Women of Distinction honoured

Awards recognize women who excel in their fields

Published on March 8, 2016
Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
The Women of Distinction 2016 awards were presented in St. John’s Tuesday to (from left, seated): Andrea Maunder (Business), Ruth Lawrence (Arts & Culture) and Mackenzie Dove (Young Woman of Distinction), (from left, standing) Clara Rendell (Public Affairs), Holly Foley (Wellness & Active Living), Jillian Hand (Mentorship & Education) and Helen Murphy (Community & Social Development).

It was a gathering of accomplished women from very different backgrounds and stages of life at the Suncor Energy Fluvarium on Tuesday for the Women of Distinction Awards as presented by the YWCA.

The awards, which are presented across Canada, recognize women who excel in their field and who do so in such a way that thier efforts contribute to the development and well-being of other women, as well as the community as a whole. The awards coincide with International Women’s Day.

In the category of Public Affairs, a local woman who has made her mark in a field often associated with men was given recognition. Clara Rendell has been working in corrections for 33 years. She started as a parole officer and has worked her way up to area director. It was clear from the history read aloud about Rendell’s contributions that she approaches corrections with both compassion and effectiveness, focusing not on punishment but on success.

For 20-year-old Mackenzie Dove, it was clear that being singled out amongst such an outstanding crowd was quite meaningful.

“It’s really amazing to be here on International Women’s Day,” Dove said as she accepted her award for Young Woman of Distinction.

Dove was described as an avid volunteer who helped her high-school robotics team achieve international recognition. Dove served as president of the province’s Youth Parliament in 2015, during which time there were more women participants than men — a first in 51 years.

Helen Murphy, a longtime community developer and music lover who works to share that love with the less fortunate, was recognized in the category of Community & Social Development. Murphy is the choir director for Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir, a choir that brings together people challenged by mental health issues, addictions, poverty, and homelessness.

“I am deeply honoured that you would consider even this kind of an action to be a great enough of a contribution to the community,’ Murphy said, adding that working with the choir and watching others find happiness in it brings her joy.

A creative feminist whose efforts have directly impacted young women won the Wellness & Active Living award.

Holly Foley is a mother, researcher, activist and learner who has created the G.I.R.L. Run Club, a women’s spirituality group, as well as a women‘s retreat.

Perhaps the loudest applause of the afternoon was for Ruth lawrence who won the award for Arts & Culture.

“I’m about to turn 50 so I’m very much thinking toward the future,” Lawrence said, making it clear that she doesn’t suffer from idleness.

Lawrence is an award winning actor, director and filmmaker who combines her love of the arts with activism and a belief in unity. Even her moment at the podium was spent encouraging herself and everyone else in the room to find a way to improve the life of one person, then the community, and then the country.

Eight years ago Jillian Hand became the first certified doula in the province describing it as a calling.

“It’s almost strange to get an award for doing something that you love so much and you feel a call to do,” she said after winning the award for Mentorship & Education.

Hand is a social worker by day and is also the eastern Canadian director for Doulas of North America International. Since she paved the way for certified doulas locally, seven others have been called to support women and their families in that way.

In the final category of Business, both a pillar and inspiration of the local cuisine industry was recognized as a Woman of Distinction. Andrea Maunder has owned and operated the restaurant Bacalao in St. John’s since 2007. There’s a buffet of restaurants buying local and using traditional local fare to create fine dining today but Maunder was one of the people who wrote the book on it. In an obviously heartfelt moment, Maunder thanked her mother and recognized her on International Women’s Day.

“She’s probably the strongest woman I know,” Maunder said.