By Evan Brandt, The Mercury
EAST VINCENT >> As Women’s History Month drew to a close Thursday night, a dozen area women who have made — and continue to make — local history were recognized by YWCA Tri-County.
Chosen from among 28 nominees, the 12 Exceptional Women Award winners were revealed at an awards dinner Thursday night at the Spring Hollow Golf Club.
The Tribute to Exceptional Women is an event that YWCA Tri-County Area has hosted for 21 years to recognize the accomplishments, leadership, and strength of local women.
“We had a great turnout and our keynote speaker was wonderful,” said Stacey Woodland, executive director of YWCA Tri-County. “It was the first time that this community heard from a YWCA USA leader.”
She was referring to Dara Richardson-Heron, Chief Executive Officer of YWCA USA, who was the keynote speaker.
Richardson-Heron called the staff at YWCA Tri-County, located on King Street in Pottstown, “superheroes, who are lifting up young girls.”
She said women cannot be empowered if the playing field is not leveled for young girls, “particularly girls of color,” and eliminating racism is “a core value of YWCA.”
Women also cannot be empowered if domestic violence persists and quality day care is not available, two needs YWCA works to address, said Richardson-Heron.
“The gains for women are great, but the gaps persist,” she said. “We’re on a mission, now is the time. The journey to justice remains unfinished.”
The award winners and their categories are as follows:
• The Arts — Deanna Wisniewski , an acting teacher and director at Firebird Theater, who provides low-cost, high-quality opportunities for youth to participate in the arts.
• Business — Nancy March, editor of The Mercury and East Coast Regional Editor for Digital First Media, overseeing 46 different newspapers.
• Education — Maribel Gonzalez, a social services provider for the Kennett Consolidated School District, who helps families find the services they need the most and enables students of all backgrounds to succeed.
• Health — Dr. Lori Gray, an optometrist who uses her skills to help those in need, such as homeless veterans and uninsured children.
• Non-Profit — Carol Hart-Metzger, who has worked for over a decade to eliminate child sex trafficking and author of the book, “Facing the Monster: How one Person Can Fight Child Slavery.”
• S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) — Lauren Purdom, a graduate student in engineering at Lehigh University who mentors teams of young engineering students, guiding their research and recently leading a team to develop a more efficient and less expensive solution to the U.S. Army’s combat helmet
• Racial Justice — Dr. Marianne Modica, who writes a blog called “R is for Race” and has written two books on race relations, “The R Word,” and “Race Among Friends.”
• Rising Star — Michilea Patterson, a reporter for The Mercury responsible for the Fit 4 Life section who also spends much of her free time volunteering with local non-profits.
• Coretta Scott King Award — (Given to a woman for a woman who is an agent of change in the community, and an advocate for girls). The award was presented to Regina Astheimer, who is founder of Women on the Move, a volunteer ministry organization.
• Sally Lee Lifetime Achievement Award — Annarose Ingarra-Milch, author of an award winning novel, “Lunch with Lucile,” which spreads the message that women are their best asset at any age. She also mentors female leaders and serves on a variety of non-profit boards.
• Memorial Award — Sandy Zuchero, who after being diagnosed with terminal cancer founded the non-profit organization Mother Goose Read To Me, which had the goal of educating parents about the importance of reading to infants and to provide books to low-income families of infants. Her award was accepted on her behalf by her husband, John Zuchero.
• Mission Impact Award — Andrea Lawful-Sanders was chosen for this new award, selected by YWCA staff, for her direct impact on YWCA’s mission in the Tri-County region. Lawful-Sanders is an advocate for parents and children, and founding member of two organizations aimed at closing the achievement gap for African American Youth. She is the chair of PA CARES, a mentoring movement, and one of the few women in the world to regularly contribute to GoodMenProject.com.
The dinner-awards event was sold out.
“Our community is paying attention to the contributions of women,” said Woodland.
”We are becoming more visible as a place that empowers women,” she said. “Our reach is expanding and we’re becoming more visible.”