Woman of year nominees profiled

Laughter and tears mingled as the 10 women celebrated by the 2011 Woman of the Year shared their stories at an informal meet and greet recently at The Sprouted Fig in downtown Vernon.

“The evening was a terrific success,” said 2011 chairperson Susan Curzon. “Our committee is excited to share the upcoming time with our new friends, as we crescendo to the gala evening.”

Sponsored by Vernon Women in Business (VWIB), the 24th annual Woman of the Year gala celebration takes place Thursday at the Best Western  Vernon Lodge.

This year’s nominees for Woman of the Year are Lorraine Johnson Brotsky, Janet Green, Lisa Kongsdorf, Ruth Kovacs, Judith Lanaway, Renee Leveille, Lydia Phillips, Debra Pool, Min Sidhu and Deb White.

Johnson Brotsky left her career as a patternmaker in Montreal in the ‘70s and created many designs for the fledgling Far West Company. She joined Powerhouse Theatre in 1979 as costume-designer, and has contributed to Vernon’s Centennial celebration, Trinity United Church banners and Vernon School District drama productions.

Elected to Lumby Village Council in 2010, Green’s passions are directed at the social and economic impacts of poverty on our communities, and municipal accountability to property taxpayers. Green lost the highlight of her post-retirement life in 2009 with the passing of her husband Harold. She volunteers with Hospice House, the Canadian Cancer Society, Silver Star Rotary, and her strata council.

Kongsdorf’s belief that disability does not limit an individual’s courage or resiliency forms the foundation of her life.  At Independent Living Vernon, she facilitates the 12-week employment program, co-ordinates annual fund-raising events and advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities to obtain basic necessities. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005, Kongsdorf volunteers with the Vernon MS Society and advocates with the Reformed MS Society to support and advocate for the recently discovered Liberation Treatment. In addition to raising three children, she has welcomed three foster children into her home.

Kovacs has brightened the lives and improved the reading skills of more than 400 Vernon children during the past 16 years, and is a determined advocate for children’s literacy. She and her husband have raised five daughters and one son, who have blessed her with 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Lanaway pursued a career in  Early Childhood Education and Montessori teaching to fulfill her passion to help children overcome physical or behavioral challenges, and has operated Little Miracles Licensed Pre-School in Vernon for 13 years. Lanaway counseled children and families with the autism program at North Okanagan Youth and Family Services for 14 years, and has volunteered as a special needs teacher for children at Variety Child Development Centre. She has been married to her childhood sweetheart for 38 years and raised two children, who are now grown.

Leveille undertakes every adventure she encounters with great enthusiasm, whether it be teaching English in Korea or elementary school in Vernon, drama with Powerhouse Theatre or creative arts at Vernon Alliance Church. A photographer, she owns Wedded Bliss Photography, inspired by her marriage three years ago, and Baby Bliss Photography, inspired by the arrival of  six-month old son Jack.

Phillips devotes her professional life as an occupational therapist to helping individuals overcome injuries and physical disorders. She is the founder of Meridian Rehabilitation Consulting, with five offices serving clients throughout BC’s interior and Alberta. In addition to raising six children, Phillips is a Vernon Rowing Club member, Kokanee Swim Club  supporter and Sunday school teacher.

Pool has advocated for French immersion in Vernon School District for the past 15 years and fostered more than 25 children, many as long-term family members and several with special needs. Since 2006, she has served as president of Canadian Parents for French for BC & Yukon, as well as serving on the BC Family French Camp for 12 years. The loss of her husband Philip in March 2010 left Pool with a desire to return the kindness and support of Vernon Hospice House, where she is undertaking volunteer training. She lives in Coldstream with her six children.

Countless non-profit organizations have benefited from Sidhu’s commitment during the 14 years — and three MLAs — she has administered the Vernon Monashee constituency office. Her ability to find and maintain funding has enabled Vernon Transition House, Junction Literacy, Kindale Development, Okanagan Science Centre, Salvation Army and Upper Room Mission to fulfill their roles in the community. Arriving 18 years ago from London, England, Sidhu and her husband Sid began their family business, Bella Vista Farm Market, and raised three daughters.

“How can I give back to the community?” is White’s mantra in both her personal and professional life. Fundraising campaigns for United Way, Wendy’s Dream Lift Day, Vernon Food Bank, Salvation Army and Hospice House have all benefited from White’s hard work. One of Canada’s top 50 mortgage professionals, she mentors 26 brokers and staff at her DLC White House Mortgages business. She and her husband Doug raised four children, and been blessed with two grandchildren

Tickets for the event are $40, which includes a four-course dinner and tabletop wine. Tickets are available through  www.vwib.com