It’s been a big year for the Haliburton Highlands chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, with the group recently celebrating its 20th anniversary and earning a provincial recruitment award.

Haliburton United Church hosted a birthday bash for the local chapter June 6, with dozens of women donning their Sunday best as they socialized and enjoyed treats provided by SIRCH Bistro. Presentations were made by Wendy Taylor, CFUW regional director, and Cheryl Grigg, looking back on two decades in the Highlands.

The Highlands group formed in 2004 as a way for like-minded women to come together, make new friends, and support the community. Cindy Vesey, incoming president, said its mandate is to encourage higher education for women and take an informed interest in public affairs.

“I’ve been involved for a couple of years now and this is a special group of ladies. CFUW is a community within the community committed wholly to improving the community,” Vesey said.

Susan Keith, a member since 2014, said CFUW helped give her a purpose after she relocated to Haliburton County from the city. Not knowing anyone locally, Keith saw an ad for a CFUW event being held at Haliburton School of Art + Design (HSAD) and decided to attend.

“I had so much fun that I’ve been coming back ever since,” Keith said.

Members meet for monthly meetings, while there’s always lots for people to do through the dozen-plus interest groups and committees that host events weekly. Focuses include reading, card games, cooking, health and wellness, academia, the environment, sports, gardening, hiking, and fitness. Most take place in-person, but people can attend virtually – Vesey said this helps keep snowbirds connected while they’re away.

Outgoing president Susan Tromanhauser said the Highlands chapter has seen a huge uptick in membership in recent years. Pre-pandemic, the group had around 40 members. As of press time, they had 92.

Taylor delivered a certificate on behalf of the CFUW Ontario council, recognizing the local group for recruiting more members than any other chapter in 2023.

“The word is getting out there – because we have so many committees and interest groups, people find something they’re passionate about, make connections, and it sticks,” Tromanhauser said. “During the pandemic especially, our Zoom meetings were a great way for people to find that social interaction. That’s how I got involved. I’m a COVID transplant from the city. I didn’t have anyone to talk to or hang out with before reaching out and joining CFUW.”

The Highlands group received $500 for its recruitment efforts, which will be used to bolster its annual bursaries. Each year, CFUW Haliburton Highlands awards a scholarship to graduating female Haliburton Highlands Secondary School and HSAD students pursuing further education. The bursaries have typically been $500, but this year will be $1,000. Tromanhauser said CFUW is a great way for women of any age to come together and make a difference in the community.

“The camaraderie is my favourite thing – we’re like one big support system for one another. If someone is going through a tough time, dealing with an injury or an illness, other members will step up to help out,” Tromanhauser said. “But we also do a lot for the area. If anyone wants to hang out with a bunch of great, sociable, non-judgmental women that try new things with a ‘can do’ attitude, CFUW might be for you.” To learn more, visit