Inspiring women from across Redcar and Cleveland were honoured at a special ceremony on International Women’s Day.
The event at the Wilton Centre in Redcar recognised seven women for outstanding achievement, including Carol Dawson, Eileen Founds, Victoria Smee, Krista Coulson, Liz Edwards, Mahlliah Joel and Gemma Sands.
Redcar MP Anna Turley said: “Every year we have hosted these awards, we have heard more and more amazing stories from brilliant women and girls who are going the extra mile to support their communities, facing down a personal challenge, or changing the lives of others for the better.
“I love our annual celebration of these everyday heroes and I want to congratulate every one of this year’s winners and all of our 2019 nominees.”
Councillor Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “I look forward to this event every year and it was so wonderful hearing all of the stories of these Inspiring Women. It’s fantastic to have such great women as role models and it makes me very proud to know that they part of our borough.
“I’d like to congratulate all the winners and every single woman who was nominated, you all make such a difference in our community.”
The winners on the night included:
• Carol Dawson won the Individual Achievement Award, sponsored by First Choice Labels, for overcoming a number of obstacles to engage in voluntary work for addiction and domestic violence organisations, acting as a mentor to other women experiencing difficulties;
• Eileen Founds won the Volunteer Award, sponsored by PD Ports, for volunteering at St. Leonard’s Church in Loftus for 40 years and is a founder member and Secretary of the Mars Estate Residents’ Group;
• Victoria Smee won the Woman in Business Award, sponsored by Beyond Housing, for setting up a fashion boutique, Betty Leigh Boutique, in Redcar’s Northern Quarter. Victoria supports other businesses in the area promoting a collective approach to the regeneration of the town;
• Krista Coulson and Liz Edwards won the Community Group Contribution Award, sponsored by SABIC, for creating the charity ‘Rubies’, which works with teenage girls to inspire them, build confidence and inform them of their true self-worth;
• Mahlliah Joel won the Young Woman Award, sponsored by Taylor Wimpey, for overcoming obstacles to develop an excellent attitude to learning. As well as helping look after her siblings, she is a valuable member of Redcar Town Under 14s football team and a young leader at the Kidz Klub Youth Group;
• Gemma Sands who won the Inspiring Others Award, sponsored by Sembcorp.
The overall winner of the Mo Mowlam Award was Gemma who established a charity, Remembering Rebecca, in memory of her daughter who died at the age of just 21 months. Gemma organises fundraising activities so that the charity can provide equipment, holidays and support for children with disabilities and their siblings.
Gemma Sands said: “I can’t believe I’ve won this award. I just sat there for a while, thinking ‘What? Me?’
“For the last few years, since we set up Remembering Rebecca, we’ve been helping families locally to cope with having a child with a disability or illness. So we help by providing specialist equipment, provide sibling breaks or respite breaks. Anything really which will help the whole family.”
Winners from previous years have also been involved in this year’s ceremony, with the entertainment being provided by Joanna Andrews, 2018’s Women in Business award winner, and the catering being provided by Ruth Fox, 2016’s Innovation award winner.
• Pictured (top, left to right): Krista Coulson and Liz Edwards (from Rubies – winner of won the Community Group Contribution Award), Mahlliah Joel (winner of the Young Woman Award), Gemma Sands (winner of the Inspiring Others and Mo Mowlem Awards), Victoria Smee (winner of the Woman in Business Award), Carol Dawson (winner of the Individual Achievement Award) and Eileen Founds (winner of the Volunteer Award)