Ann Cotton is one of 11 nominees for the 26th Annual Woman of the Year Award.

Ann Cotton is one of 11 nominees for the 26th Annual Woman of the Year Award.

Celebrating exceptional women

The 26th Annual Woman of the Year celebration recognizes a remarkable group of outstanding women

“Our 26th annual Woman of the Year celebration is a very special community event which allows us to recognize a remarkable group of outstanding women,” says 2013 chairperson Colleen Barker. “We are thrilled to announce the 11 nominees for this year’s event, to be celebrated May 9 at Prestige Hotel and Conference Centre.”

Ann Cotton — AJA Delivery Despite a difficult childhood, Ann has blossomed into a kind and giving woman who helps others to overcome difficult, stressful times in their lives. She volunteers with Vernon Volunteer Bureau, Vernon Disability Resource Centre, Citizens on Patrol, SPCA, St. John Ambulance, Sweet Smiles Foundation, and Tetra Society.

Ann’s business, AJA Delivery, operates as a volunteer service for the Salvation Army Food Hamper program, and devotes one day’s proceeds annually to a non-profit organization. She offers a home to the homeless and helps them arrange suitable shelter; shares clothing and food from her own cupboards to the needy; provides rides to appointments.

“Ann has such a big heart that even though she has barriers, it doesn’t affect how she helps other people. She gives emotional support without judgement,” says nominator Kim Sanche.

Ruth Hoyte — AE Berry Insurance Brokerage Ruth’s seemingly boundless energy and dynamic devotion to family and community is applauded locally, regionally and provincially. A successful dance instructor and founder of Desert Moon Dancers, Ruth was recognized in 2013 by Okanagan Arts Council. Her exceptional contributions were celebrated 2000 and 2004 as a Woman of the Year nominee.

Ruth has volunteered her leadership skills as president for Vernon Women in Business, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Vernon Association, Vernon Dance Society, and North Okanagan Employment Enhancement Society. She has served as a director on  the Centreville Neighborhood Committee for Gateway Shelter, the Queen Silver Star Excellence Program, Vernon Winter Carnival Society and the Vernon Public Art Gallery board.  She is a strong advocate for economic development in the Vernon city core, serving on numerous municipal committees. Provincially, she serves the Insurance Brokers Association of B.C.

“Ruth is a bigger-than-life matriarch, business colleague, community advocate and patron of the arts,” says nominator Lorna Robb.

Deb Leroux — Uniting Projects and Capital Past-owner of Harris Flower Shop from 2005 to 2012, Deb has recently undertaken a new venture to support local non-profit organizations with grant funding. Deb shares her business knowledge and experience to local youth organizations through mentorship and one-to-one coaching. She has served since 2003 with the regional advisory committee at Vernon’s Okanagan College, with an emphasis on high school entrepreneurship programs through Community Futures’ “Dragon’s Den” competition and Start Up Weekend.

Deb served on the Village of Lumby council from 2002 to 2008, participating on North Okanagan Regional District committees. An active member of the Kalamalka Rotary Club, Deb volunteers with the Queen Silver Star Excellence Program, and Sweet Smiles Foundation.

“Deb continues to give back through her participation in various volunteer groups, committees and organizations,” says nominator Leigha Horsfield.

Trudy McGrath Trudy’s impact in the areas of education and music has been felt for many years in Vernon’s public school system and has not been diminished by her retirement from School District 22 in 2001, after 33 years as music educator to elementary school children. As president of the Vernon Music Teachers’ Association, Trudy combined her love of music and children into significant musical productions and district choral festivals. In 1992, she organized Vernon children into a mass choir to celebrate the opening and closing ceremonies of BC Winter Games.

Trudy was a founding member of Vernon’s Performing Arts Centre. She currently sings with Counterpoint Choir and directs the Schubert Singers, who perform locally at retirement lunches or care facilities. She continues to direct the education and music departments at First Baptist Church, where she has organized mixed and handbell choirs, directed youth and children’s musicals, and organized an After School Kids club. She has reached out to Korean members with weekly English conversation classes.

Melina Moore Born in Argentina and raised in New York City where she trained at the Juilliard School of Music, Melina has embraced the local community with passion and generosity. An internationally-acclaimed coloratura soprano, Melina demonstrates her passion for our community by performing for numerous fundraising events including the Vernon Rotary Carol Festival and Dance: The Evolution on behalf of VJH’s women and children’s ward.

Melina is the co-founder of Studio Moore and now operates Valley Vocal Arts Studio, which is committed to bring the best of live theatre and local talent to Okanagan audiences, in collaboration with Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and Sparkling Hills Resort.

“I have seen her perform for hundreds at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre in the same way she sang for 50 homeless people having Christmas dinner at the soup kitchen,” says one supporter.

Dalvir Nahal Dalvir was born in India and raised in Vernon from the age of four.

