2024 Women of the Year Recipient image courtesy of One For The Wall!

2024 Recipients

Arts & Culture

Erin Bow

Erin Bow

Erin Bow is a creative writer with ten published books, including three volumes of poetry and six novels. She is internationally known, published by major houses, including Simon & Schuster and Disney Books, with more 100,000 books sold and translations in ten languages. She is active in our community, where she visits schools, judges writing contests and runs programs at the Kitchener and Waterloo public libraries. She regularly appears in local venues such as the Watershed Writers radio/podcast program and the Wild Writers Literary Festival. Erin is a strong advocate for people who might otherwise be left out, most particularly neurodivergent people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. With Erin Bow, we have a literary rockstar in our midst, one who puts her adopted hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo on the global literary map.

Community Service

Uzma Bhutto

Uzma Bhutto

Uzma embodies hope, resilience, and commitment in her 19-year journey of community building and women's empowerment. As a global citizen, she champions marginalized groups, particularly Muslim and racialized women. Uzma's extensive volunteering, board memberships, and leadership roles in organizations like CMW, Sexual Assault Support Centre, KidsAbility and Rotary highlight her dedication to mental health, equity, and social inclusivity. Her tireless efforts, from grassroots projects like Tea and Tales, Leadership training, serving shelters and Give30 food drive, not only showcase her inclusive leadership and advocacy but also highlight her unparalleled passion for fostering economic empowerment and ensuring financial stability for women.

Entrepreneur 40+

Cindy Ward

Cindy Ward

Dr. Cindy Ward is a dynamic Kitchener woman and lifelong entrepreneur with over ten local businesses started in KW, including the original Boathouse in 2004. She earned her PhD late in life, at age 47, and encourages others to always keep learning. Recently Cindy landed a spot on CBC’s Dragon’s Den for her newest business, Dr. Ward’s Fresh Mist, an ecological genius of a company that makes plant-based air fresheners. Cindy is the epitome of the phrase “aim higher” despite the difficulties of life and at 56 she is a well-loved and respected role model in our community.

Entrepreneur Under 40

Rebekah Churchyard

Rebekah Churchyard

Rebekah Churchyard, BA, BSW, MSW, RSW, PMP is a Registered Social Worker, Project Manager, and Psychotherapist specialized in geriatrics and dementia care. She is the CEO and Founder of Green Care Farms Inc., the first nature-based program in Canada for people with dementia on an operational farm. She also works full-time in Specialized Geriatric Services for Home and Community Care Support Services Waterloo Wellington. Prior to this, Rebekah served as President and Vice-President with the Toronto Council on Aging Board of Directors and as an Accountability Table member with the City of Toronto’s Seniors Strategy.

Group Achievement

Jill of all Trades

Jill of All Trades

Jill of All Trades™ (JOAT), launched in 2014 at Conestoga College by visionaries, Brenda Gilmore and Rosie Hessian, began as a day for high school women in KW, along with their educators, to learn about opportunities available to women who pursue trades-based education and careers. A decade of growth and expansion has led to the program being trademarked in Canada and the United States. With the support of thousands of volunteers, hundreds of partners, and philanthropic supporters, JOAT is now delivered throughout Ontario, across Canada and the United States boasting more than 120 events and empowering future generations of women in skilled trades.

Health & Wellness

Neha Juwale

Neha Juwale

Empathy and compassion, combined with her personal journey, were the drivers for Neha to create, a web-based platform facilitating connections between individuals seeking culturally appropriate care with mental health professionals who provide services in their patients’ language of choice. Seeking support for her mental health, Neha discovered that language, cultural non-verbal cues, and unwritten norms were barriers to receiving care and healing. Speaking with others revealed they too were facing similar challenges. strives to “provide culturally relevant mental health resources…promoting mental wellness and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health within the community”

Lifetime Achievement

Martha George

Martha George

Martha’s multi-decade career is an expression of personal commitment to excellence and passion for empowering others. Becoming the first female Chair of Grand Valley Construction Association’s Board, and her progression to President and CEO of GVCA broadened her influence. Martha’s invaluable contributions are reflected by thousands of successful industry partnerships, construction projects, and community initiatives touched by Martha’s leadership. A tireless advocate for women in trades and committed volunteer, her reach surpasses the tangible, positively impacting the wellbeing of tens of thousands of individuals. Martha’s perspective: you’re a leader whenever you’re making a positive difference, regardless of position or title.

Professional 40+

Nenone Donaldson

Nenone Donaldson

Nenone Donaldson, Vice President of Advancement at the University of Waterloo, brings over two decades of fundraising expertise to her pivotal role. Focused on advancing the university's mission, she leads a dynamic team of over 120 professionals, spearheading comprehensive alumni engagement initiatives. Nenone's strategic leadership fosters enduring partnerships crucial to the university's mission, driving a sustained fundraising strategy aligned with academic priorities. Through her focus on transformative gifts and collaboration, she empowers her team to exceed expectations. Nenone's dedication ensures Waterloo's continued leadership in education and innovation.

