Dollars and Sense

Story by Mario Toneguzzi


Photos by Kristy Reimer

Sherry Jenkins is a busy and successful business woman who has managed to juggle her career and make room for both her personal life and giving back to the community.

Jenkins, a mortgage consultant with Axiom Mortgage Solutions with her own office and her own employees, says it’s important to make a commitment in whatever you do.

“Once you commit to something you just have to do it,” says Jenkins, who has been in the mortgage business for about 16 years. “I guess you just work a lot of hours sometimes too. Being a mother, that’s your biggest thing. I was a single mother for a long time….That’s your biggest job as a woman and a business owner.

“Raising your family. I think that’s the biggest challenge,” says Jenkins. “Especially with the extracurricular activities you have with your kids. Soccer, piano and whatever else comes up.

Shelley Bitz is no stranger to the community in Airdrie.

For more than a decade, the energetic banking professional has played a key role in the city’s economic development as well as in the community itself.

“In business, as in community work,  my door, my time and efforts are available to any of the groups or businesses in Airdrie when they need it. At times it may be support in attending events, or assisting in some way at an event or business idea. For others, it is help in the greater overall projects of the organization itself,” says Bitz, Business and Agriculture Banking relationship manager with the Bank of Montreal, who in 2012 won airdrielife’s Amazing Leadership Award.

She has been at BMO for about four years and part of the banking industry in the city for about 16 years.

Bitz ran for city council last fall. While she didn’t get in, she’s well-known throughout the city for her community work.

“Because the community’s really important to me,  I don’t … when I do things within the community for many different organizations … I don’t find it work. It kind of gives me personal satisfaction although much of it does have a relationship with my job,” says Bitz.

“I would say that I’m really lucky to work for a bank that actually allows me a lot of time throughout the day to use those work hours to do some giving back depending on what’s required.”

Bitz, who is a member of the rotary club,  has been involved with the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce and is currently an executive. She and BMO are also part of the  SMARTstart program, which helps entrepreneurs set their businesses up for success, through online learning, in-person seminars and mentorship.

Every year she also visits high school students with the Building Futures program, giving them financial advice.

In the past, Bitz was with the Airdrie Health Foundation for seven years.

Carman Thiessen, an investment and retirement planner for the Royal Bank, fell in love with Airdrie the very first day she drove into it to look for a house.

She’s lived here since 2005 and been a vital part of the community’s business environment as well as its charitable features.

“It doesn’t matter how big this city gets. It always feels small. Everybody just loves to help everybody and I like to be a part of that,” she says.

Thiessen is involved with the 100 Women Who Care Airdrie organization, a local group of women who get together once a quarter. “We basically listen to charities who are looking for funds and then we all donate $100 every quarter … whichever charity gets the most votes, that’s who gets our $10,000.”

“We get to actually put in submissions on who we want to come speak with us. So every quarter there will be two or three people vying to get our $10,000,” says Thiessen, who was one of the very first members of the group which is into its second year.

“It’s a way for local women to make a big impact.”

Thiessen is also an Airdrie Chamber of Commerce director in her fifth year with the business organization. As well, she helps out with the Airdrie Chamber golf tournament and volunteers every year with the home and garden show in Airdrie.

So where does she find the time to juggle her professional life with her volunteer work and personal life?

“I can’t say I’m very good at that sometimes. It’s not so much always like a perfect work/life balance but I do make my own hours at work which allows me to do some scheduling for personal time as well,” says Thiessen.

“You have to be organized. So I’m very much in charge of my schedule. I’m in charge of my own days. I schedule what needs to be done with work and family and work around that as well. So I work around both of them.”

“For me, it’s fortunate that I can work kind of anywhere. So my cell phone a lot of times is always on. But I’ll be honest. I don’t take calls like I used to take calls. But I still get calls in the evenings and I still get calls on the weekends. I try not to work on Sundays and I try not to work on Friday nights.”

Jenkins belongs to the Airdrie Business Club, a group of local professionals committed to promoting the growth of their businesses and themselves.

“We meet every Thursday morning at the Toad n‘ Turtle. Our function is to be involved in just helping people with their business. Give referrals. We are also looking more at the community side as well by getting involved with community projects,” says Jenkins.

That has included putting together Lioness Christmas Hampers.

“We are starting and we’re going to really focus more on the community right now,” she adds.

Jenkins has also been on the board of the food bank, as well as donating to and volunteering for the organization.