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Two Sunshine Coast women nominated for distinction awards

YWCA Metro Vancouver announces list for Women of Distinction Awards

Just days before International Women’s Day on March 8, two women from the Sunshine Coast were nominated for YWCA Metro Vancouver’s annual Women of Distinction Awards. 

It’s not the first time Charlene SanJenko, a member of the Splatsin tribe of the Secwépemc Nation and the founder and CEO of PowHERhouse Impact Media Group, has been nominated for a distinction award from the association. In 2014, she was nominated during her time on the Town of Gibsons council for her leadership in health and wellness. 

Now, she’s up for the Reconciliation in Action award for her commitment “to changing the narrative across all media platforms to one that heals instead of harms” and her life’s work “to use media to activate greatness in others and to hold space for regenerative healing,” a YWCA press release said. Work through her company “activates and amplifies the sacred work of changemakers, offering decolonized leadership and re-Indigenized thinking and decision making.”

SanJenko has also supported the Deva Project, created FIRST STEPS, and championed OMYGOD. The Deva Project is a training and practicum program for Indigenous women in remote areas. FIRST STEPS is a leadership program, while OMYGOD is a show about residential schools. 

Pam Robertson, the board chair of the Gibsons Community Building Society, is up for Community Champion. Robertson has been identified as “instrumental” in developing key partnerships and helping to “achieve unmatched success for a community-based mission in Gibsons.” 

In her role as the capital campaign chair and operating fund development plan initiator, Robertson is also being acknowledged for her leadership of fundraising efforts for the Gibsons Public Market and Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre. She has inspired new programs benefiting the social and environmental well-being of the community, as well as securing charitable status for the society. 

“Pam has never faltered from the vision of transforming an abandoned building into a community gathering space attracting 100,000 visits a year,” the release states. 

All of the 70 nominees across the awards’ 12 categories also have the chance to win the Connecting the Community Award, which is voting-based. Each nominee chooses a YMCA advocacy area to promote. Between March 4 and April 13, the public is invited to vote for who will receive the award and choose a YWCA program where $10,000 from Scotiabank is directed.

Now in its 39th year, the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards honour people and organizations who have contributed to the well-being and future of the community. Since its origins in 1984, more than 2,025 people have been nominated for these awards and 340 have been award recipients. 

"The YWCA believes the recognition can encourage those who are driving positive change to continue the good work they are doing and it ensures that the impact they are making does not go unnoticed. It also inspires others to engage in their own communities," YWCA volunteer Samantha Falk said as she hosted the announcement of the nominees on March 4. "We know that for decades women have been trailblazing empowering and inspiring but have not always received public recognition for their efforts."

A gala will be held on May 26 to announce the award recipients. More information can be found at