For the past 24 years, women of all ages in Westman have been recognized by the YWCA through its Women of Distinction Awards. Some have made a huge difference to their communities -- locally, oftimes provincially and nationally -- through their professional lives, others through their volunteering efforts. Most are mentors, all are role models. To celebrate their accomplishments, a special evening will take place this Thursday, March 3, at the UCT Pavilion in the Keystone Centre.
The following is a snapshot of this year's nominees.
Linda Burridge, Brandon
* Graduate of Neepawa high school and Brandon University; librarian at BU for 11 years;
* Her work supporting aboriginal written literary culture has local and national significance; she did groundbreaking work in establishing the Ogamas Aboriginal Literary Festival, and continues in directing and fundraising for this national event; she holds editing positions with native studies journals and has significantly built up the aboriginal literature collection at BU, adding to its reputation across North America;
* Instrumental in transforming the BU library from a predominately print-based collection to a predominately digital one, as well as securing funds to digitalize the S.J. McKee Archives;
* She and her husband Ed are active in various sports; are world travellers; and find time to contribute to the community by serving on local boards, and supporting their alma maters.
Karen Davis, Dauphin
* Mother of three; hails from Ebb and Flow First Nation;
* Was the executive director of the Growing Years Family Resource Centre in Selkirk, building it up from a small toy book lending library with only two staff and a shoestring operating budget to a major building with 12 staff and a $450,000 annual budget from diverse funding stream;
* Currently works as the West Region Health Department's Brighter Futures co-ordinator, working with seven First Nations communities in promoting positive parenting, healthy babies and early childhood development;
* Pioneered the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program in Manitoba, a program that mails a free book each month to preschool children;
* A reputation of being a skilled, practical and enthusiastic leader, a motivational force, a kind soul and a great role model.
Deborah L. Delaronde-Falk Winnipegosis
* Deborah grew up in the Métis community of Duck Bay, and has been working for Duck Bay School in the Frontier School Division for 23 years as a children's librarian.
* Initiated many literacy related programs and volunteered her time outside of her regular work day to support them; examples include the Book Bag program to promote early childhood reading for families; an Internet project linking 300 schools around the world in writing stories; winning the Lieutenant Governor's Medal for Literacy for developing a family literacy program;
* Recognizing the shortage of books about Métis culture, she began writing them herself, and has published eight children's books;
* Participated in and supported provincial literary events such as Manitoba Book Week, Winnipeg International Writer's Festival, the national Canadian Children Centre's Book Week tour, as well as visiting many Manitoba schools as a participating author for I Love to Read Week.
Angela Doherty, Brandon
* Mother of nine-year-old and 15-year-old; member of the Riverheights School parent council from 2008-10;
* Powerhouse and leader within the soccer community; she began as a "soccer mom" but has served over the past decade in several capacities with the Brandon Soccer Association, including assistant coach, member of the BSA board, parent liaison for the association, vice-president of administration, then president of the BSA and a member of the Manitoba Soccer Association;
* Is presently office manager for the BSA, but continues to provide countless volunteer hours doing everything from cutting grass, lining fields, facility cleanup, inventory control and parent liaison, office support, moving nets, organizing volunteers and running tournaments.
* Role model for women of all ages, in her confidence and respect she shows others; took a leave-of-absence from her job as manager of 19 staff at a hair salon to devote herself to the soccer community.
Patricia Langlois, Brandon
* Brandon University professor in women's studies and sociology; BA in philosophy from St. Francis Xavier University, a master of women's studies from Memorial University, and a PhD in sociology from the University of Toronto;
* Has published a book called "Fault Lines: Incest, Sexuality And Catholic Family Culture" and a chapter in the textbook "Family Patterns, Gender Relations"; is a reviewer for academic journals and a part-time yoga teacher;
* Goal in her teaching is to impact the young women she teaches in a way that will help them discover themselves and their potential; powerful presence and passion make her a sought-after speaker;
* Started the Gender and Women's Studies practicum where students go out and work within the community at under-funded women's organizations such as the Brandon Women's Resource Centre and the YWCA Women's Shelter.
Johanna Leseho, Brandon
* Education professor and counsellor at Brandon University;
* A dancer, tai chi enthusiast and tireless volunteer;
* Champion for Brandon's newcomers facing the challenges of integration into the community; along with four other women, she initiated and organized four global markets that showcased crafts, baked goods and food made by immigrant women from countries around the world;
* Volunteers for the Westman Immigration "buddy" program;
* Convinced the Sportsplex to offer skating lessons to children of newly arrived immigrants;
* As a published author, Lesotho's reach and influence as an agent of change reverberates outside of Brandon and Canada; two of her books include the "Dancing On The Earth: Women's Stories Of Healing Through Dance" and "Your Children's Anger. Preventative Solutions for Frustrated Parents," the latter was illustrated by the students at Crocus Plains, New Era and the University of Manitoba.
