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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Cheryl Yellowhawk Art Fine Artist Pastel and Oil Painter 1 Women of Distinction The Honorable Karen D. Camper Government State Legislator State Representative Legislative District-87 Tennessee House of Representatives 2 Women of Distinction Cheryl Yellowhawk Art Fine Artist Pastel and Oil Painter Largo FL 3 Women of Distinction 4 Women of Distinction 6 Women of Distinction T he power of creating art saved me from the darkest times and memories of my life. I ve processed inconsolable grief onto the canvas and have trekked through the jungles of the subconscious transforming agony to the divine peace of healing. Today I am a fine artist expressing the beauty of my surroundings and the joys of life. Both of my parents died too early in life and left a void in my heart and my life. My world took a 180 degree turn the day my mother died. One week prior to February 27 1985 my mother had retired from nursing. She had spent that last week tidying up her home and making plans for a long awaited vacation. Finally she would have time to spend with me and her grand -children. But on the way to the Twin Cities airport her car collided with five other cars across the icy highway. No one survived. The shocking news of her death brought on an incredible silence. The excitement and anticipation of her arrival was replaced with despair sadness and emptiness. I was traumatized to my very core. My hair fell out over- night and I lost 30 pounds that year. My father had also died unexpectedly. He had been a P.O.W. and had served in WWII and the Korean War. He suffered from PTSD and eventually took his own life in 1971. Following these traumatic experiences I became depressed and introspective. I knew I was not the same lively person I had been and I felt it was necessary to take a leave from nursing and tend to my own needs. My maze of grief led me back to the reservation to reconnect with my native family. My uncle was still alive in 1985. He and his sister were very close. Together they were raised in a Catholic orphanage on a South Dakota Indian reservation along with many other children. As my uncle told stories of my mother riding bareback and chasing long eared jack rabbits as a young girl he also told stories about my great ancestors. We walked hand in hand quietly among the graveyard headstones with the hidden souls below. Chief Yellowhawk my great- great grandfather had been a peace leader among the Sans Arc (Without Bows) Band and Grandma Nancy-Who-Sees-theHorses had been a Medicine Woman and a survivor of the Battle of Wounded Knee. I held his huge hand tighter and tighter as I tried to hold onto my rich heritage and the tales of the Lakota a forgotten People. My uncle was an elder and it was there among the timeless prairie grasslands and the dead that I received my Yellowhawk name. Uncle Kenneth West stated proudly as he leaned into my ear In the name of Wakan Tanka I would like you to carry on the Yellowhawk name. I felt honored to be renamed by a powerful elder of the tribe. I will carry it proudly I replied. The urge to connect with my Native Spirit led me to the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe New Mexico. There I studied Native American art history and culture as well as drawing painting design printmaking jewelry making ceramics and creative writing. I later finished a B.F.A. in Studio Art at the University of New Mexico. For me the grief period was years of a lost reality a disconnection from the world. I was blessed to be able to honor this sacred time for soul searching and healing. As I walked the grief maze I found a larger purpose for my life. My path turned from the healing arts (nursing and massage therapy) to the healing of the artmaking process. Placing pen or pastel to paper paint to canvas or hands to clay enlivened my soul. Over the years I have created several bodies of art work Native influenced healing spiritual imagery New Mexico Landscapes Florals and Still Life and Women and Children. I am also composing a healing book with my imagery and affirmations to help others. A Special Thanks I am so grateful for my children family and friends who have supported me over many years and have carried me through PTSD and depression the black holes of a lost time and loss of Self. I would especially like to thank my first husband my son and my daughter and my soul mate and life partner for the last twenty years Gil Beach. Through this healing art journey I have recovered from the tragedies and amnesias and have reconnected with the old me and I have found a new sense of Self full of life and joy. I am forever grateful. I thank you Great Spirit for watching over me. 7 Women of Distinction Andrea Jackson Agriculture Agritourism Owner Enterprise Manager of Jackson Country Connection La Plata MO 8 Women of Distinction F or Andrea Jackson farming and agriculture production is a way of life in addition to being a family business. She and her husband Bob are pillars in the La Plata Missouri agricultural community. Their Agritourism operation Jackson Country Connection was started in 2008 as a labor of love and has quickly grown into a popular family attraction as well as an educational facility. The Jacksons bring more than 50 years of farming experience to Jackson Country Connection. Andy s accomplished career in the agricultural industry took root in 1968 when she married her husband. At the time Bob and his family owned a livestock and crop operation Broad Acres. This diversified farming operation of 1600 acres raised corn soybeans alfalfa sheep and cattle. As the Broad Acres operation evolved the couple eventually became the sole owners and mangers. In 2008 they jumped at the opportunity to transform a portion of the property into Jackson Country Connection at the urging of community members who suggested the Jacksons establish a small pumpkin patch and corn maze business in LaPlata. Bob and Andy both have backgrounds working with local universities and share a passion for agricultural education they saw the proposition as a perfect fit for their farm. Recognizing that there are increasingly fewer opportunities for children and many parents to connect with local farms and food suppliers the idea of Jackson Country Connection was born in part to reconnect families to the land and to each other. Today their Agritourism enterprise is a thriving outdoor agricultural entertainment and educational center which features mazes a country store games farm equipment playground interactive information about agriculture wagon rides pumpkin patch a corn cannon and a picnic area. Andrea s role within Jackson Country Connection is to plan and create displays orchestrate activities manage maintenance of buildings and facilities secure vendors monitor safety aspects in addition to marketing advertising and scheduling many organizations corporates and church group visits during the