Saturday, August 15, 2015

Women of Distinction: The Maiden Event of 2014

Devon Roesner, Dr. Joan Christen, Kesha Beethe

Early  in 2014 I received a notice that women in Grand Island, Nebraska were being honored at at event hosted by their local YWCA.  I knew I wanted to nominate someone so I made a nomination and in return I got a letter inviting me to join my candidate for the grand dinner event.

We both attended; she brought her mother in law, too.  It was quite the gala occasion where women of every age had been nominated by their peers, their families, their friends.  There were gifts for each nominee and awards for the winners of each category:  Woman of Courage, Young Woman of Achievement and Woman of Distinction.  The photos of the Women of Distinction line the walls of the YWCA's building.

As I saw how each candidate's heart was touched I thought, "We need to do this in Johnson County Nebraska!"

It is my good fortune to sit on the Johnson County Advisory Board for SENCA-- South East Community Action in Tecumseh.  I met with Terri Brethouwer, our outreach worker, and her immediate response was to look at the calender for 2014.  She noted that Friendship Day falls on the first Sunday of August.  She looked up from the calendar and said, "Let's do it!"

So we DID.  We had no clue what we would do or how to get it done so we begged the YWCA director, Anita Lewandowski Brown for information.  She was gracious enough to send us all their forms and a page full of ideas they had tried successfully.

Some 60 curious people crammed into the SENCA building for our maiden event on Friendship Day, August 1, 2014.  We had a handful of candidates, their nominators, some family members,  We even had Vicky McNealy,  Executive Director of SENCA from the home office at Humboldt, Ne.  She was accompanied by Pam Armknecht, who is the Community Services Director.

Teen aged girls dressed in their prom gowns served bars and fruit that had been prepared by the woman who prepares the Senior meals at the Center, Loretta Pope.  Jacob Schultz favored us with some musical solos.

A radio show format was adopted.  'The Poverty Network' carried the show on their waves;  the call letters were SENCA , 1700 on the radio dial.  'Commercials' were sprinkled throughout to educate people about SENCA and all the programs they offer. The guests heard, "SENCA is helping people, changing lives" until they remembered and believed it!

It was determined that SENCA people were ineligible for awards but we bent that rule when we heard about a way we could make a special award for one of our Board members.  Ann Curry's family had a tragedy and from that sadness came a wonderful foundation that helps with children who have been traumatized by accidents or illness.  Because of  the Aiden's Animals foundation we gave Ann a stuffed elephant and the mother of the child they lost from an accident talked about the foundation and the work they do.

Every candidate got a miniature, hand carved onyx elephant.  We will never forget the event! The candidates will always remember, too!

2014's Johnson County winners were Devon Roesner, Woman of Courage; Kesha Beethe, Young Woman of Achievement and Dr. Joan Christen was Woman of Distinction.  Each woman received an award with their name and the date engraved on it.

We had so much fun that we determined we would build on that success.  We'll tell you all about what transpired in 2015 in the very next post!

Connie Baum
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