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A Salute to Women

Awards recognize community leaders.

The Alexandria Commission for Women honored seven community leaders at last week’s Salute To Women awards banquet.

Twenty-eight women were nominated for the seven awards, which culminated in the presentation of the Marguerite Payez Leadership Award to Nancy Dunning. Dunning was murdered in her Del Ray home last December. Her killer has not been caught.

“This is the first time we have ever given an award posthumously,” said Lisa Baker, the director of the Office on Women. “Nancy Dunning was such an important part of the Alexandria community and did so much for so many people that it took the committee about six seconds to make the decision to give her the Marguerite Payez award. The supporting documentation for giving her this award was extensive and very moving.”

Virginia Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30) presented the award to Dunning’s family. “I knew Nancy for many years,” Ticer said. “She was always willing to get involved and contribute to nearly any worthy cause. I tried to stick to my script in giving the award but it was very hard. We all miss Nancy very much.”

Liz Dunning, daughter of Nancy and James Dunning, accepted the award for her mother.

“My mom was one of the most committed and amazing women that I have ever known and she taught me so much about what it means to be a member of a community, to care about the place you live in and the people you live near, and to translate that caring into thoughtful and enthusiastic action. Thank you for bringing attention to a quiet leader and an amazing activist,” she said.

SIX OTHER WOMEN won awards as well.

The Cultural Affairs award went to Alisa J. Carrel for her work in serving the Alexandria arts community through the Alexandria Arts Forum and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts.

“She is a builder of organizations, and she shares her passion for integrating the arts into everyday life in ways that benefit all of us in Alexandria,” said state Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45) as she presented the award to Carrel.

The Career Development and Education/training award went to Athena “Bunny” Honduras for her leadership in organizing youth volunteer programs and fundraising efforts to support youth programs.

“Her work with the young people of Alexandria has been personal, passionate and untiring. Her heart is as big as the city of Alexandria and she is the embodiment of a tireless volunteer who always finds a way to make sure every child with whom she has contact is helped, loved and supported,” said Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper, who presented the award to Honduras.

Julie N. Jakopic won the Legislation and Public Policy award for her service on the Community Services Board and for her advocacy for policies that provide assistance to mentally disabled residents in Alexandria.

“As a member and late chair of Alexandria’s Community Services Board, (Julie) used her considerable professional knowledge and her leadership skills to lead the creation of the CSB housing plan that paved new ground in Alexandria. This unique design met the needs of clients and the community – resulting in the city’s housing department adopting this approach. Under the new policy, the CSB purchased a dozen properties around the city with the support of many citizens,” said Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, who presented this award.

The vice mayor presented the Woman to Woman, Making a Difference award to Judy Guse Noritake. “She has brought lasting, positive benefits to our city. As the longtime chair of our Parks and Recreation Commission, Judy has led the way on two major initiatives that benefit all of us – the Open Space plan and as the co chair of the Arlington-Alexandria Joint Task Force for the redesign of Four Mile Run. Tireless, collaborative and thoughtful, she is indeed a person who has made a lasting difference for Alexandria,” Pepper said.

THE VOLA LAWSON award, which is presented to an outstanding city employee, went to Sandra Whitmore. She retired in March after five years as the director of the city’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. “Though the challenges were great, she has accomplished much,” said Van Landingham, who presented the award to Whitmore.

“On her watch, Alexandria has adopted an open space plan, made significant improvements to many recreation centers and parks and opened the Ben Brenman Park. The city also now has its first skate park, and the remodeling of the historic Durant Center and its successful joint use planning with the Jefferson-Houston School for the Arts is almost complete. Under her leadership, our Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities has come into a new age, working to address the needs of all of our citizens, from youngest to oldest.”

Finally, the Youth Community Services award was presented to Judith Louise Haskins for her 23 years of service to children at the Cora Kelly School for Math Science and Technology.

“In her work at Cora Kelly, Judith has embodied, every day, the qualities of leadership and service that she seeks to teach the children who attend,” Woodson said, as she made the presentation. “This mother of four, grandmother to 12 and great grandmother to two, has also served as a leader in the school’s PTA, as a participant in numerous enrichment programs, leads activities for the Breast Cancer Walk and the Multicultural Committee.”

Nearly 400 people attended the annual event. “It was really heartwarming to hear about the amazing amount of work that people do to make a difference here in Alexandria,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg.

“This kind of community involvement is what makes Alexandria a great place to live.”