seasonal operation. Another major role is to provide labor assistance to her husband Farmer Bob who plants maze fields creates playground items maintains equipment and is the Elmer s Glue that holds everything together. The Jacksons use their operation to give back to their community. Each year the maze theme pays tribute to positive entities such as our military troops the local school youth and agriculture organizations. The 2015 maze featured the 100year celebration of the Missouri Farm Bureau and University of Missouri Extension organizations where Andy is a lifelong affiliate. Her father was a county agent for 40 years with the Extension organization and Andy is serving on the Adair County Extension Council and Vice-Chair of the Northeast Regional Council and participates in the annual Council To Campus event. In addition to supporting the University of Missouri Extension and Missouri Farm Bureau Andy serves as Vice Chair of Missouri Livestock Symposium coordinated by a 20-member committee of volunteers who share a passion for education and educational delivery. They are tasked with identifying and contracting with speakers who can bring information of different disciplines together to effectively communicate with consumers and producers alike about the direction food and animal education should take into the future. Andy is dedicated to advancing her industry and ensuring its growth. She has served as a member of the Missouri Farm Bureau Resolutions Committee and Missouri Farm Bureau Agritourism Committee which is charged with the task of supporting Agritourism operations in Missouri by working with government agencies regarding outdoor advertising signage with insurance companies for appropriate liability protection for operation owners and planning. Some of the challenges facing any farming operation are unpredictable weather conditions fluctuating markets pest and weed control debt to profit margins available credit government regulations labor source and increasing cost of inputs and equipment. The challenge to provide factual information increases as altered truth regarding agriculture production methods influence consumer purchases Andy said. To combat these difficulties she remains politically active and recognizes the importance of understanding the legislative process in order to be a voice for her industry and impart knowledge of her field onto others. The mission of Jackson Country Connection is the creation of a family friendly environment that will provide enjoyment education and an understanding of agriculture Andy said. We strive to give our visitors the opportunity to play to enjoy time together in the bounty of the season and strengthen their understanding of the importance of food fiber and fuel for our world. I am inspired to be a messenger and share conversations with consumers and individuals who wish to know the source of their food. An important portion of the message is to remind our guests that the American farmer provides affordable safe food for the United States and many foreign countries. The American consumer is fortunate to have many choices in organic or traditionally grown food products. Off the farm Andy enjoyed a 20-year career with A. T. Still University. She was an Admissions Counselor with responsibilities for nationwide recruitment of undergraduate students for doctoral programs in rural health care. 9 Women of Distinction 10 Women of Distinction This career enabled me to develop presentation skills and kept me connected with computer technology which continues to support my agriculture communication efforts she said. Today Andy uses her experience in agricultural communication to seize opportunities for media appearances newspaper articles magazine features to raise the visibility of the agriculture industry as it is her mission to tell the story. For their tireless efforts the Jacksons have received various honors including a recent recognition by the Missouri Agricultural Extension Professionals for outstanding leadership in the agriculture industry. Though Andy is committed to using her platform to support the success of her entire industry she knows farming is about family. Her operation has always been family owned with family members being the major source of labor. The couple s three sons had the daily chore routine of feeding and caring for livestock before and after school and during spring summer and fall were involved in planting and harvesting corn and soybeans. Now that her sons have grown Andy s children and grandchildren play a very important part of her life. In their down time Andy and Bob regularly visit their children or use technology of text and Skype to remain involved with their grandkids lives. Hoping to leave a legacy of service Andy strives to use her abilities to enrich and effectively support others on their journey in the agricultural industry. A devout Christian Andy feels it is important to see the positive in all situations. We never know who is watching our life or whom we are influencing and I want to serve as a good and positive influence to others she said. Many rewarding opportunities await for individuals interested in corporate education or self-employment in the arenas of agriculture production product manufacturing food processing agribusiness marketing and promotion agriculture education just to mention a few. The development of skills in multitasking communication time and people management technology and a strong work ethic will provide a strong foundation for success in the agriculture industry. Comfort experience and confidence with autonomy and decision making processes can be helpful in agriculture careers. 11 Women of Distinction Angela Sears Wagenti Technology Web Design-Web Hosting SEO SEM and Computer Networking President Owner Vroooom Technology Inc. Columbus GA ngela Sears Wagenti is driven by her passion to serve others by guiding them to find their own passion or help them complete their existing goals to better their lives and businesses. She believes it is most important to understand what truly motivates a business entrepreneur stating Most of us are not driven by money but by the result of our capability to lead our clients and staff in the path of success. Angela started her company Vroooom Technology in June of 1999. She claims that her friendly clients helpful staff and the ongoing changes of the Internet World are all factors that have kept her in the industry for over a decade. As the President and Owner Angela is responsible for handling the sales marketing and client retention as well as overseeing staff and client meetings. She works hard and is determined to provide a work environment that enables her company to work to the best of their ability and make each and every client feel comfortable in the tech world . As technology is constantly evolving Angela feels that it is imperative to learn as much as possible. She enjoys the challenge of change and the fact that one in this