2021 AWARD WINNERS
Women of 2021
The 33rd annual Westman Communications Group YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala took place inside the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium, in Brandon MB, on November 18, 2021. The dinner and awards gala (started in 1985) honours the achievements of women from the Brandon, Westman and Parkland regions. It is a major fundraising event for the YWCA Brandon.
There are nine awards categories including Leadership in Arts Culture & Design, Business Leadership Entrepreneurship, Community Leadership & Social Action, Education & Mentorship, Healthy Living & Recreation, Lifetime Achievement, Science Technology Trade, Young Trailblazer, and Agriculture.
See below for the 2021 Women of Distinction Winners!
Dr. Cathy Mattes
Dr. Mattes is a proud Michif scholar, author, curator, leader, and educator. Dr. Mattes was the lead co-organizer in Brandon of the Walking With Our Sisters community engaged exhibition commemorating missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. She is also a regional language champion for Michif language revitalization. Dr. Mattes is a changemaker and leads by example, she works towards indigenizing institutions and has been influential in creating space in universities and galleries for Indigenous knowledge, art, history, and practices. Dr. Mattes’ curation, research, and writing centers on dialogic and Indigenous knowledge-centered curatorial practices is pivotal in change. Dr. Mattes has a PhD in Indigenous Studies and has been beading since she was 20 years old.
Andrea Epp is an accomplished entrepreneurial lawyer who also spends extraordinary effort supporting her community through volunteerism. Andrea sits on the board of directors for the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Crime Stoppers, Helping Hands and recently took on the role of resurrecting the 100 Women Who Care initiative. Andrea actively supports women experiencing domestic violence by providing support groups to create a safe space to share and provide space for community.
Antoinette is an active grassroots activist and has contributed
to many community projects including (but not limited to) Brandon Overdose Awareness, Jack Johnson Centre/Withdrawal Management Site, Westman Families of Addicts, Moms Stop the Harm, and Warrior Goddess in Training. Antoinette was present for the groundbreaking of Samaritan House in 1987 and has lead Brandon’s Purple Ribbon campaign for many years. Antoinette was the leader in developing a program at Brandon Correctional Centre for parents serving time to read and record stories to send to their children. Antoinette inspires others by being real and honest; she is true to herself and her story.
& Social Action
Florence (Flo), a Cree woman, is the Ask Auntie Coordinator with Brandon Neighborhood Renewal Corporation (BNRC) and advocates for community members. Flo is supportive and encourages individuals to ask questions. Whether helping with navigating colonized systems or just providing sanitary packages, no question is too big or too small. Flo prides herself on her commitments to family values, ceremony, and traditional healing as she is a mother, grandmother, and Auntie not only to her own family but many others in the community of Brandon.
Deidre is a Anishinabe Ikwe woman whose Spirit name is Woman Who Paints the Sky, is the academic advisor in the Brandon School Division and at Brandon University. Deidre is a leader in encouraging, supporting, and guiding Indigenous students as well as their families in the school and at their home. Deidre was instrumental in the process of obtaining the Treaty 2 flag and Metis flag for Neelin High School. Deidre also delivers the blanket exercise teaching to students and staff members. Deidre is also an influential voice with administrative bodies towards Truth and Reconciliation in the school and community. Deidre is a present member of the Women’s Council that initiated the Brandon Bear Clan, an Indigenous birth worker/doula, and part of the Brandon SHIFT committee.
Healthy Living Wellness
Debra Mason spent over 40 years as an early year teacher in the Brandon School Division. In 2015, Debra developed a community initiative to bring dancing and exercise to women in the over-55 age group. The Zumba group that Debra created turned into a place where women could laugh, tell stories, make new friends, and support each other through dance & exercise. Debra is also a leader in volunteerism and has advocated for individuals in the difficult topic of death and medical assistance in dying. Debra also volunteered with the YWCA Brandon Westman Women’s Shelter, Meredith Place, and Samaritan House. Debra brings a positive attitude and energy to everything she does and is a proud mother of two and two grandchildren.
Feliciaa is a young trailblazer under the age of 18 who is an advocate for women’s rights and issues. Feliciaa is a change-maker who started an organization named GENEQU at the age of 14. This organization works towards driving change and bringing awareness on issues effecting girls and women. As immigrant to Canada and daughter of a single mother, Feliciaa speaks to the challenges she faced growing up. Feliciaa has provided free, online, hosted events inviting youth from Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Winnipeg, and Selkirk discussing difficult issues such as gender-based violence and victim-blaming. Feliciaa is an advocate for building allyship among boys and men to forward the mission of a gender-equal world.
Dr. Bernadette Ardelli
Dr. Ardelli is an accomplished and nationally recognized bio-logist, researcher, and esteemed female leader in science. Dr. Ardelli’s research is extensively published and directly applies to addressing pressing public health concerns. Dr. Ardelli is also a progressive leader in her field and is the second female Dean of Science at Brandon University. Her most significant grant was from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is rarely granted to Canadian researchers. She has also prioritized inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in science and organized inclusion of indigenous knowledge systems into her research. She bravely holds individuals accountable around issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion and in doing so has made significant contributions to post-secondary in Westman and beyond.
Rapid City, MB
Tracy is a hard-working horticulturist for the past 32 years. Tracy has been the leader for the City of Brandon greenhouses for the past 15 years. Tracy is the leading force in the beauty of the city’s parks and boulevards. Tracy is known to enhance the lives of others by providing space for beauty through stunning arrangements and her plant choice reflects the best of the prairies.