(David Markwei photograph)                                Annika Polegato, executive director of Alouette Addictions Services and award winner Brenda Garcia at the WCH Women Influencers Awards.

(David Markwei photograph) Annika Polegato, executive director of Alouette Addictions Services and award winner Brenda Garcia at the WCH Women Influencers Awards.

Maple Ridge wins big at 2nd annual Women Influencers Awards

Five winners from Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge women have proven they are true community leaders after five were recently honoured at the second annual WCH Women Influencers Awards.

Brenda Garcia won the Community Steward award, Cheryl Zandbergen won the Inspirational Wonder Woman award, Vicki Kipps won the Beyond the Call of Duty award, Dr. Ursula Luitingh won the Outstanding Caregiver award and Melissa Quinn won the Emerging Influencer award.

Garcia is a regulated Canadian immigration consultant and the main organizer of Help Portrait in Maple Ridge, a worldwide event where photographers, makeup artists and hair stylists get together to give families in need professional portraits for Christmas.

Garcia is also a licensee and coach with Sole Girls, a company that empowers girls in their early teens by giving them the tools to be physically active and combining it with personal development and mentorship.

The community steward award is given to a faith-based or community leader who has shown outstanding service by dedicating her efforts to local fellowships, congregations, parishes and neighbourhood audience.

Zandbergen is the founder of Moms Gone Wild, a group that started on Facebook in 2017, when Zandbergen wanted to find some friends to visit WildPlay with her. In four days, 450 people answered her call and it now has 3,857 members.

Moms Gone Wild not only organizes trips in the community, but also collects money for charities and volunteers at many events.

Currently, Zandbergen is overseeing the Moms Gone Wild Teen Gift Drive in support of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society. The group has already raised $6,910 in money and gifts and is hoping to reach a goal of $10,000 this year.

The group is also doing a series of community caroling events this year to bring joy and song to the streets of Maple Ridge, including seniors’ homes and the McKenney Creek Hospice. That program is by donation to the Teen Gift Drive, as is its annual Pancakes with Santa event, hosted at De Dutch.

Zandbergen won Inspirational Wonder Woman for having a reputation as a super mom who inspires, leads and engages people to take action.

Kipps is the executive director of Community Services, a non-profit society that is dedicated to supporting and empowering individuals and their families to realize the potential and achieve self-reliance in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and serves over 7,000 people a year. It offers Anishinaabe cultural connections, child and youth services, counselling, early childhood and family services, legal resources, mental health services, senior and volunteer services.

Kipps also helped to launch the Maple Ridge Community Chest initiative in 2013. It offers one-time grants to people in a crisis situation.

Kipps won for being part of the front-line staff in the community, working beyond her job description by assisting individuals in distress or crisis and expecting nothing in return.

Dr. Luitingh has a family practice in Maple Ridge and won for being instrumental in changing the quality of life for those in her care.

Quinn is the director of corporate strategy at RightMesh, a subsidiary company of Left. Left is a multinational media and technology company with holdings in mobile and Internet-based businesses with a goal of using technology and innovation to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, one of those being connectivity in emerging markets.

Currently, Left is working on the RightMesh project to develop decentralized mobile mesh technology that can run on any Android smartphone or Java-enabled device. This means that users will be able to connect without infrastructure.

“Since Day 1, Left has made me a better person; whether it’s encouraging me to pursue my passions, developing new skills, or being the best family member I can be along the way. The lessons I have learned, both professionally and personally, will have an indefinite positive impact on who I am and how I show up to the world. I can only hope that my intentional actions will have a positive impact in a way so awesome it’s unimaginable at the moment,” said Quinn on the Left website.

Quinn won for being a young entrepreneur and emerging leader between the ages of 18 and 30 years-old who has demonstrated a capacity to act as a catalyst for change, representing a new generation of leaders who advocate for others and gives a voice to them.

There were 32 judges in phases one and two and the women were judged on their generosity of spirit, their level of engagement or activities, including what they have done in the community and the quantity and quality of their work and the impact of their initiatives.

“And these women just shone in all three areas,” said Sandra Horton, co-founder of the Tri-Cities Women’s Collaborative Hub.

“They are just exceptional high-quality women doing amazing work in their communities with their love and dedication to their different initiatives,” said Horton.

The awards are hosted by the Women’s Collaborative Hub to recognize women from all walks of life who make a positive difference to those around them in the communities of the Tri-Cities, Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

This year the awards were handed out at the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam on Nov. 16.

Other winners were Tabitha McLoughlin for Sustainability Champion, Bernadette Butler for Online Dynamo, Tina D’Amelio for Exceptional Educator and Karen Roosen for Extraordinary Leader.

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