(From left: Heather Cummings, Kathy Panepento, Maryanne Arena, Theresa Asmus-Roth, Bill Fritts and Eve Hens.)
The YWCA held its first Women of Distinction Awards Gala to recognize honorees for their service in the community and empowerment of women last night.
The six honorees were Maryanne Arena, the Racial Justice Award, Theresa Asmus-Roth, the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Award, Heather Cummings, the Military and Veterans Award, Eve Hens, the Economic Empowerment Award, Lawley Genesee, the Corporate Social Responsibility Award, and Kathy Panepento, the Peace Award.
The Women of Distinction Committee reviewed the nominations sent in by the community and selected the award recipients for each of the six categories.
In the past, the local YWCA chapter has honored award recipients at its annual Fabulous Females event. This year they chose to hold a Women of Distinction event to fully align with the national YWCA goals and mission to empower women.
U.S. Attorney for Western District of New York William J. Hochul Jr. and Jeanne Walton, executive director of the YWCA, handed out the awards.
“All of the recipients do an incredible job supporting the mission of the YWCA in their own unique way,” Walton said.
The Batavia Daily News' Women in Business honorees were Sheila Hess, Nancy Ciavarri, Sarah Gahagan, Lisa Stratton and Judy Thompson.
Arena is the director of Fine and Performing Arts at Genesee Community College. Her goal is to teach her students life lessons and serve as a mentor for those who love performing arts.
“I’m trying to build my students to make (the world) a better place,” Arena said.
Asmus-Roth works for RESTORE Sexual Assault Services and is the area supervisor for the GLOW region. She has been an advocate for victims ever since she witnessed a boy being bullied in school. She believes we all can help each other develop and should always mentor those in need.
“It’s a very big honor to be recognized because previous women that won these awards have been an inspiration to me,” Asmus-Roth said.
Cummings has served in the Air Force and is a member of the Air National Guard. She provides crisis intervention counseling for veterans. She also is a sixth-grade teacher at Alexander Central School.
Hens is a coordinator for the Genesee County Business Education Alliance. Her goal is to expose girls to job opportunities they are not used to and help them find their own niche.
Bill Fritts, managing partner at Lawley Genesee, accepted the award on behalf of the Batavia office. Fritts encourages his team to give back to the community and together they help out with many local charity functions.
Panepento is the founder of Crossroads House which has been operating for 18 years. It had always been her dream to open a comfort care home where the terminally ill can bring their life to peaceful closure and receive the dignity they deserve.