Salute to Women Award Winners Announced
More than 300 people attended the Alexandria Commission for Women’s 28th annual Salute to Women Awards Banquet on March 31 to honor 29 outstanding individuals nominated by their fellow residents for their enormous contributions to the Alexandria community. The annual event, jointly sponsored by the Alexandria Office on Women, is held during Women's History Month. Presiding over the Banquet was Commission for Women Chair Charniele Herring, who began the evening by saluting all award nominees. Of these, 12 were announced as award winners, and were recognized by Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper, former Councilwoman Joyce Woodson, State Senator Patsy Ticer, former State Delegate Marian Van Landingham, and former City Manager Vola Lawson.
This year, in lieu of a keynote speaker, four Alexandria women were invited to participate in an inspiring panel discussion about how Alexandria has been changed for and by women. Panelists included Kirstin Banks, Vola Lawson, Lillian Patterson, and Lois Walker, with discussion moderated by Susan Lowell Butler of the Alexandria Commission for Women. Vola Lawson began the evening’s panel discussion by recalling her involvement as the Chair of the Alexandria Ad Hoc Committee’s Final Report on the Status of Women issued in 1974. This report showed significant disparities in how women fared compared to men in such areas as career advancement, pay, recreation, education, housing, and credit. This report led to the creation by City Council of the Commission on the Status of Women and eventually the Office on Women.
Lillian Patterson spoke of the role of African American women in Alexandria. These women set examples with their commitment to community service in many areas and served as role models for some many of the women of color that now serve our community. Lois Walker talked about how women in Alexandria have always been instrumental in bringing forth change within the City. She issued a call to action for women to continue to be change agents and speak up if something is important to them. Kirstin Banks spoke about the negative impact of the media on young women today and the importance of basing their self-worth not just on beauty and outward appearances, but more importantly on intelligence, education, self-respect and strong beliefs. She recited “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou in her closing statement.
For the third year, the Commission for Women held the banquet as a fundraising event. This year's proceeds, expected to be about $13,000, will be donated to support programs of the Office on Women, including domestic and sexual violence services. While the Office on Women is a City agency, it is also reliant on funding from grants and private donations. Major banquet sponsors included Clotilda “Tillie” Cassidy, Virginia Paving, the Alexandria Democratic Committee, the Alexandria League of Women Voters, Commonwealth Republican Women’s Club, Congressman Jim Moran, Conklyn’s Florist, and Royce Flowers.
The 2008 Salute to Women Award winners:
Marguerite Payez Lifetime Achievement Award – Lavern Chatman. A native Alexandrian, Lavern Jackson Chatman has devoted much of her life to improving the Alexandria community and region, living by the words, “To whom much is given, much is required.” As a leader and philanthropist, Chatman has made children a top priority, and she has served as board chair of the Campagna Center. The Chatman Foundation, co-founded with her late husband, supports youth development programs for African-Americans, and the Grandfathers Group, an award-winning mentoring initiative matching senior African-American men with African-American boys living in single-female households. As President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, she spearheaded the transition of the Urban League Headquarters in Alexandria into the “Freedom House Slave Museum,” a permanent memorial telling the story of domestic slave trading in Alexandria.
Women's Health and Safety Advocate Award
Two awards were presented in this category.
Elizabeth Kuttler. A resident of Alexandria since 2006, Elizabeth Kuttler has used her skills as a psychologist, counselor, and researcher to help the Alexandria community. She has volunteered nearly 200 hours of her time to the Office on Women, working in the Domestic Violence Program. She has also donated her time to the Sexual Assault Response Awareness Program (SARA), serving as a crisis hotline counselor and as a co-facilitator of support groups focusing on adult survivors of rape. Her work there motivated one survivor to say, “Liz served as a role model as she inspired us to believe in ourselves and move forward.”
Gina Lohr. Trained as a scientist, policymaker, educator and manager, Gina Lohr works in the Office of Homeland Security at George Washington University. However, Lohr’s great passion has been working as a volunteer for the past seven years, working in sexual assault support services on the George Mason University (GMU) campus, where she helps the GMU police on the Crisis Consultation Team. She is also an active volunteer for the SARA program. Since 2000, she has spent many hours each month handling the 24-hour crisis hotline, co-facilitating support groups, and training new volunteers.
Youth Community Services Award
Two awards were presented in this category.
Adult winner: Lucretia Jackson. Lucretia Jackson’s work with the Alexandria schools has been of extraordinary value to the community. A teacher here for many years, Jackson became the principal of Lyles-Crouch Elementary School, as it was known then, in 1996. Faced with tension around bussing issues and redistricting, Jackson succeeded in creating a dynamic new environment at the school that soon attracted students from the entire city to the “Lyles- Crouch Traditional Academy,” as it was renamed. Her success there led to her appointment in 2004 to serve as principal at Maury Elementary School, which had failed accreditation and faced many difficulties. Since her appointment, her ideas, leadership and passion for education inspired others with whom she worked, and the school has been transformed.
Youth Winner: Giselle Avalos. Giselle Avalos, a high school senior, is a determined individual who puts action to her feelings. As a high school sophomore, she organized the “Immigration Walk Out” and “Walk Toward” the U.S. Capitol, protesting the backlash toward immigrants. Concerned about perceived lack of support and mentoring for students of color toward college preparation courses in Alexandria’s high school, Avalos worked with the Alexandria United Teens (AUT), under the Workers and Tenants United group, to study, research and speak out against perceived inequities in the schools. She has also been a teen empowerment speaker at a national conference for Latino youth.