Judith MacDonald, Brandon
* Married to Chris for nearly 50 years, mother of three children and grandmother to seven;
* Volunteered throughout her life; board member for the Children's Aid Society (now Child and Family Services), read for the Blind Broadcast, set up and ran the resource centre for the Anglican Diocese of Brandon for 11 years, and worked with the church's World Relief and Development Fund; member of Brandon's 10 Days for World Development committee that helped launch the Marquis project;
* Currently volunteers at Samaritan House Training Centre and serves lunch at Helping Hands;
* Loves music and sings with the BU Women's Voices, as well as the St. Matthew's Cathedral choir among other church activities; she sings in seniors homes and volunteers with the Scottish pavilion at the Lieutenant Governor's Winter Festival;
* For 15 years has boarded students from around the world; has opened her home or found resources for other newcomers.
Shandra MacNeill, Brandon
* A vital force in the nurturing of the arts in Brandon for the last several years; primary founder of the only private/co-operative/inclusive community arts space in the city with Second Troy (2003-05), and more recently, as chair of the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society; work with Second Troy involved hosting several program series and events which promoted the development of spoken word and poetry, music, dance, art installations, gallery shows, workshops and educational mentoring opportunities for both young and old;
* Under her leadership, the Brandon Folk, Music and Art Society has undertaken a year-round schedule of artistic activities; dozens of arts organizations partner with the society in a wide variety of artistic undertakings; instrumental in initiating the first Downtown Arts and Cultural Festival in 2010;
* Playing a key role in the vision for The Strand Theatre Project as a multi-purpose community performance and arts centre.
Linda McNabb, Gilbert Plains
* A wife, a mother of four, a grandmother of nine, and recently a great-grandmother;
* As a teacher in her early life, she instilled in children a love of music; later as a school librarian, she instilled a love of reading;
* She and husband Dave farmed for many years until their recent retirement; she continues to raise miniature animals, a source of learning to schoolchildren on field trips;
* Member of St. Paul's United Church in Gilbert Plains all of her life and choir leader for decades;
* Has written, produced, directed and acted in several community musicals; instrumental in establishing Galaxy Theatre group;
* Her outdoor production this past December, "Journey to Bethlehem," featured a cast of 200 actors; she wrote the script, directed and produced, acted and brought together all churches in the community to offer their support and buildings for performances;
* 2007 volunteer of the year for the Town of Gilbert Plains.
Janice Rankmore, Brandon
* Commitment to family and community instilled in her upbringing in small Prairie town; moved to Brandon as a teen;
* Long career as a businesswoman, starting at Murray Chev-Olds, then the Co-op, then Petro-Canada, becoming one of the first female managers of a Servico system in Western Canada; bought into the Humpty's Family Restaurant franchise and has been owner-manager since 1991;
* Served on various committees for the United Way in Brandon including chair;
* Associated with Meals on Wheels, Moms Without Borders, and Prairie Grannies; the Moms organization raises money for children who need proper nutrition, shelter, clothing and medicine; Prairie Grannies, which is affiliated with the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, raises funds to help grandmothers in Africa who are raising their grandchildren orphaned by AIDS;
* Has been involved with school advisory councils, the Canada Summer Games, World Curling.
Brandy Robertson, Brandon
* Office assistant for Brandon University's psychology, mathematics and computer science departments; vice-president of local MGEU job evaluation committee; taking her BA in English and religion;
* Began volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society in 2007; main co-ordinator of Daffodil Days at BU; a member of the Friends of University Network (FUN) committee which holds and assists in fundraising events;
* President of the World University Service of Canada local chapter; through WUSC, she organizes Fair Trade Days on campus and collects used textbooks for shipment to Better World Books; the money from the sale of the books helps schools in Africa;
* In September 2010, she was nominated by the WUSC national office as one of Canada's Citizens of Change;
* In May 2010, was awarded the Brandon University Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Community Service.
Judy Seib, Brandon
* Program co-ordinator for Brandon's "Food for Thought" program;
* Her passion for the program bridges the gap for children socially, culturally and economically;
* Has brought new ideas for fundraising, including the annual golf tournament that raises thousands of dollars to help children get that "daily healthy start";
* Since taking over leadership for the program seven years ago, she has expanded it to include a snack program; Food for Thought now helps three Brandon schools with breakfast programs and 11 Brandon schools with providing healthy snacks;
* The program embraces diversity, offering daily programs to students speaking not only English, but Chinese, Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish and French.
* The program reaches out to 150 students each day, which is close to 18,000 per year.
