ACWS Board of Directors

The strategic direction of ACWS is determined by a volunteer Board of Directors.  The Board includes public members and members representing shelters from across Alberta.  The shelter members represent either Shelter Boards (Board Delegates) or shelter staff (Staff Delegates, often the Executive Director).  An annual general meeting is held each year in accordance with the relevant legal requirements.  If you would like more information about the governance of ACWS please contact .

Gaye Warthe, President

Gaye is currently the Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education.  She has also served as the former Chair of the Department of Child Studies and Social Work.    Her research expertise spans all areas of sexual and family violence and she is currently working on projects which include a focus on dating violence on post-secondary campus.  She teaches courses on social work, domestic violence, grief and loss, community practice and counselling skills.  Bringing her academic expertise to the shelter world Gaye serves on the Board of Directors for Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society, the steering committee for RESOLVE Alberta, and SHIFT: The Project to End Domestic Violence.  She has served three terms as the Board Delegate representing Edmonton and Calgary.


Jessica Chapman, Vice President 

Jessica is a family lawyer practicing at the Family Law Office in Edmonton, with a focus on representing women impacted by domestic violence.  She has also practiced in the area of child welfare defense and volunteers with the Rotary Club, the Lions and Amnesty International.  


Pamela Wicks, Treasurer

Pamela Wicks, is the Vice President Finance and Chief Financial Officer of Pulse Seismic Inc. and as a Chartered Professional Accountant, Pamela combines the outside financial perspective gained in the corporate sector with her lifelong dedication to advancing gender equality and helping women achieve their potential in her governance role with ACWS.  Pamela was a member of the Canadian Women's Foundation's Board of Directors (2016 - 2019), after volunteering since 2011 on the organization's Calgary Events Fundraising Committee.  A native of Newfoundland, Pamela has lived in Alberta since 1998.  She has held roles of increasing responsibility with Pulse Seismic Inc., a Calgary-based company listed on the TSE that licenses electronic 2D and 3D seismic data to western Canada's oil and natural gas industry.  Her experience at a publicly-traded company has provided direct exposure to a wide variety of financial, accounting and governance issues, enabling her to develop expertise in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, audit, compensation, investor relations, banking and credit facilities, with a focus on generating value for shareholders.  Pamela applies the insights gained on the management side to her governance role as a board member.  Additionally, in 2015, Pamela was awarded the ICD.D designation on completion of the directors' education program through the Institute of Corporate Directors.  Pamela is a Public Director.


Jeanette Sandstra, Secretary

Jeanette Sandstra is the Board Delegate for Mountain Rose Women's shelter Association where she has been a Board member since 2012 and Board Chair since 2015.  She was previously the Executive Director of Rocky Mountain House Primary Care Network, developing relationships across the community but with a special emphasis on service provision for First Nations Communities.  She holds a BSc in Nursing and worked for many years in the health sector in the Rocky Mountain area.  As an ACWS Board member, Jeanette wants to provide leadership in support of the range of strategic initiatives required to tackle family violence including dialogue, education, and research.  Jeanette is the Board Delegate representative from "Small Towns and Rural".




Wanda McGinnis 

Wanda is the CEO of Wheatland Crisis Society. She is driven by the desire to support everyone who lives in fear of violence and abuse.  Wheatland Shelter uses a woman-centered approach but also specializes in providing support to people of all genders.  Wanda proudly accepted a 2017 Alberta Inspiration Award on behalf of the Wheatland Crisis Society in recognition of the organization's commitment to inclusive practices. She brings 17 years of experience and qualifications as a social worker. Wanda has extensive training in risk assessment and is an expert in the application of tools including the Danger Assessment. She works collaboratively with the RCMP and Alberta Solicitor General to ensure safety is a persistent consideration in high-risk domestic violence situations.  As an ACWS Board member Wanda intends to support the organization as it builds capacity in the areas of Indigenous relations, supporting shelters to improve services to Indigenous families as well as developing standardized frameworks for practice for shelters across the province.  Wanda is the Staff Delegate for 'Small Towns and Rural Shelters.'