specific industry will never do the same job twice . She admits that having to gain the necessary knowledge in all positions within the business can sometimes be overwhelming especially when explaining information to a client in terms that they can relate to without talking over their heads . Vroooom Technology was awarded in 2008 as one of the top 10 most dependable website developers in the Southern USA by Entrepreneur Magazine & Delta Airlines SkyMall Magazine. Aside from her role at Vroooom Technology Angela has maintained a career in the professional dance industry for over 30 years. She has taught Jazz Tap and Ballet and owes a great deal of her success to her dance background as it taught her self-discipline how to think quickly and most importantly how to follow through and never quit. A Job titles were never important to me because I was always driven by customer service for a client. Without our clients we do not have any business. Angela states. She has served on many non-profit boards of directors and has been affiliated and chaired everything from a Golf Tournaments to black tie events for fundraising. She was a guest speaker to the graduating class of business marketing and entrepreneurs at CSU and is a member of numerous nonprofit organizations. She co-founded a non-profit after school program KIND and chaired the certification for the City of Columbus Georgia under Governor Predue s entrepreneur friendly designation certification was granted in September of 2006. When Angela has some down time from running both Vroooom Technology and Capella s Dance Studio started in 2015 she enjoys being with her daughter. She currently attends an RPM class many concerts and for the past 14 years she has been coaching her local Arena Football Dance Teams which came in second place in the AF2 Arena Football in both 2002 and 2003. Angela Wagenti would someday like to be remembered as a loving passionate and caring woman who inspired those around her to become all that they ever dreamed of being. 12 Women of Distinction Bobbi Chamberlain Post-Secondary Education HR Advisor - Grande Prairie Regional College Grande Prairie Alberta Canada F inding her first job after post-secondary at a local Pulp Lumber Mill operated by Weyerhaeuser Canada (a lumber mill) enjoying physical labour and taking on additional responsibilities as a team development for five years Bobbi Chamberlain was then promoted into the Human Resources Team as employee relations in 2000 her first official position in the HR field. She left Weyerhaeuser after reaching her goal of becoming the Lumber HR Lead after only 4 years as the Employee Relation Lead. She left that position to have her first child. Regrettably he fell very ill as an infant and at that point Bobbi did not return to work. Instead she stayed home with her son and later added a baby girl. Upon returning to the work force Bobbi spent the next several years growing as an HR generalist and even training young inexperienced HR managers. This provided her with the experience for her current role as HR Advisor at Grande Prairie Regional College in Alberta Canada where she is responsible for advising staff at all levels of organization on HR related processes policies and functions. Having two children 22 months apart has allowed them to be best of friends. We do so much as a family that it s great that they always have each other no matter where we go. They are both wonderful people and it s a true blessing to have them both. Her son has completely recovered and she now together with her family are active in their Community s Relay for Life which raises money for Cancer Research. The family provided open remarks in 2012 Event and has been featured in local newspapers. She comments that her son is actually pretty famous in that circle. One of the most difficult times in my life was dealing with my son s illness. At that point I knew that his happiness and his recovery would hinge on me putting my life on hold which I did willingly. Our life was turned upside down for a long time but through his strength and drive as a baby we recovered to be a healthy happy child son brother grandson and friend. He is an amazing young man. I am hopeful that all other battles are easier than the one he found as a child. My ability to continue to grow and learn share my knowledge with others and the very fact that HR is always changing keeps me engaged and interested in my profession. I am forever a student and learning every day is very important to me whether with technology or being creative and providing suggestions and ideas on how to improve culture or change someone s life by offering them a job or a promotion or creating mentoring programs it is very empowering. There are always opportunities to mentor formally or informally and to improve individuals teams and organizations. It truly never stops. She also loves that her profession found her versus her going out to find it. Too often young women jump into something they re interested in as a young adult. Life looks different in your 20s then it does in your 30s. I took the opportunity to follow a path that I didn t choose one that someone else pointed out to me. It was just where my life took me and it has proven to be a great fit. 13 Women of Distinction Bobbi was greatly inspired by Cathy Slater the Vice President of the Grande Prairie (Weyerhaeuser) site when Bobbi assumed her role in employee relations. Many professional women have inspired me over the years but Cathy stands out the most for me. She was a mom a leader and an active community member who amazed me. If only I could take a small piece of her with me in my career I knew that I too would find success. In her free time Bobbi enjoys spending time with her family. She has been happily married to her husband Michael for the past 10 years. Michael has blessed me with two beautiful children a warm home and a handful of amazing friends. Bobbi also maintains a strong relationship with her parents. Learning to accept this and find a way out was critical for me as I did not want to stay in that place. I knew deep down that I had more to offer and owed myself the opportunity to get well. And I did with eating right fitness having a support network education laughter and above all else finding out what I really wanted which was happiness. Not many people list happiness as a goal but that was mine. My plan for happiness was success and accomplishment at work at being a mom and in a having a meaningful relationships. The pieces of the puzzle were all those things. Happiness is sharing my story hugging my kids knowing that I m a woman and that I can be happy. No one is allowed to push me down. Bobbi would like for her daughter (and all daughters) to have the courage to be a trailblazer that regardless of what others tell her she will be successful and find fulfillment in her choices to know that she doesn t have to choose between being a mom or a professional. They truly are the