More than 350 people were on hand to honor 14 women at the 22nd annual Salute to Women awards banquet on March 25.
Honorees were recognized for their significant contributions to the people of Alexandria. The Alexandria Commission on Women sponsored the program.
Dr. Belle Wheelan, Virginia’s new secretary of education, was the keynote speaker. Councilwomen Claire Eberwein, Redella S. “Del” Pepper and Joyce Woodson presented the awards.
Eberwein, who spent a month in Egypt last summer, spoke of the repression of women and what America can do to make the world a better place for everyone, but particularly women. “We, as a nation must do more to export education to the developing world,” she said. “”These awards represent what we in America do best — we educate; we choose; we lead — and we are not afraid.”
This year’s top award, the Margueritet Payez Leadership Award was given to Catherine Thompson and Betty Wright. Thompson has spent 25 years working with programs for the poor and disenfranchised and has served in a number of Alexandria organizations, including Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically (ALIVE!); Alexandria Works, the Alexandria United Way, Carpenter’s Shelter and David’s Place. Wright has served in the City of Alexandria public schools for 22 years. In 1979, she established a children’s literacy program with three volunteer tutors and three students. The program has now grown into three programs that serves more than 150 students and involves more than 150 volunteer tutors.
JUDY SUTHARD, the public health nurse manager for the Alexandria Health Department, received the Women’s Health and Safety Advocate award. Suthard has worked in nursing for more than 40 years and was instrumental in conceptualizing and securing funding for the Arlandria clinic. The clinic provides primary healthcare to low-income women and children. Suthard has been an active member of the Alexandria United Way Social Planning Committee and the Executive Committee and has served as United Way’s expert on Alexandria’s health issues. She mentors new nurse managers and advises the director of public health nursing on a variety of issues.
Lori Knoernschild, Pat Norwood and Wendy Wysong received the adult Youth Community Service award. The three women are leaders of an Alexandria Girl Scout troop. They were jointly honored for providing guidance and encouragement to more than 40 girls during their 12 years of service. Their team approach has resulted in more than 160 hours of earned leadership and community service per girl, providing more than 2000 hours of benefit to the Alexandria community. Under their leadership, 12 Senior Girl scouts have been awarded the silver leadership pen, the silver award, the gold leadership pen, the gold award and the silver trefoil award.
The Youth Community Service Award (youth) went to Charlotte Flores, a T. C. Williams High School senior. She was honored for her community service as president of the high school’s Z Club. She worked with the Alexandria Red Cross “friendly visitors” program for the elderly, raised money and participated in the Alexandria Department of Human Services holiday toy drive; worked in local and international youth service coalition projects such as Christmas in April, the Turkey Trot food drive, the Alexandria Black History Project, the Sierra Leon project and the Children of Offenders project. She has also led her club in providing tutoring for Hispanic children. Flores works for Stop Child Abuse Now and raises funds for student scholarships. She is an honor role student, an athlete and a cheerleader.
THE CAREER DEVELOPOMENT AND EDUCATION TRAINING AWARD was presented to Debra Roepke and Carolyn B. Lewis. Roepke founded a nonprofit organization called Computer CORE, Community Outreach in Education. This organization helps Northern Virginians improve their employment opportunities through computer skills training, mentoring and job placement. The initial class was held in the fall of 1999, with space for 10 students, and by January 2002, 60 students were registered for CORE’s free classes. Roepke has also served on the Board of Directors, as chair of the Board, acting program director and as a student mentor.
Lewis, is a longtime teacher, coach, guidance counselor, assistant principal and, now, principal of the Secondary Training and Education Program for the Alexandria City Public School system. She is also recognized among education and civic leaders throughout the Washington Metropolitan area and the State of Virginia for her strong support of professional staff development and leadership opportunities for educators.
Gayle Reuter received the Legislation and Policy Award for making a significant contribution through advocating for issues of importance to women. As a Del Ray community activist and volunteer, Reuter provided support and leadership to countless projects. She was instrumental in creating the Kevin Shifflett Reward Fund benefit and candlelight vigil; served as a member of the Potomac West Business Association and was president of the Potomac West Business Foundation. She has coordinated Arts on the Avenue as well as chairing the Halloween parade.
THE CULTURAL AFFAIRS AWARD went to Jo Anne Mitchell, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. Mitchell was honored for her leadership during the months following the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks. Tourism is one of the greatest contributions to tax revenues in the city of Alexandria,and is directly or indirectly responsible for more than 7000 jobs.
The Woman to Woman, Making a Difference Award was presented to Barbara Strother for her leadership in projects for young people as well as business and professional women. Strother introduced the Reality Store program to middle school students in Alexandria. Under her leadership over the past decade, more than 1000 ninth-graders have participated in this project, which teaches them about the importance and impact of choices they make in their lives. Over the past two years, she also has led the Scholarship House Project, to provide free housing for female students in partnering colleges or universities and to promote the economic self-sufficiency of women.
Deborah Warren received the Vola Lawson award. This award recognizes the city employee who has advanced, improved or contributed to the status of women in the city of Alexandria through her work. Warren has been an employee of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse services for more than 17 years. She is currently the director of consultation and education. Warren has delivered more than 150 conference presentations on aging related issues and is recognized for her expertise on extreme hoarding behavior among the elderly. She is also the manager for Project Resilience, an initiative she developed to provide education, information, referral and counseling services for individual families and groups in dealing with the aftermath of Sept. 11.
The Rising Star Award is presented to a woman with less than five years of volunteer service but who has made a significant contribution to the well-being of women in the community. Anne Boston Parish was this year’s winner. Parish established the Queen Street Clinic in Old Town to provide affordable healthcare to uninsured and underinsured families in Alexandria. In seeking to build the clinic, she first solicited financial support from the community, and when that wasn’t adequate, she mortgaged her own home to raise the required funds. Since its opening in August of 2001, the Queen Street Clinic has provided a range of health services to people of all ages, who might not otherwise receive healthcare.