Michele Taylor

Michele is the Executive Director of Waypoints Community Services Association in Fort McMurray. Waypoints owns and operates Unity House, a 45-bed emergency women’s shelter, a 14-unit Second-Stage Shelter, a mobile domestic violence outreach program servicing one of the largest municipalities in North America (geographically), the Opportunities for Change Centre for male and female domestic violence offenders, the region’s Sexual Assault Healing Centre, and the Compass, a 64-unit apartment building. In 7 years under Michele’s leadership, the organization’s operational funding has increased from 2.7 million to 7.2 million annually and Waypoints’ team has increased from 27 to 65 staff. Additionally, 37 million dollars of capital projects were completed, including a 65,000 square foot apartment building and a 24,000 square foot Emergency Women’s Shelter and Sexual Assault Healing Centre, which created a regional campus for social services. Michele’s next project, the Care Centre for Children and Youth, will repurpose the previous emergency shelter facility into a Child and Youth Advocacy Centre for the region. Michele has over 30 years of experience in community services development and management in BC, and in Alberta, including 4 years as Director of Programs and Services with MacDonald Island Park, the largest recreational complex in Canada. Effective, innovative collaboration to meet community needs is her passion.  Michele is the Staff Delegate for Other Cities. 

Sandy Vander Ziel

The former Chair of The Sonshine Centre in Calgary, Sandy is also an award-winning family lawyer.  She has extensive volunteer experience both with community organizations and within the legal community.  Witnessing the lasting impact of domestic violence upon children, she is a passionate advocate for building greater public awareness and education.  Sandy is a Board Delegate for the Census Metropolitan Areas of Calgary and Edmonton on the ACWS Board. 


Carol (Barb) Okemow

Barb worked at the Sucker Creek Emergency Women's Shelter for five years.  Currently, she serves on the Sucker Creek Board and is a Band Councillor on the Sucker Creek First Nation Council.  She is a Board Delegate for the On-Reserve Shelters on the ACWS Board.


Patricia Garrett 

Patricia Garret has been the Executive Director of Wings of Providence, a second and third-stage sheltering organization, since 1989. Under Pat’s leadership, Wings most recently expanded and built a $7.5 million innovative affordable housing facility called the Home Next Door.  To date, Wings has served over 1000 women and 2500 children.  A leading voice in Edmonton in the domestic violence prevention and intervention sector, Ms. Garrett is known for sharing resources and experience with other shelters and contributing to the movement province-wide.  She is also a member of the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters Board of Directors and has served several terms over the past 24 years.   She is currently the Staff Delegate on the board for Edmonton and Calgary.


Jerri Taylor

Jerri lives in Lacombe and is a consultant, project manager and a healthcare executive who runs her own consulting business.  She was formerly Executive Director of Community and Continuing Care Contracts for Alberta Health.  She is the past chair of the Central Alberta Women's Emergency Centre in Red Deer.  She serves as a Board Delegate for Other Cities on the ACWS Board.

Public Directors


Brian Simpson

Currently the Branch Manager of Parks and Roads Services with the City of Edmonton, Brian also served as the  Deputy Chief at Edmonton Police Service for six years.  Brian first served 30 years with the RCMP, retiring as Chief Superintendent. During his posting in Red Deer, he served on the CAWES shelter board and when working in Hobbema, was on the Ermineskin Women’s Shelter Board.  Brian is a Public Director.


Tracy Lee

Tracy is Maskwacis Cree and currently works for Alberta Health Services as a Senior Advisor for the Central Zone.  She has a Masters of Public Administration in Health as well as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and has held numerous volunteer roles including the Chair of the First Nations Women's Economic Security  Council for the Government of Alberta and  Co-Chair of the Ermineskin Cree Nation PowWow. Tracy is a Public Director.


Brittany Johnson

A public member of the ACWS board, Brittany is a Métis researcher, creative writer, full-spectrum doula, and scholar. Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Native Studies from the University of Alberta and is now working on a Ph.D. in English with a focus on Indigenous beadwork and sexualities. Brittany is a published author, most recently appearing in NDNCountry. Brittany has researched and worked in the areas of domestic violence and suicide prevention for many years and continues to be passionate about this work. Brittany is a Public Director.