reason why I am who I am. They raised a strong confident and independent person. My mother who stayed at home to raise us is my true hero and my father has always been my rock he was tough and soft at the same time. They both supported me in everything I did including sports school marriage and children. My parents raised a daughter and by choice got a friend. The best part of my days is picking my kids up from my parents house and feeling gratitude and appreciation. My kids are there and they re happy. And I m happy because I just spent my day doing something I love and seeing that the people I love are happy as well. It s a pretty special moment that I get to have five days a week. She admits that being a woman is not easy. The world expects us to be strong beautiful fun independent intelligent and then be an event planner a chief a taxi driver a teacher a lover a friend a mentor a volunteer a maid an organizer an athlete a banker a shopper Santa Claus the Easter bunny the tooth fairy. And then for women who want to work it s just one more ball in the air that needs to be juggled. A woman s work is never done yet I m proud to be a woman because I get to be all these things and I get to show others that it s possible. In her mid 20s Bobbi was diagnosed with clinical depression which she thought was a sign of weakness. She can do both and I ll support her in her dreams and decisions. My mom looks after my kids so I can pursue my dreams. I will pay that forward to my daughter so there s balance in her life and I can watch in amazement as she forges ahead and sprinkles greatness over the people she touches and the organizations she works for. She also hopes that her son will view women as an equal and that they are strong smart proud and ambitious. Successful women have strong supportive people who surround them. He gets to be that person for all the women in his life to help raise them up and reach for the stars. 14 Women of Distinction Beth L. Blecker Finance Chief Executive Officer Wealth Manager Registered Financial Consultant Eastern Planning Inc. Pearl River and Rye Brook NY F inancial advisor Beth L. Blecker is a specialist in her field. She brings more than 30 years experience to her company Eastern Planning Inc. in her roles as Chief Executive Officer Wealth Manager and Registered Financial Consultant. On the surface Beth provides practical and strategic planning advice to help her clients ensure a sound financial future. But Beth is not only about the bottom line. She stands out in her industry for providing personalized service being sure to walk her clients through each step of the financial planning process to ensure confidence in their investments. Beth s own experience makes her passionate about helping women achieve financial independence and an understanding of their financial future. Beth came of age in era when women weren t expected to become more than a nurturing wife and mother. Beth however always enjoyed earning a living while helping others. After college she went into teaching because she was told that it was the proper field for a women. However she later found out that not only were there jobs available in accounting but she possessed a natural ability for math. Beth and her ex-husband operated a small accounting firm for several years but believing that it was the man s responsibility to oversee the household finances she knew little about where her own money was being invested. My mission is to help my clients plan with confidence so they can enjoy their life Beth said. Family Wealth Management is integral to that mission and goes one step further because I understand that it s not just their money it s their life. Beth does not believe in the one-size fits all plan. She understands that the best financial plans extend beyond spreadsheets and graphs. Beth is known for creating plans that reflects every aspect of our clients life. Unlike larger financial firms Eastern Planning s strategies are customfitted to each retiree s unique goals and family situation. She is particularly interested in involving women in the planning process and would never let a spouse sit down in a meeting without their partner. In my married life I let my husband take the reins believing that was how it should be Beth explained. Later I found out what a mess it was. It is imperative for all women to know what is going on. When the marriage dissolved Beth concentrated her focus on her true passion -- financial planning. She realized her loved was helping people plan their futures rather than going over the numbers of the past. 15 Women of Distinction Becoming a Registered Financial Consultant after 20 years in corporate and public accounting Beth aided the launch of Eastern Planning Inc. in 1995 only to take over as CEO five years later. With two locations in Pearl River and Rye Brook New York Beth has been helping people nationwide to plan with confidence and enjoy their lives ever since. Eastern Planning Inc. s primary objective is to help clients meet their long-term financial goals. After first participating in a question and answer session Beth s team will clarify their current financial position and identify long-term goals. Finally they will work to develop a customized holistic strategy that takes all aspects of the client s financial life into consideration including investment allocation retirement planning tax planning estate planning and insurance and risk management. Once the plan is implemented Eastern Planning Inc. will meet with the client as often as deemed necessary in order to stay abreast of changes to update their plan accordingly. I am an educator and a planner and Matthew is analytical Beth said. We compliment each other. Our clients get the best of both worlds. Beth is a longtime member of Ed Slott Master Elite Advisors an organization of financial leaders dedicated to serving leaders in the IRA industry. As a Master Elite Advisor for the organization she teaches retirement planning and distribution strategies to local CPA groups and corporations as well as various financial services industry events. She is on the board of People to People food pantry Saint Thomas Aquinas College President s Council and is a Big Sister for the Rockland County Big Brother Big Sister program. She holds ongoing fundraisers with her staff in particular Back to School with Dignity where school supplies are donated to needy students and Project Joy where they adopt families at Christmas. Beth is the former host of a weekly internet show called Taking Control Financial Independence for Women and is Past-President of Rockland Business Women s Network a non-profit that supports and empowers women by providing networking and educational opportunities. I simply love what I do each day is very rewarding Beth said happily. I have a great team of professionals working alongside me every day. I put my clients first and always try to do what is right even if it doesn t earn me the most money. In the