NORTH BAY -- For as long as she can remember, Patti Lessard has been advocating on behalf of women and children who need someone in their corner.

“If you don’t have somebody beside you, it’s easy to say ‘never mind I don’t want to do this or I can't do this,’" Lessard said.

“So I’ve got to say, in my heart, those successes with those women, being able to be beside them, has really been huge for me.”

With 30 years at the Mattawa Women’s Resource Centre, Lessard has worn several hats to help those in need.

“I’ve also participated on many committees, all with the intent and the commitment to ending violence in the lives of women and children,” she said.

On top of being an outreach worker, she has been assistant director, house manager and frontline relief.

“I’ve been involved with OAITH, which is the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses. I also did sit with, or work with, the Victims to Victor support team for 12 years,” she said.

Honoured by the province

Now Lessard is one of nine individuals being recognized by the province.

Raising awareness of victims’ issues, increasing access to crisis intervention services and providing compassionate support in times of need is what the Victim Services Awards of Distinction are all about.

For those who know Lessard personally, it comes as no surprise that she is being honoured.

“It’s like they wrote this award for her, you know, she’s very professional,” said Beverly Bell, executive director at the centre. “She’s a good advocate and her kindness is contagious ... When you work with Patti, you’re a better worker because you take on her values and she’s very kind.”

Clients have told her that Lessard's strengths are her kinds and fairness, Bell said.

As for Lessard, she is still getting used to the news.

'I had no idea'

“I had no idea I was going to get this," she said. "I was shocked and everything seemed a little surreal and it kind of still does, to be honest with you. But I really would like to thank the powers who be who put forth the nomination.”

After decades of fighting for change and safety for women and children, Lessard is getting ready to step back.

“I know I’ll never stop advocating and caring in my heart," she said. "The passion to make lives different. So I know I’ll be involved somewhere, in some capacity, maybe with an organization, some volunteer work, at this point I’m not real sure.”

The Mattawa Women’s Resource Centre has been helping change lives for the past 35 years, but officials said there is still a lot to be done and having people like Lessard can really make a difference.

“She’s just been a wonderful co-worker to have in the shelter for the last 30 years plus,” said Bell who thanked her for all her hard work and support.

“We all knew that she was so deserving.”

A virtual awards ceremony is scheduled for May 27.