Dorothy Dickson. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Inspiring other women at the first annual Women of Excellence Alumni Breakfast

Group of women heard from three inspiring guest speakers at Red Deer’s Radisson Hotel

It was an inspiring morning for women in the community as the Red Deer & District Community Foundation (RDDCF) hosted their first annual Alumni Breakfast to celebrate women for their outstanding achievements.

“This is really an engagement strategy for us to make the alumni feel the sense of community amongst themselves. The purpose of it is to uplift women in the community but now we have a community of women who are exemplary in the way they’ve lived their lives,” said Kristine Bugayong, chief executive officer of the RDDCF.

She added that it’s almost like creating a model group and highlighting their stories all year round.

There were three women who were present as guest speakers at the event held at the Radisson Hotel in Red Deer, who have made significant contributions in their community.

The first speaker was Rhonda Elder, who is part of the RDDCF board and the giving circle. She talked about the importance of investing in women and girls in the community.

“It is rewarding to be able to give on a shared basis with other people and particularly women. When we come together in our group of four people, we really are, as a whole, as a sum, greater than our parts,” she said.

Elder added that every time she leaves a meeting she feels energized and is given insights she wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“Investing in women is unique, investing in women is different because when we invest in our female population we are actually investing in a much broader way than the people that are in their lives.”

The second speaker was Donna Abma, a Women of Excellence alumna and the Director of the Stepping Stones program in Lacombe.

“I’m incredibly passionate about the program. It walks with and supports pregnant and parenting young women in the community,” said Abma.

Having come from neglect and abuse, Abma was just 19 when she became pregnant and had nobody there for her at the time.

She added that the Stepping Stones program is something near and dear to her heart as she was one of those young moms.

Things slowly became better for her down the road and she met a woman in a mom’s group in Lacombe, who helped her along.

“That woman walked with me and showed me more love and grace than I’ve ever had and I started to heal.”

She now does the same with other young women in the community.

“I started falling in love with the young women that showed up in this group that were tired and lost and broken and came from homes that would make you cry,” she said about the program she is involved with.

The third and final speaker was Dorothy Dickson, who was the 2015 Lifetime Achievement recipient who talked about her experience in the world of environment.

Dickson reflected to a time she stopped for a few days in Jasper National Park.

“One of the staff in the Jasper Park Lodge took me to see the black bears and then to watch beavers building a dam. My parents told me I thought the bears were fun but it was the clever beavers building that dam that I talked about for days,” she said.

She also touched on the war, which, she said, really brings a community together.

“We saw things that children should not see but in a way it was good for my generation because we were forced to take on responsibilities beyond our years and volunteering for all of us was just the way of life.”

Dickson then went on to do many different types of work in the environmental field.

The Women of Excellence Awards Gala will take place June 5th of 2019 at the Sheraton Hotel. Nominations are currently open with the deadline being Jan. 11th.

To nominate someone visit


Donna Abma. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

Rhonda Elder. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

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