long run doing what is ethical is beneficial for both parties. Finance is a family business. In fact Beth s son Matthew is a CFP CFA MBA Chief Investment Officer and Partner of Eastern Planning. I would like to leave a legacy that I was a caring individual and did whatever I could to help she said. Eastern Planning Inc. was born so I could help people plan with confidence and enjoy life. 16 Women of Distinction Cherie Elizabeth Hill-Fogle Healthcare Medical Billing Specialist Caring for Carolina Inc. Columbia SC I n the fall of 1990 Cherie Elizabeth Hill-Fogle began her career in the healthcare industry as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) after graduating from Coastal Carolina Community College. Working in hospitals and nursing homes all over North Carolina she eventually took a private job working for an elderly couple. Relocating to California she continued to work in home healthcare until she was ready to start a family. Three children and 10 years later after her youngest began kindergarten Cherie was ready to go back to work. While working as a CNA in home care Cherie was asked to interview for a medical billing position something completely different from what she was trained in. Landing the job she remained in position for seven wonderful years before relocating to Columbia South Carolina to do the same type of work. In March 2015 she received a phone call from someone who was starting a new targeted case management company and he asked if she would apply. Agreeing the interview went great and she earned the title of Medical Billing Specialist for the new business Caring for Carolina. What I do now is very challenging yet also very rewarding Cherie said. As the biller of the company I create all of the claims to bill Medicaid. I also do the payroll for our entire administration team and case managers and make sure to keep track of all the billing both manually and electronically making sure to abide by HIPPA at all times. Two great perks of Cherie moving into the administrative side of healthcare was that she not only got a pay raise but she no longer has to work weekends. As a single mother for much of her career more money and more time spent with her children was a huge bonus. I spend all of my free time with my kids Cherie said smiling. We travel to Virginia to visit my son who is away at college and to my hometown of Slidell Louisiana to visit my brother and nieces. Free time with my kids is priceless they are my life. Always relying on her personal strength and determination Cherie has never let any obstacle get in her way. She is never afraid to ask others for help and is an optimist at heart. No matter how difficult your circumstances there s always a way to change them for the better she added. Remembering her father who taught her and her brother the true value of work ethic Cherie s dad was a maintenance engineer for NASA who worked on the first moon landing. He worked hard but he also spent all his free time with his family. Although both of Cherie s parents are now deceased she thinks of them with fondness and love in her heart. Her daughter Caitlin 21 lives at home and attends South University in pursuit of an RN degree. Son Cody 19 is in his second year at Virginia Wesleyan College on a Presidential Scholarship and is studying business. Daughter Casey is a junior at Spring Valley High School. Casey has a 4.9 GPA. 17 Women of Distinction Christina Aldan Speaking Training Digital Advertising Speaker and Founder LG Designs and Chief Marketing Officer PrayerSpark Las Vegas NV C hristina Aldan is a connector. A naturally gifted communicator she is serving her purpose bonding with others and exchanging creative ideas. She is proof that perseverance and a desire to learn will result in living a life you love. As Speaker and Founder at LG Designs Christina travels internationally to give presentations and conduct workshops about women in tech digital advertising diversity and inclusion and social media marketing. Additionally she manages digital advertising projects and daily operations for the company s clients. She is also the Chief Marketing Officer for PrayerSpark an organization that provides free prayers affirmations and intercessions from an extremely curated group of spiritual practitioners. In her role Christina oversees all of the group s public relations brand Identity marketing and advertising. Christina is a 2001 graduate of Michigan Technological University where she earned a Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Environmental Sciences. She got her start designing websites in 2005 when she taught herself HTML while working two full-time jobs. Drawing on her painting talents she viewed web design as a new art medium. Designing web art was a way to express myself while helping my friends and family grow their online business she said. As a lifelong learner my core values can best be summed up by the words forward positive creative. Forward because we are ever evolving through personal growth. Positive because it reminds me to share information that is constructive and will be received with open arms. And creative because authentic creative expression connects us to our higher purpose and to the people around us. Throughout her life many people have inspired Christina s career path. Growing up Christina lived an impoverished childhood. However the struggle has become one of the greatest motivators for her success. Her parents instilled in Christina an incredible work ethic that has been key to her accomplishments. Christina is avid volunteer in her community donating her time to numerous charitable organizations and professional associations. She is on the Board of Directors of the Never Give Up Foundation and volunteers for the Boys & Girls Club of America just to name a couple of organizations. She is currently writing a book for female small business owners. The biggest lesson that I have learned that I feel is good advice for others is to be willing to make mistakes she said. I used to see mistakes as failures but these days I welcome the opportunity to learn something new. You only fail when you quit. If you quit then you know for sure you will never make it to the finish line. However if you pick yourself back up (it gets easier with practice) and learn the lesson then everyone benefits as you evolve and grow. 18 Women of Distinction Courtney Leonard Fashion Retail Founder Creative Director and Designer of my fashion brand MIDGE by Courtney Leonard Portland OR D esigner and business owner Courtney Leonard made a name for herself in the fashion industry before she entered middle school. She got her start as a child model for a Nordstrom children s fashion show at a local mall. The industry recognized her talents instantly. Throughout her preteen years Courtney continued to model. By the time she was 14 years old she was invited to become a member of the Nordstrom Fashion Board. Courtney was enthralled in the world of fashion