2016 Women of Distinction Award nominees announced

The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala is a celebration of inspiring women in our community and this year’s nominees are no exception.

Kate O'BrienCloseUp

“Each of these women has shown devotion and passion for the work they do”, says Nominations Committee Chair and volunteer, Pat Sheppard, “Their nominators have proven these women have made a positive impression that deserves to be recognized.”


Alissa Ahsome, Michelle Ainsworth, Alison Brownlee, Jill Dunford, Christina Hunter, Arleigh Luckett, Kate O’Brien (left) Brenda Rhodes, Pamela Terreberry, Kerri Valentin, Penny Varney & Amy Wallace

YWCA Muskoka’s 2016 Women of Distinction Awards Gala will be held at the Mark O’Meara Clubhouse, Grandview Huntsville on Wednesday October 26, 2016.

Tickets are currently on sale for $80 general admission or $800 for a table of 10.

You can purchase your tickets online at www.ywcamuskoka.com, over the phone by credit card at 705-645-9827 or in person at YWCA, 440 Ecclestone Drive in Bracebridge, by cash, cheque or credit card.

The event is also accessible through www.eventbrite.ca

Proceeds from this event help support YWCA programs and services across Muskoka throughout the year. YWCA Muskoka operates without ongoing core government funding and relies on donations, program grants, and fundraising events including Women of Distinction.

Photo of Nominees (top l-r); Hannah Lin, Executive Director, YWCA Muskoka, Kerri Valentin, Amy Wallace, Penny Varney, Michelle Ainsworth, Brenda Rhodes
(bottom l-r); Arleigh Luckett, Christina Hunter, Jill Dunford, Alissa Ahsome.

Inset Kate O’Brien

Missing from photos Pamela Terreberry & Allison Brownlee

Muskoka charity shortlisted for international award, but is unable to sustain 17 Girlz Unplugged groups

This year has brought a mix of great and not so good news to a local charitable organization.

YWCA Muskoka has been offering programs for girls and youth for almost 20 years through school based Girlz Unplugged programs, summer leadership and high school youth programs.

Thirty nine percent of the participants the organization serves are 18 years and under.

In May of this year, YWCA Muskoka was nominated by one of its funders for the “With and For Girls Award”.

In its 2nd year, this international award is given by a collective of 7 organizations united by a common belief that girls are agents of change, to 20 organizations from around the world and accompanied by a flexible cash grant and two years of organizational mentoring to build capacity and develop programs.

The With and For Girls Award highlights the accomplishments and dedication of locally led, girl-centred organizations that are based in the communities they serve and have annual revenues of less than $500,000US. Staff and volunteers at YWCA Muskoka also completed an application, provided a photo submission with the help of Girlz Unplugged program participants, and participated in a unique ‘Skype’ interview with a group of 17 and 18 year old young women from Chiapas Mexico.

In the end, YWCA Muskoka was one of 44 organizations shortlisted from 34 countries for the With and For Girls Award. YWCA Muskoka will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, an accomplishment particularly noteworthy as the local organization serves over 1200 people each year through a multi-site model that takes a wide range of violence prevention, leadership, and poverty reduction programs to participants across Muskoka’s largely rural region.

YWCA Muskoka works through partnership with school boards.

“To be nominated among girls-centred organizations from around the world, and then shortlisted is an incredible honour and really validates the quality of what we do as a ‘small and mighty’ community YWCA and reflects back to us what our funders and donors believe about the importance of working with girls and young women,” says Executive Director, Hannah Lin. “Our task now is to continue to deliver on our mission, stay true to our values, and find the means to keep on providing impactful experiences and developing innovative opportunities that involve girls as decision makers.”

YWCA Muskoka will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, an accomplishment particularly noteworthy as the local organization serves over 1200 people each year through a multi-site model that takes a wide range of violence prevention, leadership, and poverty reduction programs to participants across Muskoka’s largely rural region. YWCA Muskoka works through partnership with school boards and community agencies, and advocates and provides leadership on issues affecting women and girls. Doing the work without core operating funding from federal or provincial government has been an ongoing challenge for YWCA staff and board members for the past ten years and is getting tougher.

The organization has had to make the difficult decision this year to scale back one of YWCA Muskoka’s longest running programs, Girlz Unplugged, until sustainable funding can be found. For the past four years, Girlz Unplugged was funded by a grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. The grant also allowed the YWCA to develop the community based YWGRO mentorship program, but the funding came to an end in June and so far staff have been unsuccessful in securing another grant of a comparable size that would enable the YWCA to reach girls at all 17 schools in Muskoka. Prior to the CWF grant, the YWCA Muskoka had a few years of steady government program funding for Girlz Unplugged from Muskoka’s designation as a northern community.

