In 1891, a group of women in Calgary who had recently immigrated from Iceland to Canada
formed a ladies' aid society named Vonin (Icelandic for "hope"). When they and their families moved to homesteads in Markerville, Vonin moved with them. Vonin, they decided, would have two main purposes: to encourage and support the Christian faith (particularly that of the Lutheran Church) in their new home and to help those suffering from illness and poverty. Also, Vonin vowed to maintain Icelandic language and culture in Markerville and, until 1975 they restricted membership in Vonin to women of Icelandic descent.
Since their founding, Vonin ladies have met regularly in each other's homes to discuss how best to meet community needs. They have helped new immigrant families and those who have lost their homes to fire by offering cash donations and food and clothing hampers. Baking and presents have been given to families in need, orphans and, during the world wars, soldiers at Christmas time. Over the years Vonin has paid particular attention to women in need, helping to take care of families of the sick, consoling the widowed, and providing room and board to the homeless.
Vonin members have also focused their energies on supporting the Markerville Lutheran Church. They were integral in its construction in 1907 and have provided it with an organ, chairs, a hymnal cabinet, a lectern and much more. A majority of their funds have gone towards supporting the church and its Sunday school. They have also tended the Tindastoll cemetery grounds, doing most of the spring cleanup and gardening.
Throughout the year, Vonin hosts a number of functions in order to raise funds. They charge admission and sell tickets for door prizes and many handmade goods at these functions. One of the main events that they hold annually in the fall is
"tombola" or bazaar in which Vonin members donate a number of prizes,
such as embroidered linens and farm animals that are raffled off. Other events, like box socials, tea parties, concerts, dances and farewell parties, not only provide important funds, but also give the community an opportunity to get together and socialize.
Vonin is also very interested in preserving Icelandic heritage. Members appear in traditional dress and bake traditional Icelandic deserts, such as
ponnukokur (thin crepes sprinkled with sugar and rolled up) and kleinur (twisted sour cream donuts), at heritage events. They have also arranged for the sewing of the
Fjallkona costume and purchase of crown from Iceland. In Markerville, a woman from the community is chosen every year at the
Icelandic National Day Festival to be the Fjallkona or "Maid of the Mountains," a mythological figure that symbolizes the motherland. Members of Vonin are often chosen to be
Fjallkona and the club is very involved in the crowning ceremony. Also, Vonin helps to take care of the costumes at the Stephansson House Historic Site and run the
Kaffistofa (coffee shop) at the historic
The Vonin Ladies' Aid Society has contributed greatly to the development of the Markerville community. Founded virtually at the same time as the community,
It has worked to preserve the importance of the Lutheran Church and Icelandic heritage in Markerville.
Members also provide a support system: those who fallen upon difficult times can often count on Vonin to help see them through.