At their annual awards ceremony March 8, the Cold Lake Women of Influence Committee honoured local women for making a difference in their community and in their chosen fields.

Fifty-four women were nominated across seven categories, representing almost every facet of community involvement in a professional or volunteer capacity.

Audrey McFarlane was named the Overall Woman of Influence. McFarlane is a pioneer in organizing advocacy and services around Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Her efforts have resulted in huge strides in the field at the local, regional, and national levels. She has received several prestigious awards, including her recent induction into the Alberta Order of Excellence.

In addition to her efforts championing FASD issues, she volunteers in the community, having founded the Lac La Biche Special Olympics Club and initiated the Lakeland Special Olympics club.

Cathy Aust was named as Older Woman of Influence. She has been instrumental in the creation of the Age Friendly Cold Lake Society (AFCL), a registered charity dedicated to enhancing the quality of life, dignity, and independence of seniors. She has worked to support and improve the lives of seniors in our community and in care facilities, helping to develop services to help seniors get to medical appointments and receive home visits and phone check-ins from trained volunteers. Through AFCL Aust helps provide grief support, programming related to dementia and nutrition, and assisted in the creation of the Men’s Shed.

The Older Woman of Influence award is sponsored by Respect newspaper.

Other award recipients:

• Dana Schwab was recognized as the 2024 Woman of Infuence in the Arts and Vulture category. In addition to her teaching role at Cold Lake High School, Schwab is an award-winning playwright and a volunteer.

• Business and Professional honours went to Cold Lake Chamber of Commerce executive director Sherri Buckle. Buckle is an ardent Cold Lake booster, and a dedicated mentor and advocate for small business.

• Kim Schmitz, of the Cold Lake and District FCSS, was named Woman of Influence in the Community and Volunteerism category. Schmitz is recognized as a powerful voice for vulnerable people, and a leader who champions a welcoming and inclusive environment.

• Dental and oral health advocate Paulette Dahlside was recognized in the Health and Wellness category for her efforts to deliver oral health care to people who lack dental coverage. She works extensively with Indigenous communities. She is completing a Masters degree in dental hygiene.

• Laura Gantz was awarded the Woman of Influence title in the Science and technology category. Gantz has studied petroleum technology at NAIT and petroleum engineering at Montana Technological University, and has now obtained the hours to qualify as a 4th Class Power Engineer.

Audrey McFarlane is the 2024 Overall Woman of Influence. SUBMITTED