The 2016 Women of Distinction Awards Committee is thrilled to announce this year’s slate of recipients. These community members not only embody YWCA’s mission and vision but they also represent a wide cross section of people working toward the good of others.
- Jennifer Nunnery for the military/veteran category;
- Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s Culinary Arts Program for economic empowerment;
- Courtney Turcer for racial justice;
- Tompkins Bank of Castile for corporate social responsibility;
- Genesee County Mental Health Services for peace;
- and City of Batavia Police Officer James DeFreze for advocacy/civic engagement.
Although some people may think of these awards as only about honoring women, they are acknowledgments to all of those deserving people, organizations and businesses that contribute to the mission and vision of YWCA.
They embody our ultimate goal to empower women, eliminate racism and encourage economic independence, healthy relationships and a community free from violence, Executive Director Jeanne Walton said.
“Through their work, these people and organizations have truly created paths of a more hopeful future for area youth, speakers of other languages, people with mental health needs, domestic violence victims and community members at large," Walton said. "These recipients are all excellent choices for our very diverse award categories. We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments during the second annual Women of Distinction Awards Gala next month.”
The Gala is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road, Batavia. An awards ceremony will be at Stuart Steiner Theatre, to be followed by dinner, social time and an art auction in the Forum at 6:30.
Tickets for the Gala are $40 each or $350 for a table of 10. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For tickets or more information, call (585) 343-5808.
Jennifer Nunnery, a Batavia native, was nominated for Military/Veteran for her dedication to fellow veterans and willingness to share her own Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a way to make her peers more comfortable. After graduating from Batavia High School she joined the Army Military Police Corps where she deployed to Iraq twice in 2003 and 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning home, she attended GCC, obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science at Brockport State College and pursued law at University at Buffalo Law School. While there, she interned at the Genesee County Public Defender's Office and the Monroe County Public Defender's Office gaining valuable experience and mentorship from some of the most experienced public defenders in Western New York.
Nunnery, who recently opened her own law office Downtown, believes in giving back to her community. For three years she volunteered as a Veteran Mentor with the Batavia Veterans Treatment Court in Batavia City Court and she also serves as an advisor on the GCC Paralegal Advisory Committee and the Alexander High School’s Mock Trial Team.
Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s Culinary Arts Program not only gives students the experience and hands-on training needed to operate an efficient kitchen, but the program, led by Chef Nathan Koscielski, allows students to compete in culinary events, operate an on-site café and develop all of the necessary skills to enable them to pursue this or a related career field after graduation.
The Batavia-based group was nominated for Economic Empowerment because students learn every facet of the business, from meeting expenses and operating a profitable business to food presentation and farm-to-table concepts.
Courtney Turcer is a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages at Batavia High School. She was nominated for Racial Justice as a passionate teacher who works tirelessly to provide equal opportunity to the Batavia community’s English language learner population. This year she decided to volunteer her time for a free adult ESOL class on Sunday nights for parents in the Batavia area.
Her commitment and drive have enabled parents and students alike to communicate and understand the English language and therefore be able to pursue their educational and career goals. Her efforts garnered Turcer recognition as a Member of the Month by the state’s TESOL organization.
Genesee County Mental Health Services was nominated for Peace as a result of the agency’s impact on the lives of Genesee County residents each and every day. Agency staff has demonstrated a willingness to become more accessible before, during and after hours, which has kept crisis situations from turning into tragedies. The compassion, patience and understanding shown by all staff members, along with their ability to come together with their skills and talents as a team, is what makes the quality of services provided “priceless.” The effects are far reaching and often touch the lives of family members and friends who have been a part of the clients’ healing journey, a nomination letter stated.
Batavia City Police Officer James DeFreze was nominated for Advocacy/Civic Engagement due to his role of being a lifesaver. Not that he hasn’t had other positive encounters with domestic violence victims, but one in particular says she owes him a debt of gratitude for how he so swiftly came to her side with compassion and patience as she began her journey away from horrific abuse.
“It was the most terrifying and demoralizing experience," she says. "I did not have the strength or courage to go forth with any criminal charges on my abuser because he stripped me of having that power. I cannot express my appreciation or gratitude enough to you.”
Tompkins Bank of Castile was nominated for Corporate Social Responsibility for its constant presence out in the community while also being a source of encouragement for company employees. They contribute thousands of hours to various organizations each year, from coaching little league and picking up litter to gardening, painting and helping to renovate a dilapidated house.
Tompkins has record turnouts during Genesee County United Way’s Day of Caring and countless employees have served in leadership roles at Rotary, YWCA and Business Improvement District boards plus many other nonprofits. Marketing Officer Krysia Mager believes that if it hadn’t been for Tompkins’ management supporting her efforts on the city’s Centennial Committee, she would not have been able to be part of that historic effort. That’s just one of many examples of how a business like Tompkins can have that personal connection with its staff and community members, Mager said.