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Photos: Nominees announced for SE Women of Distinction Awards

"A woman of distinction is someone who has made a commitment and a significant difference in their communities by showing vision, creativity and initiative. They have been role models and continually inspire others through their leadership." The nominees announced

ESTEVAN — Twenty-six outstanding women from southeast Saskatchewan were celebrated as nominees for the Southeast Women of Distinction Awards during a luncheon at Southeast College's Estevan campus on April 9.

Becky Cassidy, Women 4 Women board member and master of ceremonies for the day, started the event with an inspiring speech.

"[Tennis player] Serena Williams once said, 'The success of one woman should be the inspiration to another.' We should raise each other up. Be courageous. Be strong. Be extremely kind and above all else, be humble. We truly are here today to do just that: raise each other up, inspire each other, share our stories so that we can celebrate our successes together," said Cassidy.

"World history is full of female pioneers who made progress in the fields of politics, arts, science, law, and there are women all over the world who not just dreamed of success, but have worked for and achieved it.

"A woman of distinction is someone who has made a commitment and a significant difference in their communities by showing vision, creativity and initiative. They have been role models and continually inspire others through their leadership."

The names of the nominees, stemming from all over the southeast and leading their communities and the region in different fields, were announced in five different categories.

The nominees for the Innovative Leadership Award, presented by SaskTel, are Vi Day, Daralee Kittelson, Chandra Marchuk, Sara East, Trina Battersby, Kylie Jo McGregor and Brooke Wilson. This award goes to a successful entrepreneur who has become an inspirational leader and role model for other women.

The winner of this award has created or implemented innovative programs, practices, partnerships or other opportunities that significantly improve the lives of women in their community.

Those vying for the Outstanding Contribution to the Workplace Award, presented by TS&M Supply, are Jennifer Henderson, Michelle Beaulieu and Jackie Wall. This award is for women with exemplary achievements beyond the scope of their paid work that improve the workplaces. These women reach beyond their professional expectations to inspire, mentor and enable others to improve their workplaces and their communities.

Candidates for the Young Visionary Award, presented by Impact Creative Digital Services, are Aivry Culy, Teigha Lesy, Sasha Mantei, Izzy Semenuik, Andri Groenveld, Keira Lindsay Zepeda and Tayla Gervais. This award is for individual under the age of 20 who are an example for others through their exemplary achievement in academics, athletics, volunteerism or community building.

The nominees for the Equity & Inclusion Award, presented by Saskatchewan Blue Cross, are Aimee Haralson and Pam Gunnlaugson. It recognizes women for leadership, resilience and activism to further advance efforts in improving the community or the culture for the next generation. The efforts of these women include overcoming significant barriers to success.

The nominees for the Outstanding Contribution to the Community Award, presented by Steam Est. Industries, are Verdeen Matthewson, Lynn Trobert, Misty Pennington, Daniyale Woolsey, Nancy Samoluk, Jeri-Lee Jones and Kasey McIntyre.

It recognizes influential community builders whose contributions and leadership have helped to create a community where everyone can thrive. The Contribution to the Community Award nominees may be nominated for their outstanding community service in either a paid position or a volunteer capacity to create, enhance or improve local programs for the community itself.

Tania Andrist, Women 4 Women awards and nominations chair, explained how the nomination and selection process works.

"After the nominations were closed, we took the packages that you sent to us, and we turned them into digital portfolios. Our committee did not see the packages and has zero influence on the outcome. These portfolios will be sent to a different organization later today in a different city that is led by women. These individuals have no connection to our community or to the nominees, and we are very grateful for your unbiased adjudication. I know that the decisions are very difficult because of our large categories," Andrist explained.

"And I would like to stress again, this event is a celebration of all women. We are celebrating 26 women."

Lemon Wedge Marketing sponsored the luncheon, and business partners Melissa Deitz and Robert Godfrey greeted the guests and paid tribute to all nominees and their supporters.

"Throughout my career, I've often been one of only a few women decision-makers in the room. And as time goes on, it's great to see that this is no longer as common. I've had the opportunity to work with so many amazing women. I know that my journey would have been even harder, if not for other women who came before me and paved the way for so many women to succeed," Deitz said.

"Today we're going to hear about the remarkable achievements of our nominees. But we know that behind all of the nominees, there are mentors, friends and families who have uplifted and empowered them along the way. It takes a community to create an environment where every woman feels valued, respected and empowered to pursue her dreams. Everyone in this room today is an example of that community," Godfrey added.

Also announced during the luncheon was the new inductee to the Trailblazer Memorial Walk, presented by Woodley Well Service Inc.: Gertie Lev (1921-2018). Other Trailblazers are Shirley Orsted, Melodye Pierson, Ida Petterson and Shirley Carson.

"The Trailblazers are women who have since passed away and in their time on this Earth, they did tremendously inspiring things. These women were the first to do something and/or to go somewhere that gave other women the opportunity to follow up and the knowledge that was needed to make it possible for them to do so," Cassidy explained.

More about the latest inductee will be announced during the awards event in May.

The Southeast Saskatchewan Women of Distinction Awards is a new event intended to carry on the tradition of the Quota International of Estevan Women of Today Awards, which had been awarded in the community for 21 years, the last time occurring in 2019.

Inspired by a desire to gather to celebrate women, a group of values-aligned women from southeast Saskatchewan formed a group called Women 4 Women and brought the awards back.

The second Southeast Women of Distinction Awards luncheon will take place on May 2 at 11:30 a.m. at the Wylie-Mitchell Hall. Tickets are $40/person and $300/table of eight. Tickets will be on sale to the public starting April 15 at 9 a.m. and will be available at Henders Drugs in Estevan or via email at [email protected].

The Mercury and SaskToday will have more on each of the nominees at a later date.