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Influential women 2003: Northern women honoured for creating wealth, opportunity in the North.

Challenges today can become opportunities for tomorrow, one simply has to be willing to take action, and take a chance.

Michele Alderton, director and curator of the Red Lake Museum, and this year's Influential Women of Northern Ontario Award recipient for northwestern Ontario in the public sector category, has celebrated many successes in both her personal and career life.

She admits her career path has taken many interesting turns, and the forks in the road have led her to exciting opportunities, which in earlier years she would never have thought possible, she says.

"When I was young I thought that working in a museum would be boring," Alderton says. "I was looking for a job that was challenging and fun. I didn't know that I'd find that at Red Lake Museum."

Today, Alderton pursues every possible avenue to share her passion for history with both residents in Red Lake and visitors to the area. She also ran successfully for two successful terms on town council, despite adversity.

Alderton initiated the development of an action group on MacKenzie Island around 1980 in an effort to address infrastructure problems on the island. Members of the group were local women, many interested in the social aspect of the group, and only few in politics. It was then that she experienced first-hand the stereotype that a women's place was not in the political arena.

"Some of the ladies said to me at the very beginning that women didn't get involved in politics in this town and that they didn't want anything to do with this group," Alderton says. "Basically, they were telling me that 'We can quilt, but nothing else.'"

"It's been a challenging and rewarding journey, and from the looks of it, the journey's far from being over."

Over 500 delegates attended the Influential Women (IW) Awards luncheons in Timmins and Thunder Bay, held May 13 and May 15 respectively.

Four women across the North were honoured for the roles they have played in initiating positive change within their communities and for wealth creation in the North.

Linda Gilbert, co-owner of Superior Organizers in Manitouwadge, was recognized for her achievements as a successful entrepreneur and a volunteer board of director on the North Superior Training Board.

Gilbert launched the grant-writing business in 1999 after realizing gaps existed in proposal-writing services for non-profit groups.

She has provided a voice for women of the North, and most recently helped create a skill development program and is working on establishing an economic development office geared toward women.

Mona Sims, co-owner of SimAlTech, a Web development company in Greater Sudbury, received the IW Award for private sector northeastern Ontario. She cofounded the company in 1997 as a small computer hardware supplier. Today, Sims employs five people and her services span markets in Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Cathy Deline, community development co-ordinator for Iroquois Falls, was recognized for the role she has played in revitalizing the spirit of her community, which had been struck by downsizing of its major employer.

In 2001 Deline was successful in attracting the Snowbirds Air Show to the town. The event was encouraging and uplifting, and rekindled enthusiasm for future development in Iroquois Falls, she says.

This year's IW Awards event garnered the support of the following sponsors: RBC Royal Bank, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp., CIBC, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), FedNor, Confederation College, Holiday Inn on King, Canada Post, Northern Telephone, College Boreal, Wasaya Airways LP, Tbay Tel, CBC Northern. Ontario Radio One, MCTV/CTV, Northern Ontario Business, Cambrian Foundation, Valhalla Inn, Bearskin Airlines,, Algoma's Watertower Inn, The Flower Shed, The Flower Jug, First Choice Haircutters and Del Laboratories, Canadian Businesss and Ganong.

The event attracted over 50 nominations from across Northern Ontario.
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Author:Huhtala, Sari
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2003
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