Willemien Van Lankvelt, Brandon
* Came from the Netherlands to Canada with husband Piet in 1980, settling first on a farm north of Rivers and then south of Cardale; active in church, rink and community events; has two daughters and a son; moved to Brandon in 2007;
* Thyroid cancer survivor;
* Now executive director of the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) at CFB Shilo; the fact that Willie and her staff are the only MFRC in Western Canada to receive the Brigade Commanders Commendation is indicative of her tireless efforts on behalf of military families;
* Advocate for individuals with disabilities in Westman, serving as executive director of Rollingdale Enterprises (1996-2004) and executive director of Westman Coalition of Employment Opportunities (2004-06);
* She has been on the board for Brandon Career Connections, been a head coach for Manitoba Special Olympics, chaired the Westman/Parkland Abilities Network.
Averill Whitfield, Souris
* Arrived in Souris to teach 51 years ago; married local pharmacist Ralph in 1960; raised four children;
* Chaired Souris and District Heritage Club since it was established in 1988; saved 1883 portion of St. Luke's Anglican Church from demolition, oversaw its restoration as heritage church museum;
* Honorary Life Member of Provincial and National Council, Girl Guides of Canada spent 36 years as a leader and trainer;
* Led the St. Luke's choir for 25 years and established the Souris music festival;
* Executive of Souris Figure Skating Club for 12 years; and coached the Westman Canoe and Kayak Team at the first Manitoba Summer Games;
* After Ralph established Woodsong Farms Simmental Breeders in 1969, she contributed to the growth of the cattle industry running "All Star" cattle sales;
* Received the Duke of Edinburgh Award in Canada Service Plaque in 1986; won several awards from the town and chamber, including 1982 Citizen of the Year.
Valerie Wotton, Brandon
* Mother, wife, nurse and business owner;
* 28 years in the medical profession; currently RN in the emergency room at the Brandon Regional Health Centre; also an Advanced Life Support instructor;
* Owner of LA Hair salon in Brandon, employing nine staff; uses all local businesses for upkeep and maintenance of her business; changing her product line to be more environmentally friendly; fundraises for the Canadian Cancer Society; helps students with work experience opportunities, and takes apprentices into her salon;
* Member of the Provincial Joint Nursing Council which meets with the government to speak out for nurses and their concerns;
* Provincially elected vice-president of the Manitoba Nurses Union; was Brandon Regional MNU president representing 750 nurses; travels around Manitoba to colleges and universities presenting MNU; considered a mentor and role model not only to the students but to the union membership as a whole.
YOUNG WOMEN OF DISTINCTION
Lauren Lambkin, Shilo
* Grade 12 student at Neelin High School in Brandon; respected leader of Neelin and a role model to many students;
* Successfully balances studies with sports, choir and major production;
* Social promoter on student council;
* Driving force to create a Teens Against Drinking, and Driving (TADD) group at Neelin;
* Involvement with the Canadian Cancer Society; in February 2010, she was made an honorary chair of the Brandon Relay for Life, to date the youngest person to ever hold this title; in 2009, she organized a very successful fundraiser herself called Together 4 Hope in Shilo; the high school ambassador for the Relay for Life Campaign;
* Working with the cancer society is a tribute to her mom who lost her fight with cancer in 2009;
* Goals include pursuing a post-secondary education to become an English as an Additional Language teacher.
Adrienne Mack, Neepawa
* Began volunteering at the age of 12, beginning with reading programs at the Neepawa library and at the local swimming pool; was involved with the Peer Helper and Peer Mentor programs through high school;
* At 18, joined the Yellowhead Roadrunners Car Club; during Manitoba Homecoming 2010, she organized the largest car show and classic car parade that Neepawa has ever seen;
* After two and a half years of university, she decided to get serious about following her dreams; she and began apprenticing at Pyramid Collision in Neepawa, and studying autobody at Red River College;
* Spearheading Think Pink cancer awareness fundraising day; involved with the Lily Festival and Roxy Theatre boards, and has been a member of Rotary Club; one of the organizers of the Manitoba Homecoming celebrations and the Olympic Torch relay; nominated to sit as a director for the Beautiful Plains Community Foundation.
Shannon Skidmore, Brandon
* Works as vice-president external with Brandon University Students' Union, organizing and running events that benefit the students' university experience and reaching out to the community; taking a bachelor of arts in political science and sociology;
* Helped organize the first Battle of the Bands; major contributor to the success of both Orientation and Rock the Block; lead roles in bringing two major speakers, Gloria Steinem and Sue Johanson, to BU;
* Involved in theatre on campus;
* Co-chair of the local WUSC committee and the driving force behind many of their campaigns, including their Student Refugee Program, the Bike for AIDS campaign, the Shine-A-Light Gala (raising funds for gender equality rights in refugee camps) and their used textbook drives for African schools
* Nominated for a Women of Distinction Award in 2007 in Estevan, Sask.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 28, 2011 A3