YWCA’s Women of Distinction Committee is excited to have chosen a slate of exceptional recipients for this year’s Women of Distinction Awards, Chairwoman Colleen Raponi says.
Each one of them represents true integrity in supporting this community with advocacy, equal rights, diversity, sustainability and peace.
They are Maryanne Arena for Racial Justice; Eve Hens for Economic Empowerment; Heather Cummings for Military/Veteran; Kathy Panepento for Peace; Theresa Asmus-Roth for Advocacy/Civic Engagement; and Lawley Genesee Insurance and Risk Management for Corporate Social Responsibility.
“We are thrilled to introduce these recipients, many of which the community may already know, and to shine a light on their talents, passions and efforts to better us all,” Raponi said. “They are all proof that truly outstanding citizens are amongst us every day often working behind the scenes to improve the world one piece at a time.”
Maryanne Arena is the director of Fine and Performing Arts at Genesee Community College. She may not always choose the more popular “glitzy and glamorous” productions for the college’s Forum Players, but her work always encourages students to dig deeper and explore the unpopular, such as empowerment and racism issues.
Maryanne supports diversity in her initiatives, philosophies and programs, nominator Cathy DeBellis said, and continually proves her commitment to racial justice and support of YWCA’s mission to empower women and eliminate racism.
“I applaud Maryanne for encouraging her students to develop their own work and for giving them the opportunity for their voices to be heard by others,” DeBellis said. “Maryanne believes that it is her social responsibility to encourage her students to grow, not just as students and performers but as responsible individuals in our society.”
Theresa Asmus-Roth began her work as a Genesee County rape crisis coordinator in 2001 before being promoted to supervisor of the entire GLOW region of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties. She has been a “tireless advocate” for victims of sexual assaults in her roles as direct service provider, community educator, victim advocate and coordinator/supervisor of services.
“Theresa has demonstrated her ability to positively impact our local community as well as to influence regional and statewide causes,” nominator Anne Bezon said.
Asmus-Roth has served as: coordinator on the Genesee County Crime Victims’ Rights Week planning committee; president of Western New York Coalition for Crime Victims; board member of the state Office of Victim Services; and president of Batavia Kiwanis Club. She was a recipient of the 2012 state Mental Health Association Volunteer of the Year Award and 2014 Kiwanis Club’s Criminal Justice Award and is president of Genesee County Inter-Agency Council.
Lawley Genesee Insurance and Risk Management has continually fostered empowerment and advancement to the women in its workforce. As a part of Lawley Service, Managing Branch Partner William Fritts has been a “tremendous source of encouragement and support, and has created an awesome environment for employees to develop and grow,” according to an agency staff member. Employees are given that extra nudge to continue their education and certifications, and are supported with tuition cost, expenses, and personal time to develop their credentials. Women are also given the opportunity to fill nontraditional roles and have a strong leadership voice. Lawley Genesee is a vibrant member of the community and truly promotes social consciousness and awareness with its multiple team efforts to support governing boards, not-for-profits and various charities.
If you look up the definition of peace in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Kathy Panepento next to it. For the past 17 years, Kathy, a founder of Crossroads House, has taken the mission of comfort care from a vision to an organization that has helped more than 400 area residents make the final journey from this world to the next.
With a knowledge of palliative care, a compassionate heart and a passion for giving people both comfort and control in their last days, Kathy has eased the transition for so many, Crossroads House Executive Director Jeff Allen said.
“As a society we are blessed with an abundance of resources on how to birth and nurture our newborns yet there are precious few resources on how to nurture and usher out our dying,” Allen said. “Meeting all the needs of a dying person requires a person to be doctor, nurse, pastor, counselor, caretaker, aide, cook and custodian. In addition to fulfilling all those roles in some way or another, Kathy has trained hundreds of volunteers over the years to carry on the mission of comfort care.”
Eve Hens has earned the Economic Empowerment Award for her efforts to empower women and girls as a leader of Business Education Alliance. This year BEA offered a Girls’ Engineering Exploration Day so that young women could learn more about the field of engineering, specifically focusing on the skills, education and work habits of successful engineers.
“It was an amazing experience to see girls solving complex problems while working in teams and being proud of their abilities and aptitude,” said her nominator Alexander Middle/High School Principal Shannon Whitcombe. “Eve should be commended for her efforts to empower women and girls to reach for and achieve their goals.”
Whitcombe has also been impressed with Heather Cummings, who she thinks deserves the Military/Veteran Award for her work as an active member of the Air Force Reserves and superintendent of the Air Force Chaplain’s Office. Heather is on call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to provide support and assistance for veterans in need. She recently worked with the family of an Air Force veteran who passed away, leaving the family devastated from the loss. Heather and her colleagues provided family members with the support they needed to get through one of the most difficult times in their lives.
“This is just one example of many that represents her commitment to her military family,” Whitcombe said. “Heather gives 100 percent to everything that she does. She will do whatever it takes to ensure that our veterans have the support they need and the respect they deserve.”
The awards will be presented during the 2015 Women of Distinction Awards Gala June 13 at Genesee Community College, 1 College Road. Hosted by William Hochul, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, awards are to begin at 5:30 p.m. in Stuart Steiner Theatre, to be followed by an elegant grazing station dinner at 6:30 in the Forum.
Tickets are $40 and include program, dinner, entertainment and entry to win a door prize. Tables of 10 for $350 and special sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, call (585) 343-5808.