Entrepreneur, social activists and caregiver to be recognized as women of distinction

Adekelu Ogunleye immigrated to Canada as a single mother and had to start her own business to pay for her schooling.

Now, YWCA Sudbury is recognizing Ogunley as a Woman of Excellence for her achievements, along with six other women who will be recognized at an awards ceremony on January 28.

This honor is given annually to women who are selected for their accomplishments, achievements, leadership and their impact on girls and women.

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“I was able to study developmental services work and I have worked with the school board where I supported children with intellectual disabilities,” Ogunleye said.

While going to school, she also started three businesses: cleaning, changing clothes and catering.

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“I have managed to create job opportunities for many international and local students,” she said.

At the gala, Ogunleye will receive an award for entrepreneurship.

Sonia Peczeniuk is the recipient of the Wellness and Health Award for her work with the Sudbury Ukrainian community.

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Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, she has been helping displaced families settle in Greater Sudbury.

“As the war drags on, there is fatigue,” Pechenyuk said.

“And so it’s still important for people to understand that it’s very real for people that families are being destroyed.”

A smiling woman stands next to a sign that says YWCA Sudbury.
Adebola Adefioye founded the Afro Women and Youth Foundation, which provides mentoring and guidance to black women and youth, after her daughter was bullied at school. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Adebola Adefioye will receive the Social Justice Award for founding the Afro Women and Youth Foundation, which provides mentoring and leadership to black women and youth.

After moving to Canada from Nigeria in 2016, Adefioye said her daughter was bullied because of the color of her skin.

In support of her daughter, Adefioye also started her own foundation.

“And when she got to 5th grade, she won the award for the most confident kid in the class because she had learned to stand up for herself, she had learned to be a leader, she had learned to say no to people.”

Adefioye and her family moved to Sudbury from the Greater Toronto Area last year. She has continued her advocacy work in northern Ontario.

Jackie Ballenia was nominated by a friend and chosen for her community action. She works with Sudbury Restorative Justice and volunteers on other boards and organizations.

“You know I just put my head down and do my thing and I just never realized it would be recognized as something special,” she said.

A woman with brown hair, wearing a lacy brown shirt.
Jennifer Hawkins died in June 2021. She will be posthumously awarded the YWCA Sudbury Award of Excellence for her work with older adults at Finlandia Village. (Submitted by Patricia Clizia)

The late Jennifer Hawkins will be honored posthumously for her work caring for older adults at Sudbury’s Finlandia Village.

Her friend and former colleague, Angela Patrick, nominated Hawkins.

“She was a pioneer in senior care, and we are proud of her today,” Patrick said.

Hawkins helped bring pet therapy to the nursing home and worked closely with residents with dementia, she added.

“Jennifer’s family is very proud of her and very excited to celebrate and to come and celebrate and feel that she is the most deserving person along with so many other women who have earned it here,” Patrick said.

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