Employed at RBC and later at Ministry of Citizen Services, Dalvir has been active through her volunteer work with the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation, Vernon & District Immigrant Services Society, Vernon Punjabi Heritage Society, Social Planning Council, and Make a Wish Campaign.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, Dalvir “courageously took her personal battle and turned it into a positive and public sharing of awareness,” personally raising $50,000 for McMurtry-Baerg Cancer Comfort Centre.

Dalvir has shared her journey as guest speaker at 2011 Wine Women and Woods, CIBC Run for the Cure, and 2012 JCI Hospital Gala.

In March 2013, Dalvir spearheaded the first Bollywood Bang (East Indian culture and South Asian cuisine) to raise funds for treatment support (anti-nausea drugs, transportation, day care) for cancer patients without health benefits.

Claire Radford Claire’s devotion and daily contributions as a real estate agent have fostered the evolution of Predator Ridge Golf Resort as a community over the past 14 years, and has earned her the honorary nickname of Mayor of Predator Ridge.

Claire helps planning, expanding and developing the Predator Ridge community, and partakes in social and business events during her personal hours. She is an active book club member, participates in neighbourhood socials, and is an advocate of the trail system which she personally enjoys on a daily basis.

Predator Ridge supports Habitat for Humanity, Vernon’s food bank as well as other charities.

“Claire is kind and compassionate, always approachable and compliments everyone she greets by remembering them by name and by her ability to recall even the smallest of personal details,” says one supporter.

Ryan Robson — Hub Arts Collective Upon her arrival in Vernon from Cape Breton Island in 2010, Ryan jumped into the local art and youth community with a splash, through display of her artwork at Gallery Vertigo and Caetani Centre, and through volunteer service as a counsellor at Teen Junction Youth Centre. She shared her competitive figure skating background as a volunteer skating coach at Okanagan Training Rink.

Within the first year, Ryan had partnered with Matt Brown to begin construction on The Hub Arts Collective in downtown Vernon.

“She is tireless in her efforts both for her passion in art and the youth of our community,” says Brown. “She is the in-house curator, one of the youth program coordinators, a resident artist and an integral asset to the operation of The Hub.”

Ryan has also participated in Vernon Public Art Gallery’s Riot on the Roof, Downtown Vernon Association’s Sunshine Festival, Okanagan Science Centre’s Haunted House, Global Education’s Anti-bullying program, and Caetani’s Lantern Festival.

“As curator of the Hub Arts Collective, Ryan hopes to give a voice to youth, as well as celebrate all the artists in our community,” says nominator Jessika LaFramboise.

Dawn Roy Girls and young women are now playing in almost every division of competitive football in Vernon, thanks to Dawn’s vision, determination and steadfast loyalty.

“Dawn took the sport of youth football in Vernon from obscurity to prominence during her tenure with the Vernon Minor Football league,” says nominator Bill Tarr. “In my 40-plus years of experience, I have never known another young lady to play at the midget level on any competitive football team in Canada, much less a provincial championship team.”

Dawn has also contributed her endless energy to the Vernon Volleyball Club, as a Baby Think It Over liaison between Vernon IODE and Seaton school, Kindale Development Centre, Girl Guides of Canada for the past 18 years, as unit leader, Deputy District Commissioner, Camp Tillicum committee member and provincially sponsored SOAR camping program.  Dawn was honoured in 2011 with a nationally-recognized Gold Merit Award for her outstanding and exceptional contribution to Guiding.

Linda Wills Vernon’s history is organized and accessible for future generations, thanks to the organizational skills and dedication of Linda Wills, who retired in 2004 after 20 years with the Vernon Museum as archivist and volunteer co-ordinator.

Vernon is more beautiful thanks to Linda’s contribution to the Centennial Beautification Tree Planting project along Highway 97 and Vernon Green Streets Society along Okanagan Landing Road.

Vernon’s library benefits from the Friends of the Library volunteer group, sparked by Linda in 1989 to organize annual sales of discarded library books. Children and adult programs, special furniture and artwork have been funded by annual contributions exceeding $30,000.

A charter member of the Vernon Film Society, Linda continues to work in conjunction with Vernon Public Art Gallery to promote movies and film making in our community.

Nancy Wilson Nancy has been nominated by her peers at Vernon’s Halina Centre, where she first participated in their Heart Smart walking group five years ago and has since been recognized for her hard work and dedication as a leader, educator and mentor. Nancy participates in fundraising craft sales, and eyeglass collections for Third World countries.

Nancy was instrumental in bringing the Baby Think It Over program to the Okanagan, a program which provides schools and health programs with computerized “babies” and equipment to familiarize young adults with the responsibility of parenthood.

Nancy was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her exceptional contributions as a member of IODE for more than 40 years. (Independent Order Daughters of the Empire).

A former Petty Officer with NLCC Navy League, Nancy remains active with inspection and training of local cadet corps. She is a charter member of North Okanagan Biathlon Club, which sponsors youth for equipment purchases.