Denise Deschene was awarded the Women with Heart Award in 2015. Here she is accepting her award.

Women with Heart nominations open

Award given annually to a woman in the area who has made an impact on those around her

Nominations are now open for the 2018 Women with Heart Award.

Awarded annually to a woman in the area who has made an impact on those around her, the Women’s Contact Society is looking for nominations for the 2018 celebration.

“The reason it is called Women with Heart is women work from the heart,” says Irene Willsie, executive director of the Women’s Contact Society. “There are lots of ways you can get accolades for things like education or sporting accomplishments or business accomplishments but we wanted to recognize women who maybe had those successes but also had heart and passion into what she did for the community.”

Nominations can be for what a woman does in her work, volunteerism or around the community.

“We want it to be very broad minded with a really wide scope because women are part of everything that happens in the community and that’s what we want it to reflect.”

Criteria, according to the Women’s Contact Society, are women who are passionate for their work, career or volunteerism; have generosity of spirit; makes a positive impact; is successful; is a leader; advocates on behalf of those less fortunate than themselves; raises public awareness of violence against women and girls; or raises public awareness of barriers faced by women and girls.

The first award was given out in 2011, and has been awarded every year since.

“Every one brought something different to the community,” says Irene.

Diane Wright, the former superintendent of schools, was the first recipient.

“Diane Wright was a tireless worker with the schools. She would connect the schools with the community and she was a women superintendent that’s never been done before here and never since.”

From there, the award has been given to Joan Gentles, a “tireless advocate for First Nations;” Aileen Hewitt, the founder of the Child Development Centre, “when we gave her the award in 2013 she was a very elderly woman but still passionate about services for children needing to be available in our community”; June Striegler, who was “instrumental in starting Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy”; Denise Deschene, who “does amazing work with youth and is an environmentalist”; Lynette Cobb, who has “literally volunteered thousands and thousands of hours to the Crisis Line”; and Irene Johnson, the education co-ordinator with the Esk’etemc First Nation at Alkali Lake who “is an advocate and leader for aboriginal people to overcome sexual assault, sexual violence, substance abuse and she is a healer.”

Willsie is excited to see who is nominated this year.

“During the wildfires there were many women who did extraordinary things — everything from being a firefighter to some of the women who cooked in their community halls,” she says. “Other women stayed to help fight fires or provide support services to the firefighters during the evacuation.”

Those making a nomination must include an essay of not less than 200 words and not more than 1,000 words.

The board of directors individually reviews each nomination and ranks them. Willsie then compiles the scores.

“If you are wanting to nominate someone, tell us their story,” she says. “The board members may know nothing about the person other than what you wrote about them.”

The winner will be announced at the Women’s Contact Society’s Women’s Day event in March.

“We’re all very busy and it’s important as a community to stop and celebrate once in a while, so that’s our little way of celebrating every year.”

Sometimes, Willsie says she is blown away by women in the community she has never met.

“Some of these women that have received the award I have known very well and some I didn’t know anything about, didn’t know them, didn’t know about their interest and their work and it truly blows you away.”

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