her position exposed her to the product development process. She immediately knew fashion was her true calling. Today Courtney is the Founder Creative Director and Designer of her fashion brand MIDGE by Courtney Leonard. She is involved in every aspect of the brand. Sales drive the company forward and Courtney enjoys taking on that portion of the business head on. She is constantly devising creative new ways to reach the marketplace as it is always shifting. Creating awareness about sustainability in fashion is my number one priority also the ethical treatment of workers models- the industry really needs to embrace reform and change a few of its ways Courtney said. I am not just another designer making pretty things I care about the future of our planet and promoting sustainability through art and fashion is my calling in this life. I want to make eco friendly designs glamorous and just as desirable as ideas from other modern brands. Success has not been without struggle. Rejection has taught Courtney great resilience. I was turned down to model internationally at 14 the reasons were embarrassing and crushed my confidence my grandmother was with me she recalled. It was at that tender age I realized I was different not just physically but that my mentality was different. Instead of walking away from being involved in the industry I decided to become the tastemaker someday to embrace women of all body types and ethnicities in my collections. When Courtney isn t designing her next collection she is helping women build confidence off the runway. She is deeply involved with organizations and events that empower the next generation such as Girls Scouts of America Power of the Purse and Maiden Spirit. Fashion is like a sister to me a soul mate Courtney said. I love expressing myself through clothing and watching history unfold every season Fashion is always exciting and challenging at the same time so I never bore of working on my collections. The legendary Coco Chanel and Vivienne Westwood have been huge inspirations in the manner Courtney approaches design. Fusing environmentalism with fashion and Avant Garde aesthetics are the result of her adoration for these powerhouse women. Courtney uses her platform as a designer to promote the eco-friendly design practice of upcycling materials. She is naturally gifted at breathing new life into fine vintage textiles and designer scrap leather. The practice allows Courtney s business to have low environmental impact while offering more exclusivity per product. Building up the confidence of younger generations really inspires me women are capable of anything and I truly believe in promoting the dreams of our youth 19 Women of Distinction Cynthia L. Harkey Pet Care Professional Owner CEO of Cindy s Smiling Sammy Grooming & Boarding Inc. Avis PA C ynthia L. Harkey s love for animals has been evident since she was a young girl. When Cynthia was about 10 years old she rescued a beagle that was running lose in a park. Her father allowed Cynthia to keep the pup. Since Cynthia has owned several different dog breeds and has turned her love for animals into a fulfilling career. Cynthia was first introduced to the pet care industry in 1990 when she adopted a female Samoyed puppy and fell in love with grooming. At 40 years of age and after working decades in the corporate world Cynthia decided to invest in herself. In 1993 she opened a small grooming business in the basement of her Pennsylvania home. From then on her company Cindy s Smiling Sammy Grooming & Boarding Inc. blossomed. By 1994 with the help of her husband John Cynthia opened her company s first brick and mortar location. She added 12 dogboarding kennels and a small room for boarding cats. Today Cynthia is the proud owner of the largest grooming and boarding facility of its kind in Clinton County Pennsylvania. Over the last 21 years she added 52 kennels a large boarding room for cats two bathing stations four grooming stations a retail store with pet foods and pet care supplies and a Doggie Day Care Room. Cindy s Smiling Sammy Grooming & Boarding Inc. also offers puppy socialization and beginner obedience classes. She employees a staff of 10 dedicate workers. Cynthia may be the business owner but she works right along side her staff. Besides running the day-to-day needs of the company she also steps in with training employees grooming cleaning kennels scrubbing floors and working with clients. Cynthia is a committed member of her community and helping animals outside of the office. She hosted a fundraiser on behalf of the local fire department to purchase oxygen masks for pets in the event of a house fire. She volunteers at the SPCA donating free grooming services to help adoptable dogs find forever homes. She gifted a poo clean- up station for the local dog park. Her company also donates food to animal shelters and holds an annual Pet Pictures with Santa event. All proceeds from the photos are donated to a local food kitchen run by a local church. In her free time Cynthia show handles her own dogs and writes a column called Ask The Groomer for a local magazine called Pawsitively Pets . I love helping people with there pet problems be it having a litter of puppies or advising them about what to feed their dogs she said. I just want people to know if I can help them with there pet problems I would be glade to help. What really keeps me going is the passion I have for not only my dogs but my clients and their pets she said. I have great employees who love the animals as much as I do. My kennel workers keep my facility in tiptop condition. My Bathers and Groomers do a great job making the client s dogs look like their ready for a show. 20 Women of Distinction Dana Donofree Retail Apparel Founder CEO - AnaOno Philadelphia PA s Founder and CEO of AnaOno Dana Donofree is dedicated to boosting the confidence of breast cancer survivors through her custom lingerie line designed specifically for who ve had breast reconstruction surgery. A I love what I do. I love being creative and analytical. I enjoy the industry both the ups and downs and watching an idea go from sketch pad to prototype to market. My passion lies in helping women feel beautiful confident and proud through my line AnaOno. Their positive feedback and my ability to make a difference in their lives keeps me going through the challenges of being a solopreneur. