Westman change-makers honoured

·4 min read

More than 200 people gathered at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium Thursday to celebrate women acting as movers and shakers in the Westman community.

Brandon YWCA board chair Kristin Jette said it was exciting to be back for the 33rd Women of Distinction Awards Gala, describing the event as a reunion.

The event marked the first time the organization has been able to host an event in two years.

“This is our largest fundraiser for our organization and we’ve definitely struggled through the pandemic,” Jette said. “Not having a fundraiser has really affected our organization … bringing people together and having community and acknowledging the amazing women and the work they have done, and the work they have done through the pandemic [has been incredible].”

She described the women celebrated at the awards night as community builders and leaders in their industries.

The event was markedly different in comparison to a normal year, which typically sees a full gala take place with dinner, drinks and camaraderie.

A scaled-back celebration was planned for 2021 to create a more intimate experience, including a dessert reception followed by a gala featuring videos of the nominees and the awards.

What was important was having the ability to come together, Jette said. Another bonus is that they were able to support another non-profit in the community by hosting the evening at the auditorium.

“It’s a huge benefit to give back to the community and be a part of the community and recognize these beautiful women,” Jette said. “I’m just excited to be a part of the organization.”

The non-profit has lacked fundraising opportunities during COVID-19, forcing the YWCA to re-strategize and adapt how they connect with the community.

Intimate partner violence has seen a marked increase during the pandemic and the organization is increasingly seeing people living in distress and in need of a place to stay.

“We’re still seeing that our facilities are at full capacity. We are very much trying to manage through,” Jette said. “Tonight is almost like a stepping stone towards something different — it feels like we are starting anew.”

Tracy Timmer said it was humbling and an honour to take home the Women of Distinction Agriculture Award. Timmer is the horticulturist for the City of Brandon and looks after growing all the plants used for displays in the Wheat City.

It remains important promoting women trying to make life better for themselves, other women and the greater community, Timmer said. She added it was awesome being able to see the other nominees in a pre-recorded video, allowing her to learn about what motivates them to make their community better.

“Thank you to the YWCA for putting on such a good promotion. I’m very honoured to be a part of it,” Timmer said.

Andrea Epp, owner of Epp Law Office, a small firm in Brandon working primarily in real estate, corporate and estate planning, was recognized with the Business Leadership and Entrepreneurial Award.

Epp launched the firm in November of 2020 and over the last “roller-coaster” of a year, it has doubled in size from four to 10 lawyers.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” Epp said. “I just love what I do.”

She said she was nervous but excited to receive her award.

“I’m honoured, but very shocked to be recognized for just doing the job that I do every day,” Epp said.

Epp sat on the YWCA about 10 years ago — at the time finding equity and equality was still a struggle for women professionals. Many industries were dominated by men and it could be difficult for women to break through and be seen.

“Now I’m finding that things like this are really recognizing women, and the women are really coming out. There are a lot more women business owners and a lot of really successful and strong women in this community,” Epp said.

“I think it’s because of things like this ... we have to continue to have things like [The Women of Distinction Gala] because it helps to grow out the community.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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