Brockville / Leeds Grenville / The Wedge

Global Organization Honours Five Outstanding Women in Leeds Grenville

L – R back row : Entrepreneur and local volunteer, Wendy Merkley; local artist and humanitarian, Heather Haynes; General Manager of KEYS Job Centre, Trish McNamara; STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher, Christine Wilson; for her work fighting human trafficking, Ramona Braganza. PHOTO BY Amanda Lecompte. Front row are young volunteers. Girls Inc. Women Of The Year celebration, Brockville, Convention Centre, Brockville, Ontario PHOTO BY Amanda Lecompte

By MAGGIE M, Editor, Wedgee-in-Chief, theWedge.LIVE

Girls, girls, girls! A great event awakened us to the great works of Girls Inc. particularly the Leeds Grenville or “Upper Canada” chapter.

It all started with our story about Heather Haynes, a renown artist in Gananoque and more noteably, an irrepressible humanitarian. Amanda Lecompte, Learning Resource Coach, South Crosby Public School, who read our story contacted this writer with the objective of obtaining recognition for Haynes’ work in the Congo.

Lecompte obtained our full support.

We talked about different platforms, even The Ellen Show. Then Lecompte discovered a global organization, Girls Inc., was seeking nominations of exemplary women here in Leeds Grenville to honour at their 14th annual Women of The Year celebration.

Lecompte sought this writer and we collaborated in her nomination of Haynes. Lecompte did most of the work. We both knew Haynes was a “shoe-in” for an organization that mentors girls toward “strong, smart, bold.”

On May 16th, the news arrived in Lecompte’s mailbox. Haynes was to be honoured along with four other women at the Brockville Convention Centre, May 30th, 2019.

To learn what Haynes has accomplished you must read our story. Your jaw will drop regarding her work in the Congo.

This precious soul is a major tourist attraction in Gan, but we expect she will be the toast of a wider speaking circuit soon. And her canvases will go through the proverbial asphalt shingles in value.

Read the synopses about all five honourees. These are impressive women in our midst.

Ramona Braganza – her journey includes a career as an NFL cheerleader, personal trainer to Hollywood stars, entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker, published author and philanthropist. Her 321 Empower Foundation, established in India, helps women who have been rescued from human trafficking work towards careers in fitness and personal training. Ramona is a one person powerhouse focused on assisting others realize their best selves – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Heather Haynes – uses art as a medium to make a difference around the world. As a professional artist, Heather has created a number of different initiatives, including projects in the Congo and Tanzania, focused on helping people see those who are most often overlooked. These initiatives have helped raise funds, build schools, build a medical clinic and sponsor children in need. Heather’s relentless humanitarian work is exemplary.

Trish McNamara – is the General Manager of KEYS Job Centre managing 15 staff in 3 different locations. Through her work, Trish connects employers and job seekers often using ‘out of the box’ thinking to make things happen. She is mindful in her work, providing assistance whenever needed and supporting others to be their best. Aside from her professional contributions, Trish volunteers and sits on numerous committees, working tirelessly to make her community a better place.

Wendy Merkley – an entrepreneur, selfless leader and volunteer making a difference in her community. After an accomplished career in the insurance and reinsurance industry, retirement has not slowed Wendy down. With strong family roots in the 1000 Islands area, Wendy’s contributions are numerous, including roles in municipal politics, entrepreneurial endeavors and various community memberships. Most recently, she has been active as Chairperson of Friends of Rockport Customs, bringing a much-needed public waterfront park to Rockport. Wendy backs away from no challenge, and in the process she enriches those around her.

Christine Wilson – is a role model encouraging young women to pursue their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through her active and long term involvement with the Rideau St. Lawrence Science Fair. As a teacher, Christine has inspired countless students, encouraging their pursuit of careers in non-traditional fields. An active volunteer, Christine also shares her musical talent with her church and at nursing homes in Brockville. Christine is a passionate, creative, critical thinker who inspires others the same traits in others.

“We’re still in a place in society where equal rights for girls and women are not a given. It’s important  to have an organization dedicated to them,” says Girls Inc. Executive Director, Lesley Hubbard.

The organization works mostly with school boards and select schools customizing its programs for each school or class. It was founded in the USA in 1868; the chapter in Leeds Grenville is fourteen years old. Girls Inc. is mostly privately funded. Here, the United Way has been a reliable source of funding but fund raising is a daily quest.

The programs instill confidence in girls aged six to eighteen, teaching them to set boundaries and progress well through their childhood toward maturity. Every girl’s experience is unique.

Hubbard adds, “Girls thrive in safe, girls only spaces where they can take risks and try new things.  They deserve to be valued for what they think and how they feel.  They deserve to see adults around them, showing them and telling them with your words and actions, that girls and women matter and that they deserve equity.”

This is an organization to watch. And invite into your community.

Heather Haynes honoured at Girls Inc. Women Of The Year celebration, Brockville, Convention Centre, Brockville, Ontario PHOTO BY Amanda Lecompte

L – R : Girls Inc. participants Quinnly and Bridget share info about its programs. Women Of The Year celebration, Brockville, Convention Centre, Brockville, Ontario PHOTO BY Andrew Kaizell

L – R : Girls Inc. participant Cora, Annika and Delaney shared info abou Girls Inc. programs. Women Of The Year celebration, Brockville, Convention Centre, Brockville, Ontario PHOTO BY Andrew Kaizell

L – R : Girls Inc. participant Lauren; Girls Inc. graduate, Bridget; Girls Inc. Board Member, Bev. Women Of The Year celebration, Brockville, Convention Centre, Brockville, Ontario PHOTO BY Andrew Kaizell

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