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design as a Fashion major in 2003 Dana moved to New York City to pursue her career in fashion. In 2004 she started out in her industry as an assistant designer for a private knitwear label. Eventually Dana used her years of experience to found AnaOno in response to her difficulties in finding a bra that properly fit after her mastectomy and breast reconstruction. AnaOno produces lingerie that is both sexy and comfortable for women who have undergone breast reconstruction. As CEO of her company Dana is responsible for everything including design marketing and production. Juggling the multiple responsibilities that come with running a successful fashion line has presented a learning curve but Dana has remained at the top of her game with support from the many great people in her life including her inspiring customers. In the past year AnaOno has won first prize in the 2015 FedEx Small Business Contest and finished in the top 10 in Intuit s 2015 Small Business Big Game contest. I never gave up on my dreams. I may have had to choose which to pursue like trading in choreography and dance for fashion and business but I always had my mind set on having my own company and my own fashion collection so I pursued it. I also wanted to make a difference with my work and I m so thankful and excited it is becoming a reality. I have been humbled by the experience. In her leisure Dana enjoys traveling outdoor activities yoga and spending time with her family husband and dog. She is a Board Member with Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Vice Chair of the Board for breast cancer nonprofit Jill s Wish. I just want to know that I did something to make things a little better. I want to have been able to positively affect one person in a way that changes their life for the better. I think a lot of us just want to live fully and earnestly with joy and love and the chance of having our dreams fulfilled. I feel that way too but I also want to live altruistically. And I don t want to be known for it per se just knowing I was a part of it is enough. My advice to someone starting out in this industry is to be prepared to work hard. Make sure this is what you love and want to do. Passion will take you further than you can ever imagine but you still have to stay focused and work hard. If you have your heart in the game dreams can come true. 21 Dawn Ellen Morris D Health and Wellness Fitness Personal Trainer Group Fitness Instructor Wellness Coach Lake Forest IL and surrounding areas awn Ellen Morris loves helping clients change the trajectory of their lives. As a Traveling Trainer (as she likes to call herself) she works at local gyms and studios all over the Lake Forest Illinois area training people how to exercise properly and gain lasting results. As a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor it s Dawn s role to get them to set realistic fitness goals and keep them by designing custom programs that meet their fitness and nutritional needs. My sister actually bullied me into my career Dawn said laughingly. At the time I was a Registrar for the local high school. I was bored and didn t know what I wanted to do with my life but I always loved to exercise. It was my sister s idea to follow my passion. Attending the National Personal Training Institute Dawn graduated in 2007 and later received certifications in Zumba Zumba Senteo and PiYo. Hired by the Institute to instruct the clinical part of their curriculum Dawn also teaches people how to become personal trainers. Ten years later and Dawn is still as happy as can be. Inspired much of her life by famous fitness instructors like Billy Blanks and Jane Fonda who pushed her without even knowing it Dawn was overweight for much of her life. Q&A Q How important is hiring a personal trainer A If you don t know the first thing about losing weight or the gym hire a personal trainer. The trainer helps guide your motivation. Q Can I just exercise and eat what I want and still lose weight A Your nutrition is 90% of your success. Q It s been 10 years since you lost all of your weight. How have you kept it off A I stopped obsessing and started loving who I was. When I became proactive in my own life (watching what I eat smaller portions 4-6 meals per day tons of water) the weight went away. Q What is your favorite type of exercise A My favorite is Functional Training which teaches you how to have good form in what I call real time moves. We lift haul squat and carry all day without realizing it. Q What do you say to someone who comes to you to train but isn t motivated A Clients bring the motivation not the trainers If you aren t motivated for change there isn t much I can do for you. Q Is it possible to train with injuries A Yes A well-rounded trainer always has modifications to keep you moving. Q How much should I exercise A When deconditioned start slow for a half hour to 40 minutes three times a week. After building endurance do 40 minutes to an hour four times a week. I was the mother of four married for 22 years and overweight the entire time. I reached 225 pounds she said. Through exercise I finally found my voice. Exercise has taught me who I am it s not just about how I look. 22 Women of Distinction Debra Davis Faith Based Non-Profit Community Resource Founder Chief Executive Officer One Voice Inc. Beckley WV W ithout any treatment plans in place short- or long-term recovery homes or residential care the families of Oceana West Virginia dubbed Oxyana needed help and hope. Witnessing too many families burying their youth due to drugs former teacher Debra Davis made the decision to take action and help this small town. Q&A Q Do you feel that One Voice makes a difference A Of the many free services we offer everyone always leaves better than they came from the addict in active addiction to the family that s exhausted from dealing with the addiction to the children we feed. Q What would you like to see change A Growing One Voice takes volunteers and funding. We re limited only by those two factors. Q Why is it important to have One Voice in your community A Communities begin to grow when people come together to help each other. One Voice trains leaders not followers which creates a positive environment that breeds success in the lives of others. Q What are the largest problems facing your staff A Transportation and money We live in a very rural community without public transportation. Our goal is to make getting to the office as easy as possible and employment for volunteers and clients that depend upon second chances. Q What can you tell me about this organization that isn t widely known A Our vision is to have all of our services under one roof and we are looking for investors help. I taught in public school for 28 years Debra said. In 2005 I formed One Voice Inc. and after 11 years of continuously growing this faith based non-profit organization we still have no federal or state funding or paid staff but a handful of dedicated volunteers that work diligently to help families fighting for recovery. One Voice is more than a ministry we are a mission. As Executive Director Debra now has offices in three counties of West Virginia. She supervises the program directors college interns and Day Report clients all speaking engagements events fundraising grant writing and volunteer training implements crisis referrals for clients in active addiction local short long and residential facilities works with adult and juvenile drug courts meets with families to work on faith based 12 Step programs and feeds hungry children through their Food For Angels program. One Voice was built solely on deep and rooted faith in God and unity Debra added. The former teacher holds a Master s from West Virginia University serves as a mentor to new teachers supervising practicum teachers and interns is a member of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and Pray WV Prayer Team is State Ministries Coordinator for United Cry DC16 Chair for Wyoming County Prevention Coalition and Event Organizer for Prescription Drug Take Back Day. She s also writing her first book entitled My Journey of Grace. Married to her high school sweetheart of 40 years Debra and Jeff have three sons and one daughter-in-law who all live within walking distance of one another. 