Two-time Niagara Regional Chair wins Lifetime Achievement Award at Women in Business gala


Published November 21, 2022 at 10:45 am

Two big winners at Friday night's 2022 Women in Business Awards were Debbie Zimmerman, left, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award and Ruth Unrau, right, who won the inaugural Ruth Unrau Legacy Award. (Photo: Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce)

A two-time Niagara Regional Chair and two-decade CEO of the Grape Growers of Ontario was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce at their 2022 Women in Business Awards on Friday night.

Debbie Zimmerman was one of many winners when the awards were announced at Club Italia in Niagara Falls.

Zimmerman was a local politicians for 36 years, starting in 1978 as a Grimsby councillor before being elected to Regional Council in 1989. In 1997, became the Regional Chair for two consecutive terms.

She took over as CEO of the Grape Growers in 2003.

“On behalf of the 500 farm families across the province growing processing grapes and making 100 per cent grown in Ontario wine, we thank Debbie for her commitment to our industry and congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition,” said Matthias Oppenlaender, Chair of Grape Growers of Ontario prior to the event.

Also pre-announced as an award winner was Ruth Unrau, who won the inaugural Ruth Unrau Legacy Award. The award honours those who champion women in trade and commerce, and empowered others to achieve success. Unrau, the co-founder of Women in Niagara, was, of course, selected as the winner for the honour bearing her name for its first year.

While the two awards were known ahead of the gala, the night still had many winners who didn’t know ahead of time. Other winners included:

Young Professional Award, sponsored by Ridley College: Stephanie Reis, Ferox Estate Winery

Emerging Business Award, sponsored by Niagara Region Economic Development: Cheryl Vanditelli, Queen Bean Café

Science and Technology Award, sponsored by Innovate Niagara: Rachael LeBlanc, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

Health Care Hero Award, sponsored by Alectra Utilities: Jennifer Tsang, Niagara Health

Innovations in Hospitality and Tourism Award, sponsored by DDL & Co.: Heidi Fielding, Fielding Estate Winery

Excellence in the Not-for-Profit Sector, sponsored by the Brock University’s Faculty of Social Sciences: Kim Rossi, Pathstone Foundation

Excellence in Trades Award, sponsored by Kraun Electric: Catherine O’Donnell, Willow Cakes and Pastries

Cultural Arts Award, sponsored by CAA Niagara: Rima Boles, Niagara Pumphouse

Business That Gives Back Award, sponsored by Niagara Community Foundation: Two Sisters Vineyards

Community Impact Award, sponsored by Niagara College: Gynette Smith

Entrepreneurship Award, sponsored by Kane’s Distributing: Shannon Passero, Shannon Passero Design

Corporate Leadership Award, sponsored by Hatch: Faith Winter, Canadian Tire Bank


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