Professional Under 40

Ashley Schuitema - Headshot

Ashley Schuitema

Ashley has committed her career to the unwavering intention of providing support and services to the vulnerable in our community. She was co-counsel on the precedent setting encampment case in Waterloo Region, which resulted in critical impacts for community members experiencing homelessness. Ashley is also the coordinator of the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Project which provides free public legal information and advice for persons who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Ashley is a remarkable lawyer that believes it is her responsibility to use her profession and skill set to broadly advocate for systemic change in the community for women, victims of sexual harassment and people experiencing poverty.

Skilled Trades

Brandi Ferenc

Brandi Ferenc

Brandi Ferenc is the founder of Fair-Trades Toolbox, she is a licensed 313a Refrigeration Mechanic/Gas Fitter 1 Journeyperson, HVAC instructor and Mentor for women in skilled trades and HVAC apprentices. Brandi represents one of less than 50 women working within this trade and holds the honour of being the first female to compete in the Skills Ontario competition within the post-secondary heating systems category. In spite of the barriers she faces working in a male-dominated industry instead of scars she chooses to wear a smile to light the way for future generations.


Linda Li

Linda Li

Linda is an Environmental Engineer and Associate with Dillon Consulting, an employee-owned Canadian firm serving the Waterloo community since the 1970s. For 7 years, Linda has served both Canadian and International clients and contributed to complex and multidisciplinary projects in the area of water, energy, and climate change. Linda continuously strives to foster a culture of collaboration and inclusivity within STEM. Linda's dedication extends beyond her profession; she volunteers with several engineering and water associations both locally and internationally. Passionate about knowledge sharing, Linda has lectured and participated in panels at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and TMU.

Young Adult

Kyo Lee

Kyo Lee

Kyo Lee is a grade 11 Korean-Canadian student, writer and philanthropist. She is currently the chair of SVP Teens and is involved in several local organizations involving youth in the community. As a writer, Kyo is the youngest winner of the CBC Poetry Prize and finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. Her work also appears in Narrative, Nimrod, Prism, The Forge, This Magazine, and Synergy, among others. Her debut poetry collection “i cut my tongue on a broken country” is forthcoming with Arsenal Pulp Press in 2025. She loves colourful skies, fresh strawberries and oceans.

Past Recipients

Arts and Culture- Angela Onuora

Community Service - Monica Himmelman

Entrepreneur 40+ - Jolene MacDonald

Entrepreneur Under 40 - Rachel Bartholomew

Group Achievement - Community Support Connections' Exercise Team

Health and Wellness - Marian Best

Lifetime Achievement - Sandra Henein

Professional 40+ - Clarice Ward

Professional Under 40 - Amy Cyr

STEM - Dinah Davis

Young Adult - Rachel Almaw

Arts & Culture - Betty Anne Keller

Community Service - Nadine Green

Entrepreneur - Donna Litt

Group Achievement - Canadian Federation of University Women Kitchener-Waterloo (CFUW K-W)

Health & Wellness - Rachel Radyk (WaabanoKwe)

Lifetime Achievement - Vickie Murray

Professional - Susan MacQueen

STEAM - Adele Newton

Young Adult - Sarah Odinotski

Arts & Culture - Jayme Armstrong

Community Service - Julie Sawatzky

Entrepreneur - Jill Zappitelli

Health & Wellness - Dr. Linda Leee

Lifetime Achievement - Donna Dubie

Professional - Jennifer Gordon

STEAM - Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Young Adult - Fatmia Awan

Arts & Culture - Nicole Guse

Community Service - Jane Tuer

Entrepreneur - Ada Barlatt

Group Achievement - Coalition of Muslim Women of KW

Health & Wellness - Jackie Gerlach

Lifetime Achievement - Joan Driver

Professional - Wendi Campbell

Sports & Recreation - Loren Gabel

STEAM - Dr. Hilary Bergsieker

Young Adult - Meena Waseem

Arts & Culture Hilary - Gauld-Camilleri
Community Service - Nancy Koebel
Entrepreneur Diane - Matyas
Group Achievement - Zonta Club of K-W
Health & Wellness - Tara Hebblethwaite 
Lifetime Achievement - Brenda Halloran 
Professional - Margaret Brockett 
Sports & Recreation - Alyssa Lagonia 
STEAM - Carol Leaman 
Young Adult - Chloe Jang 

Arts & Culture - Nancy Regehr

Community Service - Tracy Shonk-Lacey

Entrepreneur - Jennifer Knapp

Group Achievement - SHORE Centre

Health & Wellness - Mary Mueller

Lifetime Achievement - Linda Fabi

Professional - Dr. Diana Parry

Sports & Recreation - Rhonda-Marie Parke

Young Adult - Maggie Sutherland

STEM - Dr. Julie Biedermann

Arts & Culture - Rebecca Short

Community Service - Georgia Cunningham

Entrepreneur - Lina Shamoun

Group Achievement - Best Friends of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Waterloo Region      

Health & Wellness - Laura Callum

Lifetime Achievement - Ann Bilodeau

Professional - Cynthia Davis

Sports & Recreation - Kaitlyn Weaver

Young Adult - Nooran AbuMazen

STEM - Dr. Shohin Ghose