Deanne “Dee” Quinn Miller clearly remembers a time when she helped to fill a special need in her role as program coordinator for the state Veterans Defense Program.
A veteran had just gotten custody of his children for the first time and he needed beds.
“I thought I’m sure I know somebody somewhere who can provide something,” she said. “We got them beds.”
Though assisting a veteran is not so unusual for Miller, those types of specific requests stay with her as examples of the humanity involved. While many issues deal with the legal system in some form, they all involve someone returning to civilian life after having served in the military.
“Their ability to reintegrate is so difficult, and I don’t think that people get that,” she said. “We’re going to serve them no matter where they are and we’re going to make appropriate referrals.”
It was that type of dedication and determination that put Miller in the spotlight for this year’s Women of Distinction Military/Veteran Award. She is one of seven recipients to be honored during YWCA’s signature awards gala this week.
It is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 15 at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road. Tickets are $40 each or $350 for a table of 10. For more information, call (585) 343-5808.
Although Miller is not a veteran herself, family members have provided plenty of red, white and blue spirit. Her grandmother Eunice “was always so incredibly patriotic” while Grandpa Ferris was a World War II vet. Her grandfathers, brothers and uncles all served, including a cousin overseas in Afghanistan and another one having been there. Miller has soaked up all of that selfless service to country and wants to give back through her job.
“If there was a population that I could serve, it would be that population,” she said. “They are underserved.”
Other award recipients include Roula Alkhouri for Racial Justice, Georgann Carrubba for Exceptional Entrepreneur, Western New York Tech Academy for Economic Empowerment, Krysten Schmidt for Advocacy/Civic Engagement, Lewis Tree Service for Corporate Social Responsibility and Zonta Club of Batavia-Genesee County for Peace.
For Roula Alkhouri, the pastor at Batavia’s First Presbyterian Church, being a native of Syria has most definitely flavored how she sees the world and how other people see her. Having grown up in a different culture and transplanting to the United States has not been without its challenges, she said. Some have assumed that she’s a Muslim because of her middle Eastern accent and homeland. Others have discredited what she says based on preconceived notions of who she is.
Alkhouri believes there is one simple thing that people can do to bridge the divide.
“When you get to know people, it changes your perspective,” she said. “You can find people of all different colors and races who can contribute. The world according to me is not how friends see the world and are being treated. All are created in the image of God, and we need to celebrate that.”
Perhaps the truest form of racial justice ever, award committee members agreed.
Georgann Carrubba’s current mission as CEO of TenCar, Inc. began some time ago when, as a visiting nurse, she saw how many ostomy patients were affected by their illness. With a close family member suffering with Crohn’s disease, she didn’t really have to look far to see those effects. When he was in the hospital he said to her that he’d sooner die before getting fitted with an ostomy device, a pouch kept outside of the body to hold one’s bodily waste.
Up to now, that only option meant potential for odors, leakage, gas build-up and related embarrassment and discomfort. And there are some one million patients with the need for one.
“I think they’re crushed by it,” Carrubba said, noting that her device with a removable cap will make a difference. Dubbed the Choice Cap, it is a lightweight, airtight, molded waterproof cap to be worn with or without the traditional soft inner pouch. This added protective barrier offers greater resilience to motion and activity, giving the wearer protection against leakage and escaped odors that are common in everyday activities. The result is increased confidence, self-esteem, body image and quality of life.
“I think it gives them value, it gives them purpose,” Carrubba said. “We’re to start production this fall.”
When Gail Fenton joined Zonta Club five years ago, it was at the urging of then-member and mentor Patti Riner, who died in August 2016. Riner had promised to help Fenton navigate new club membership and also convinced her to sign up for vice president.
“Not knowing that after two years you become president,” Fenton said. “Since joining the club has almost doubled in size. I’ve tried to get younger members to join while respecting the older members’ experience. I just really enjoy doing it; it’s like our own little sisterhood.”
That sisterhood has been busy over the years, from selling daffodils and distributing health and education booklets to selling hotdogs for the Big Buddy program, hosting health clinics, ringing bells for Salvation Army and many other efforts that resulted in thousands of volunteer hours.
Club members also worked at YWCA’s My Sister’s Closet, a thrift shop for women, and donated $5,000 and many hours of mentoring to the agency’s Power-up Program in 2006. Members also contributed a great deal of peace to domestic violence victims through their assembled care package totes. Filled with toiletries and quilts donated from Museum Quilt Guild, the totes were given to victims as tokens of care, comfort and peace.
Tech Academy courses not only offer students a potential road map to getting a good job, but the lessons include breaking down the “academic silos” that prevent students from connecting how each subject relates to one another. A shipping clerk who has to negotiate contracts with the buyer can use those skills in other areas, such as running a restaurant or an entry-level accountant can end up moving into financial planning.
“I look at STEM very differently; it’s really an integrated process,” Academy Principal Thomas Schulte said. “We’re beginning to eliminate labels that society places on our kids, so they can see all kinds of options instead of just the options presented to them.”
Lewis Tree Service may be the second largest provider of vegetation management in the country, but the company, much like the Tech Academy, isn’t always well known by the public in Genesee County. Its Giving Tree Committee is steadfast in providing contributions of money, equipment and/or volunteers to many area agencies, including YWCA of Genesee County.
Committee member Sue Howard fondly recalled her role as a cuddler in the NICU and when she made dolls that were sent to children overseas. Other efforts have included donating boxes of food for Thanksgiving meals and more than 70 new coats for local shelters, helping build homes for Habitat for Humanity, collecting toys, money and food for various charities and many other initiatives.
Howard discovered that, soon after joining, she benefited as much as she gave.
“I was going through a pretty hard time in my own life,” she said. “It filled a void. I’ve had some wonderful experiences ... when you can go out there and see the little things you do that make a difference in someone’s life, that’s incredible.”
Krysten Schmidt is passionate about her profession and loves what she does. She cares for women of all ages- from young teens to seniors. Although she cannot provide obstetric care or perform surgeries, she is there for all of the other vital needs for women across their life span. From wellness exams and STD screenings to family planning and menopausal issues, Schmidt wants to be there for her patients through all of it.
“I just love helping women,” she said.