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PHOTOS: South Surrey and White Rock women among nominees for YWCA Women of Distinction Award

Recipients to be selected at May 9 gala from 78 nominees in 12 categories

A handful of Semiahmoo Peninsula women are among nominees of this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction Awards.

Announced Monday (March 6), the women are being celebrated for generating positive change within their communities.

They include Peace Arch Hospital Foundation executive director Stephanie Beck, UNITI’s Lauren Simpson, Sara Forte of Forte Workplace Law and Nafoni Modi from Black Women Business Network.

Beck, nominated in the Non-Profit category, has led the granting of more than $2.7 million to health- and wellness-focused organizations in White Rock and South Surrey.

Described as a leader with vision, Beck is credited with initiatives including the Move for Life program, the build of the $900,000 Generations Playground – a facility for all ages and abilities – in Ruth Johnson Park, and overseeing the conception and building of the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Lodge, a $46-million, 200-bed residential care and hospice facility.

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She described the nomination as “really lovely.”

“But I’m not doing this by myself,” she continued.

“I’ve got a fantastic team of primarily women that I’ve been working with for a long time here at the foundation. I’m not doing this work alone, they are part of the success of the organization and deserve all of the accolades that go along with that.”

Simpson, nominated for Community Champion, is a well-spoken advocate for people with disabilities, whose story was highlighted in the documentary, Lauren’s Story, created about the Harmony inclusive-housing project in South Surrey.

The longtime member of Self Advocates of Semiahmoo is also part of the Disability Community and Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and worked on Surrey’s Housing Needs Report, supporting other people with disabilities in contributing to it.

Forte is an employment lawyer who founded Forte Workplace Law in 2016. With headquarters in South Surrey, the firm now has offices across B.C. and Alberta.

Nominated in Business & the Professions, the mother of three was recognized last year for her firm’s kindness, diversity and sustainability. On Facebook, she described news of the YWCA nomination as “an incredible #IWD gift.”

Nafoni Modi is nominated in the Young Woman of Distinction category. As project co-ordinator at the Black Women Business Network, Modi “works to increase representation of Black women in the entrepreneurial, tech and finance sectors.”

According to her nomination bio, she is also secretary general for the Equatorian South Sudanese Community Association, working – as a refugee herself – to help South Sudanese youth and women gain the tools needed to be self-sufficient.

“Nafoni is passionate about targeting and collaboratively dismantling barriers faced by marginalized groups in the health, education, and economic sectors through advocacy and reform,” her LinkedIn bio states.

The Young Woman of Distinction category “recognizes a young woman aged 18-25 who demonstrates leadership, maturity, compassion, and who has made a significant difference in Metro Vancouver on community issues.”

This year marks the awards’ 40th anniversary.

In addition to 12 nomination categories, nominees are eligible for the Connecting the Community Award. For this, each selects a YWCA advocacy area and uses social-media channels such as Twitter and LinkedIn to promote votes. The public is invited to vote online, and the nominee with the most votes will receive the award, which includes a $10,000 donation by Scotiabank to the YWCA program of the winner’s choice.

Voting is open till April 12.

Award recipients will be announced at a gala May 9 at the Westin Bayshore. To purchase tickets – $285 per person until March 17; $325 per person after that – or for a complete list of nominees, visit
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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