday morning and have conversations with the locals. It allowed me to get up close and personal with my readers,” she said. “It also shone a light on the contribution of our amazing volunteers and service clubs. It was an opportunity for them to get the recognition they deserved.”

Karen reporting the news

Interested in all things political, Karen started attending Georgina council meetings which often stretched into the late hours–especially during budget negotiations. She remembers rushing home and writing until the wee hours of the morning and then sending the paper off to be printed so it would be ready for delivery the next day. A true journalist, she always enjoyed hitting the street with a ‘scoop’ or fresh-off-the-press news stories.

Her coverage of Georgina council meetings was relevant to all Georgina communities and so her readership expanded beyond the boundaries of Pefferlaw. It was then that the Pefferlaw Post evolved into the Georgina Post.

“My Pefferlaw community was not too happy to have the name of their paper changed,” Karen confesses, “but it was a business decision, and it wasn’t anything I took lightly.”

The venture expanded but it remained a one-person operation. Karen covered events, wrote the stories, did the layout, and took care of advertising and distribution.

“Running this business felt like second nature to me. I consider myself very fortunate because there was a receptive market out there and once it took off, there was no looking back,” she says.

And how does she relax?  Karen gives a bemused look. “Relax?” she chuckles. “Oh, that’s a foreign concept to me. I’m in my element when I’m working!”

Indeed, even in her full-time working days Karen volunteered for more local groups than you can count. Just to give you a taste–there’s the Pefferlaw Firefighters Ladies Auxiliary, Morning Glory School Auxiliary, Pefferlaw Area Residents (PAR), Pefferlaw Ice Pad Committee, the Take a Kid Fishing initiative and her long-time association with the Georgina Historical Society as a President and board member.

In 2015 she began hosting the Rogers TV program, ‘That’s My Story’ and her passion for all things political led her to a hosting position on another Rogers show, ‘Politically Speaking’.

Medals and awards for community involvement adorn the walls of her office with the crowning jewel being the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, bestowed in 2012.  

Karen reviews back issues of The Post

While each of these tokens of appreciation is significant to her, there’s another element that makes her very emotional. With teary eyes, she flips through the hundreds of pages meticulously organized in a huge binder. It’s a collection of emails, handwritten letters, photos, and heartfelt cards she received from readers over the years.

“This, right here, is my proudest achievement,” she says, “appreciation from my readers.”

She took up painting watercolours a few years ago and found that it was a means of escape which seemed to just take her away from everything for a few hours.

Her subjects–the old Pefferlaw train station, old bridges, and steam engine, are a tribute to her love of local history.

Since she sold the Georgina Post she has found time to do some golfing and camping with her family, but she has never completely retired. Her work at Rogers TV means she stays connected to the local political scene and through PAR she continues to lobby and advocate for her community on issues she feels need to be tackled.

“Anything that impacts my community, impacts me,” she explains.