Cultural Affairs Award – Kathryn Brown. A founding member of the Del Ray Artisans, the Alexandria Arts Forum, and the King Street Gardens Park Foundation, Kathryn Brown has been a mainstay and leader in all three organizations. Brown is a noted photographer who has worked with local organizations to advance women’s artistic expression and, at the same time, develop these organizations’ financial growth and stability. Brown has also served on the Alexandria Commission for the Arts Visual Arts Review Panel. She was a leader in founding the bi-annual Art in City Hall Juried Exhibit, Mayor Euille’s initiative in promoting more art in City buildings. A role model of a successful businesswoman for more than 25 years, Brown’s contributions include both leadership and artistic talent.
Career Development and Education/Training Award – Eula Miller. Eula Miller is the Assistant Dean, Visual and Performing Arts and Program Head, Early Childhood Development at Alexandria’s Northern Virginia Community College campus. This program, composed of only a single certificate when she began, has blossomed into a comprehensive approach to professional development, including two degrees, certificates and more. She has taught and mentored thousands of students in this effort. Further, she is active in Alexandria, serving on the Early Childhood Commission for many years and working with Alexandria Head Start. She also works with the Alexandria Child Care Office on a literacy grant for early childhood teachers in the City.
Marian Van Landingham Legislation and Public Policy
Two awards were presented in this category.
Joyce Woodson. A tireless, intrepid community leader from her earliest days in Alexandria, Joyce Woodson has championed the City’s neediest residents, as well as women and children. From PTA leadership to six years of service on City Council, this wife, mother, realtor and management consultant worked to improve childcare, and prevented the demolition of the Samuel Madden homes. She also worked for ways to resolve disputes between the City’s taxi drivers and owners, helped students understand local government supported the Walk to Fight Breast Cancer, and championed affordable housing improvements through dedication of one cent of property tax. Woodson persuaded Council to support the creation of the Citizens’ Academy, where residents can learn more about City government and ways to become involved. She also supported the start-up of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI), whose Board of Directors she now chairs. PLTI trains 25 Alexandrians each year to become literate in local government process, enabling them to become community leaders themselves.
Fay Slotnick. In the 12 years that she has lived in Alexandria, Fay Slotnick has consistently volunteered to support the community. Many organizations have benefited from her dedication, including Food and Friends, the courts where she served as a Special Advocate, the public schools, the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau, the Alexandria Democratic Committee and the Friends of the Torpedo Factory. She has served as former City Council Member Joyce Woodson’s staff assistant, and today serves as the executive director of PLTI, promoting parent leadership skills and effective children’s advocacy. Slotnick’s exceptional work has been recognized by many organizations, including the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia Education Association, the Soroptimists and the Senate of Virginia.
Rising Star Award – Cindy McCartney. Since 2006, Cindy McCartney has been the owner of Diva, Designer Consignment and Other Delights, a women’s consignment boutique in Old Town. Her community commitment focused on weaving community service into the heart of her store. In 2005, she organized the Alexandria Cherry Blossom Festival, working with the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities to assist residents in purchasing more than 125 cherry trees for Ben Brenman Park. Each tree is marked with a plaque naming the individual in whose memory the tree was planted. Diva continues this tradition of community effort by providing support to Alexandria’s ALIVE! charity, and by donating 10% of its total net sales during Breast Cancer Month to the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure. McCartney and Diva also support many other City events and activities, including the St. Patrick Day Parade and the Animal Welfare League, and she frequently donates “Diva Dollars” gift certificates to charity events.
Making a Difference Award – Patty Moran. People who know her well say of Patty Moran, “She sees a need and she meets it; she sees a problem and she fixes it.” Since coming to Alexandria in 1976, she has worked tirelessly as a volunteer for many organizations in the community, with special attention to the City schools. Often working with her sister, Nancy Dunning, Moran has worked with Community Partners for Children, Del Ray Centennial Committee, activities for Warwick Village and Charles Hill Park, Carpenter’s Shelter, Art on the Avenue, the Del Ray Farmers Market, Titan Expo, Alexandria Scholarship Annual Gala, the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau, and many more. Her special passion became T.C. Williams High School, where each year for many years, she assisted Principal John Porter as a volunteer at the opening of school. Today she works by the side of Principal Mel Riddile as his assistant.
Vola Lawson Award, honoring a City employee – JoAnn Maldonado. JoAnn Maldonado is Alexandria’s Division Chief of Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach, and in this role, she connects Alexandrians to their government in positive ways. Her work has led to significant contributions to the status of immigrant women by easing acculturation and helping them find their way in their new home. Maldonado has developed strong working relationships with leaders from the Hispanic, Sierra Leonean, Ghanaian, Ethiopian, Sudanese and other communities, connecting them to both City services and those provided by nonprofit organizations. The programs she has created include English as a Second Language, and the Language Assistance Plan, which provides document translation and interpretation assistance for all City departments. She also chairs Alexandria’s Multicultural Coalition, bringing together representatives from the City, nonprofit organizations and members of all ethnic communities. As a volunteer, Maldonado works with the Arlandria Neighborhood Health Services and participated in Leadership Alexandria 2005.