The highly acclaimed and much in demand youth programs have been offered in every school in Muskoka, as well as Moose Deer Point First Nation. Girlz Unplugged programs had the benefit of 4 years of external evaluation to become evidence based, and YWCA Muskoka youth programs have proven to be highly effective at increasing self-worth, confidence and building peer support in young people, with additional sessions are often requested by school principals, teachers, parents and the students themselves.

The cost of one Girlz Unplugged program is in the range of $2500 to $3000 depending on location. This fall’s groups are being funding with the generous support of local service clubs including the Rotary Club of Bracebridge, Rotary Club of Gravenhurst, Stephenson’s Lions Club, and municipal community grants from the Township of Lake of Bays and the Town of Bracebridge. Funding is also being provided by the Kenny Foundation, the Brian Schaal Memorial Golf Tournament, and third party fundraisers including the Art in August event organized by Mary Spring of Huntsville; and the Dads of Muskoka’s Riverboat Cruise.

“We run with project and program specific grants, special events and fundraising, and the generosity of our donors. This year we’ve had 17 successful grants ranging from $500 to $90,000, and 9 unsuccessful grant proposals,” says Lin, “It breaks my heart that this may be the first in 15 years that we can’t just show up and make sure we’re there for the girls that need and expect us at each of Muskoka’s school through Girlz Unplugged. The demand isn’t going away, it’s actually growing, but competition for the grants is also growing and the number of funding opportunities and even the size of the grants are decreasing.”

The organization has hired a part time Development Coordinator, Tracey Mellersh who is focusing on individual donations and corporate giving.

Staff and volunteers are still hoping to raise $30,000 from grants, events and donations to be able to provide Girlz Unplugged to girls at 12 additional elementary schools in the 2016-17 school year and are investigating social enterprise options for further sustainability.

“R. gained so much confidence about herself, was surrounded by like minded girls and she felt so loved and respected. It’s a phenomenal program and I am so happy that she can be a part of it. All young girls should participate in a program like Girlz Unplugged, it is amazing the influence it has.” – Girlz Unplugged participant’s parent

For more information about YWCA Muskoka or if you have an idea about funding opportunities for girls, please contact Hannah Lin, Executive Director or Stacey Schat, Youth Programs Coordinator at 705-645- 9827 or email office@ywcamuskoka.com

YWCA Muskoka announces 2015 Women of Distinction

(November 2 MUSKOKA) YWCA Muskoka has unveiled its Women of Distinction award winners for this year. YWCA Women of Distinction Awards are recognized nationally as one of Canada’s most prestigious awards for women. The awards honour women whose outstanding achievements contribute to the well-being and future of Muskoka. Peers, friends and family nominated 16 women this year.

2015 Recipients of the 14th annual Women of Distinction Awards

The 2015 Women of Distinction Awards were presented to the following truly exceptional women of Muskoka:

  • Young Woman of Distinction – Jenny Spring
  • Arts, Culture and Creative Energy – Amy Bridle
  • Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Katy McGregor
  • Community Development and Social Activism – Lynn de Caro
  • Health, Sports and Wellness – Laura Heming
  • Mentorship – Sheryl Manolakos
  • Lifetime Achievement – Audrey Forth

The YWCA Muskoka’s 2015 Women of Distinction Awards Gala was held at the Mark O’Meara Clubhouse at Grandview Huntsville. Special tributes were made to each of the 16 extraordinary women nominees and the announcement of the award recipients. The largest annual event fundraiser for YWCA Muskoka, the event also featured a silent auction. The key note address was delivered by Brenda Andress, Commissioner of the Canadian Women’s National Hockey League.

The 2015 YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction awards were presented by the following sponsors; Suzanne Martineau of My Muskoka/ReMax, TV Cogeco, Metroland North Media, Muskoka Futures, CIBC, Michael Anne MacDonald Law Office, Port Carling Lions Club, & Muskoka Chrysler.

YWCA Muskoka would like to thank all of the volunteers that helped make this another successful event. All funds raised from the event will support YWCA Muskoka’s programs across the District of Muskoka. For more information on how to get involved, please contact office@ywcamuskoka.com or call 705-645-9827.