Barrita Durward is a master chocolatier with a heart of gold

A heart of gold

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce has released its Top 20 Over 40 list, and Castanet will be featuring all of the honourees.

Not only does Barrita Durward make some of the best chocolate you will ever find, she is also active helping children on an international scale.

Durward opened Cotton's Chocolates in downtown Vernon 23 years ago and is the city's only master chocolatier.

Some of her chocolate creations have been featured by award-winning chefs at the Venetian Resort and Casino and the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

In 2009, Durward was the youngest woman to ever receive the prestigious Woman of the Year title. That same year, she was also awarded Small Business of the Year and in 2008 and 2012 she received the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce Sterling Service Award.

She has also received the Business Person of the Year and Community Leader of the Year honours.

And she did it all before the age of 40.

Durward is one of the finalists in the chamber's Top 20 over 40, not only for her work locally, but for helping the less fortunate in far away lands.

“Twelve years ago, I decided to start a global non-profit society, called the Sweet Smiles Society,” said Durward. “The society's purpose is to relieve poverty by providing basic necessities of life including food, clean water, equipment and/or clothing to abused of needy children in Canada and abroad.”

Many of the children Durward works with have been rescued from the sex trade.

Through the Sweet Smiles Society, Durward has also started the Family Preservation-Orphanage Prevention Project, which is funded entirely by donations from the local community.

Sweet Smiles has now completed three homes for three families and is working on a fourth.

Durward is working in the Huatulco area of Mexico, the second poorest region on the country.

“The new project not only helps families it need, it is building stronger communities both locally and internationally and this project has become Vernon's own international project,” said Durward.

The chamber's Top 20 Over 40 is sponsored by KPMG, the Regional District of North Okanagan, and Castanet.

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