Wednesday night was a time to celebrate the achievements of local women — something that should happen more often, according to Danielle Tisi.
The 2017 Nelle Carter Woman of the Year addressed the packed house at the Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn and Conference Centre, where the Orillia Business Women’s Association (OBWA) held its 27th annual awards gala.
Tisi recalled being surprised, and somewhat embarrassed, when she learned of her nomination last year. She had a voicemail from a Packet & Times reporter requesting an interview regarding her nomination. Then she started getting congratulatory text messages, and learned her staff had nominated her.
“Although I was tremendously flattered by the nomination, I wanted to throw up,” she said. “For those who are feeling like that tonight, I sympathize.”
She began wondering why she felt that way. Maybe it was the embarrassment of being the centre of attention in a public setting. Maybe she felt unworthy.
“As women, we’ve been socialized with humility from a very young age,” she said, “but we’re not necessarily good at boasting our own accomplishments. We need, as women, to get better at that.”
It’s good advice for the 2018 winners.
Carolyn Jones was named Woman of the Year at Wednesday’s event. She was nominated alongside Alison Braun (EarthTreks), Lynn Martin (ShopOrillia), Olivia Neal (Harold + Ferne: The Local Goods Co.) and Leanne Ragazzon (Keystone Montessori School).
Jones, who owns Young Living Essential Oils, is a public health nurse who has focused on substance abuse prevention and child safety and has partnered with OPP, daycares and the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen and Shelter. She has also co-ordinated local Operation Christmas Child efforts to send gifts to those in need.
When she accepted the award, Jones immediately praised her fellow nominees and those in the running for the Lisa Brooking Young Woman of the Year Award.
“I don’t know how you have the time,” she said of their volunteer work, pointing out the Young Woman of the Year nominees are also juggling school work. “You are totally inspiring.”
She also thanked her husband, Rob.
“You are my rock,” she told him. “You have always encouraged me, supported me, cheered me on.”
Jones acknowledged there are many people in town who will never be publicly recognized, “but you make a difference every day,” she said.
Three high school students were up for Young Woman of the Year, and the award went to Abby Taher.
The 17-year-old Orillia Secondary School student was emotional when she gave her acceptance speech.
She later told OrilliaMatters it was because she was “overwhelmed” by the win.
“I’ve had my ups and downs through high school and it was rewarding to be up there,” she said.
Taher, who was nominated with Hannah Morris (Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School) and Brittney Yurek (Twin Lakes Secondary School), has been busy during her time in high school. She helped build a classroom in Kenya, has volunteered at the Lighthouse, took part in its Coldest Night of the Year walk and took on a leadership role with Relay for Life. The student council member is also a coach with the Mariposa Gymnastics Club. All of that while maintaining a 94 per cent average at school.
“As a society, there’s a lot of negative backlash on our generation. It’s important to realize not everyone is like that,” she said. “Our generation has the resources to use our talents for a greater good.”
Taher’s goal is to attend Queen’s University and eventually become a surgeon, “working specifically in developing countries,” she said.
To learn more about the OBWA, visit orilliabusinesswomen.com.