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Board of Directors

Our members elect the ACWS Board of Directors. The Board approves all new members and associate members.  

A volunteer Board of Directors determines the strategic direction of ACWS. The Board includes public members and shelter members representing women’s shelters from across Alberta. Shelter members represent either shelter boards (board delegates) or staff (staff delegates, often the Executive Director). 

An Annual General Meeting (AGM) is held each year in accordance with relevant legal requirements. It is expected that every ACWS board director will attend the AGM.

For more information about the governance of ACWS, please contact voice@acws.ca.

Gaye Warthe, President
Gaye is currently the Interim Academic Director of Quality Assurance and Coordinator, Academic Programs and Quality. 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 counseling 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. 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”.


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 Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter board. When working in Hobbema, he 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. She 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.



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, (previously Fort McMurray Family Crisis Society). Waypoints is an umbrella organization, which includes a 45-bed Emergency Women and Children’s Shelter, a 14-unit Second Stage Shelter, a Domestic Violence Outreach Program, a Provincial Family Violence Treatment Program: the Opportunities for Change Centre, a Sexual Assault and Abuse Healing Centre, a Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and a social enterprise – the Compass, which is a 78-unit affordable housing apartment building.

In 7 ½ years under Michele’s leadership, the organization’s operational funding has increased from 2.7m to 7.2m annually and Waypoints’ team has increased from 27 to 68 staff. Construction was also completed on a 27 million dollar affordable housing construction project. The Compass was opened on-time and on-budget in December 2014 and now includes a secure, 14-unit Second Stage Shelter, and 64 units of open market, affordable housing. Construction was also completed in 2019 on a new 45-bed Emergency Women’s Shelter and Sexual Assault Healing Centre and lastly, a $600K renovation was completed in 2020 on the previous Emergency Shelter facility repurposing it to become the region’s first Child and Youth Advocacy Centre and Outreach Centre. A total of 38m in capital projects was completed in 7 years, adding over 100,000 square feet of facilities to Waypoints and the community.

Michele’s has 34 years of experience in community services development and management in BC, and in Alberta, most recently as a Director with MacDonald Island Park in Fort McMurray. 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 has served several terms on the ACWS Board of Directors over the past 24 years. Currently, she is 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.


“We are humbled by the resilience and perseverance of our members. Shelter directors courageously led their teams through uncharted territory, doing everything they could to continue meeting the needs of women, children, and seniors facing domestic violence in their communities.”

Read this year’s annual report here: 2019-2020 Annual Report

“This past fiscal year was one of the most exciting in ACWS history. Not since the first World Conference of Women’s Shelters in Edmonton has the organization engaged on such a significant series of undertakings. When we reflect on the year it is remarkable the scale of the ambition and the impact of the work.”

Read the full report here: 2018-2019 Annual Report


“2016 was the year of the backlash…Throughout all of this Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters was at the forefront of working for the rights and safety of women. Despite the challenging context the year presents many highlights.”


Read the full report here: Annual report 2017