The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce and Geraldine Cunningham Associates are co-sponsoring the Eighth Annual ATHENA Award and have announced the 6 nominees. They are:
Maria Gabrielle Allen of Westerly-Owner of Bella Vita Salon. Maria Allen has been a hair stylist for 15 years and has owned Bella Vita Salon for 6 years. She has 13 female employees and is a savvy business person. She is also a very compassionate woman. She demonstrated her concern for others by reaching out and making an incredible gesture: she invited her competitor to set up shop in her salon after the flood in March. Elaina Antonino, owner of Beauty Hut, and her 7 employees, the majority of whom are women, were able to stay employed in the local workforce despite the natural disaster that destroyed Beauty Hut. Additionally, Maria and her employees donate their time each year during the Relay for Life to support the Locks for Love/Wigs for Kids programs. These initiatives help provide free wigs for people who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. She helped coordinate the High School Challenge and provided hair extensions and hair dying services to local high school students, raising money for charity. Her business participated in, and won, the business decorating contest “Paint the Town Purple” in support of the Relay for Life. She served on the Leadership Committee of the Westerly Adult Day Services for their “Share the Care” capital campaign. She donated all of the salon equipment to outfit the Westerly Adult Day Service’s salon in their new center. She was a celebrity dancer to support Bradford School’s fundraiser. She was an inspiration to her sister Rosanna in opening Rosanna’s Flowers and she is a devoted mother of two boys.
Mar y Ellen Buckley of Westerly- Vice President of Branch Operations, Westerly Community Credit Union. Mary Ellen is a classic example of someone with a strong work ethic, who worked her way through the ranks in the financial industry from a teller, her first year after high school, to her current position today. She has worked at the WCCU for 37 years and served as an example to many other women in the institution. She has taken the lead on many community events and causes, having a strong call to action. She takes on the difficult tasks of fundraising and organizing many events including Special Olympics where she has been involved for 9 years. She has been on the Board of the Arcadia YMCA since 2006. She served on their membership committee 2006-2009, and on the fundraising committee from 2009-present. She is currently serving as Chairman of the Board, since 2009. She is on the Board of Ocean Community YMCA Association. She has participated in the American Heart Association’s Westerly Heart Walk for 20 years and chaired the event three times. She has been a mentor to a boy for seven years, as part of the Westerly Public School Mentoring program. Through the Westerly Community Credit Union’s participation/sponsorship, she volunteers for Westerly Relay for Life, Stand Up For Animals and many other groups. She demonstrates that women can be an accomplished professional and a caring community-minded individual at the same time.
Suzette Cowley of North Stonington- Chief Pilot, New England Airlines. Sue has been a pilot for many years, employed by local and regional airline and air taxi companies. For a woman, simply being a professional aviator supports the advancement of women in a traditionally male industry. As Chief Pilot, she holds a leadership position that affects the careers of those she supervisors, and is crucial to the safety of the flying public. She is responsible for training and performance of other pilots, male and female. She leads the pilots in the professional development. She also has a second career: she is a professional tax preparer. For many years, Sue has been a member of, and has served as captain of, a women’s ice hockey league team based in Norwich. This is a volunteer leadership position in yet another male-dominated activity. Her expertise has enabled the organizational success of the team, for the recreational and fitness endeavors of her teammates. Suzette also volunteers at various functions in the North Stonington Schools. She was honored in 2005 by the YWCA of Greater Rhode Island, in recognition of her success and leadership in the field of aviation. She is the mother of two children, and has done a wonderful job balancing career and family priorities.
Patricia Hartford of Westerly- Vice President & Manager, Cash Management Department, Washington Trust Company. She has striven to set an example of a working mom who can achieve balance and success on both the work and home front. She worked part time for many years in a clerical role at the bank while raising her two sons and supporting them in their many endeavors. She returned to the workforce full time after 10 years, rose through the ranks from secretary to officer, Asst. Vice President and then Vice President. During this time she went back to school at night at P.C. and earned a business degree magna cum laude. In her supervisory role, she has promoted women and supported the advancement of women. She was elected a member of the Westerly School Committee where she helps set educational policy and strategy for a 3,000 student public education system. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce for 3 years and the ATHENA Committee for 7 years. She co-chaired the Chamber’s capital campaign to raise over $130,000 for the building expansion. She chaired the local March of Dimes Walk for over 12 years, served as a loaned executive for one year with the local United Way campaign, co-chaired the Town of Westerly Blue Ribbon Task Force for Economic Development, and is a teacher of the confirmation ccd class at St. Vincent’s.
Julie Manfred of Westerly- Lab Technician, Groton Utilities. Julie is a mother of 7 children, 2 biological, 4 of whom are Haitian-born and adopted, and a foster child. She is a 6 year volunteer with HIS Home for Children in Port-au-Prince, a non-profit, interdenominational orphanage with 125 children in residence since 2000. She makes regular trips to Haiti, carting with her as much baby formula and clothing and as many supplies as she can manage to carry each time. After the earthquake in Haiti, Julie took on a leadership role in our community and spearheaded efforts to gather donations, arrange for their transportation, and to help people seeking to adopt some of the Haitian children. She maintained communication with the orphanage director and sought specific donations they needed: peanut butter, pediatric wheelchairs, formula, diapers, prenatal vitamins, and medical supplies. She recruited volunteers to help her transport over 5,000 tons of supplies including 500 pounds of baby formula to the airport. She takes her experience helps other Westerly women and families navigate the lengthy and intimidating waters of international adoption and build their families through adoption. She started a “milk money” baby formula campaign and has coordinated the support of local churches for their effort.
Barbara Silver of Stonington- Research Coordinator, University of Rhode Island. Barbara is a feminist whose passion is gender equality. At URI, she played a key role in bringing a $3.5 million, 5 year, National Science Foundation grant to the University. The ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Project allowed URI to hire female faculty. As a result, URI is now getting national attention and international recognition for their research in biomedical science, physics, engineering and environmental services—in the fields of science, technology, mathematics and engineering. She helped increase understanding of cultural factors and the unconscious but powerful assumptions that act invisibly to undermine women’s success. She introduced social networking opportunities that helped the bridge communication divides among women and men faculty. She promoted mentoring activities for new faculty. Silver now serves as a Research Coordinator at URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center where she focuses on effective work-life policy and practices, and as Program Director of the URI Lactation Program. She was named “Woman of the Year” for 2010 by URI’s Association for Professional and Academic Women” She has served on the Board of Trustees for Pine Point School, The Board of Directors for Stonington Calvary Church Nursery School and the Rector Search Committee, Stonington Calvary Church, Calvary Music School Board of Directors. She is a loving mother of two girls.