COVID-19 heroes take centre stage as YWCA Hamilton celebrates area women of distinction

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, seen here during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, is among Hamilton's 2021 Women of Distinction. Don Mitchell / Global News

Local women who have played a leading role on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hamilton and Halton have been honoured with the 2021 Women of Distinction Awards.

The winners of the 45th annual awards were announced Thursday night by YWCA Hamilton.

A virtual gala was held to celebrate the achievements of the winners, in alignment with International Women’s Day on Mon, Mar 8.

Read more: How International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world

2021 Women of Distinction Awards winners are:


  • Olivia Mancini, as a “front-line worker” for bringing passion, dedication, and expertise to various organizations providing housing, addiction, and harm reduction supports to Hamiltonians
  • Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, as a “Healthcare Hero” for protecting the well-being of the community and saving lives
  • Adriana Lukich, as a “pandemic innovator” for developing a COVID-19 screening tool, championing virtual care between patients and health care providers, and other innovations as St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s director of digital solutions
  • Lisa Nussey, as a “community champion” for defending the rights, dignity and humanity of drug users
  • Joelle Kabisoso, as a “young trailblazer” and founder of Sisters In Sync, a non-profit organization with a mission to support girls and women in education, mental health, financial literacy and day-to-day challenges.


  • Christina Mulder, as a “front-line worker” for serving as director of programs that support a diverse group of people for Open Doors at St. Christophers
  • Andrea Pohl, as a “Healthcare Hero.” She is Halton’s director of services for seniors, responsible for the needs of residents within the region’s three long-term care homes.
  • Lisa Lunski as a “pandemic innovator.” She advocates for affordable housing, food security and positive social change and coordinates a weekly “meal bag” program
  • Julia Hanna, as a “community champion.” She created a “Nonna Wall” at her Oakville restaurant where guests are encouraged to bring photos to celebrate their mothers and grandmothers
  • Ashwini Selvakumaran, as a “young trailblazer.” She is a youth ambassador for Plan International Canada, for mobilizing youth into action and a lifelong advocate for social justice.

Colleen Mulholland, CEO of the Burlington Community Foundation, will receive a lifetime achievement award during the gala.

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In 2014, Mulholland led a $2.7 million flood disaster relief program after a record rainfall of 191 millimetres in eight hours caused extraordinary flooding to homes and infrastructure in Burlington.

Under her leadership, YWCA Hamilton says the foundation’s impact continues to grow.

Read more: Survey seeks input from Hamilton women, impacts of COVID-19 on their jobs

The Women of Distinction Awards celebrate women who empower other women, who are leaders in their respective fields and who work to make the community a more equitable place.

This year, the YWCA says 97 women were nominated in the six categories designed to recognize the unique ways women rose to the challenges presented during Covid-19.

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