23 Women of Distinction Effie Layne Stidham E Education Teacher Hazard High School Hazard KY ffie Layne Stidham was an established lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in her field when she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of teaching. While Effie found practicing law both challenging and rewarding she believed the privilege of guiding students in learning and achieving their goals would be nothing short of a blessing. In August 2010 she entered into the Masters in the Art of Teaching program at Morehead State University and simultaneously began teaching middle school ELA. She graduated with a 4.0 in 2013 and began teaching at Hazard High School in Hazard Kentucky. I have always wanted to teach Effie said. Quite honestly didn t consider becoming a teacher because of the low pay educators receive and decided on law because of the financial possibilities that profession affords. While teachers are still one of the most underpaid underappreciated and overworked group of workers of which I am aware I came to realize that there are more important things in life than a comfortable salary --namely loving what one does professionally. Hazard High School currently employees 19 teachers. All wear many hats. Effie teaches English I II III U.S. History Dual Credit State and Local Politics Introduction to Criminal Justice and American Government. She enjoys stepping up when her school needs assistance with extra-circular activities. She coaches girl s varsity soccer and the Speech and Debate team. She scores written assessments for the Academic Team hosts a Halloween lock-in for her classes works with prom and after-prom programs and tutors English and U.S. History. Effie is a dedicated member of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators National Educators Association Kentucky Educators Association Social Studies and English Language Arts Professional Learning Community within Hazard High School and is a Next Generation Teacher representing Hazard Independent Schools. Effie cherishes these roles and most of all values being a part of her student s academic and personal growth. As far as teaching in the classroom students first want to know you genuinely care about them as a person she said. Once they feel that (and you can t fool kids) they will learn the content and try just about anything simply because they want to please you. It s an amazing process and very rewarding. Effie has been married 21 years to Joey Stidham. Joey is a former Kentucky State Trooper and currently is owner and president of Stidham Reconstruction and Investigation where he is an Accident Reconstructionist and Private Investigator. The couple has two daughters. Teaching full time taking graduate level classes coaching and being a wife mother and daughter at the same time was overwhelming Effie said. Realize that people will help you and let the small stuff go. I learned that a value cannot be placed on the love and support of family and friends. With their help and a strong faith in God anything is possible. 24 Women of Distinction Ellie Neff Education Professional Development Curriculum and Development Consulting Chief Executive Officer Neff Educational Consultants Westover PA B y the time Ellie Neff had entered her sophomore year of high school she knew what direction she wanted to take after graduation. Convinced she would become a teacher Ellie began her journey in 1974 after earning her BS in Elementary Education and Library Science at Slippery Rock University. Q&A Q What can a parent do to help their child succeed in school A A parent must be available supportive and involved both at home and in the school. Q What can a parent do if they think their child has a disability A A parent should address these concerns and seek professional assistance to help the child overcome the disability. Q How can Neff Educational Consultants (NEC) help a child who is struggling in school A NEC provides private tutoring. Private consultation is also available for parents legal guardians to provide suggestions to assist a child s school struggles. Q Can NEC enter a school to help a child A NEC can only go into the school if contracted by the school or if an agreement is made among all entities for specific observation of a child for diagnostic or remedial purposes. Q Can NEC work in a school A NEC can only work in a school if contracted by the school. Q What type of need does the company address A NEC does professional development for teachers tutoring consultation for teacher effectiveness and school district budgetary concerns. Q Who are the consultants employed by NEC A NEC will employ consultants who specialize in the area of need. All consultants are certified and in possession of all clearances necessary to work with children. I spent my entire 39-year career as a teacher in the same building Ellie said happily. I had the same degree of enthusiasm on my last day of teaching as I did my first day due solely to the young minds who I fondly referred to as my kids . Ellie realized very early in her career that reading was a life skill and it was due to that belief that she guided her students to seek knowledge through the written word. Having always been intrigued by human curiosity and their own ability to learn her life was fully vested in her students success day after day year after year. Once Ellie retired she founded Neff Educational Consultants (NEC) as well as the EBB Program a higher order thinking program for students. The company which is still in its infancy stage will be conducting two pilot programs in two local schools to gather statistical data to document the effectiveness of the program. Using this technique during the last five years of working in the classroom Ellie is very excited about the program. Married for 36 years to her husband Dennis a former registered nurse Ellie has been tending to his every need since becoming a quadriplegic 16 years ago. They have two children Christopher 31 a Taxidermist and Nature Photographer Owner of Full Circle Outdoors and Dustin 28 a Federal Prison Officer. 25 Women of Distinction Eva Macias Founder of Eva Macias & Associates Financial and Insurance Services Covina CA 26 Women of Distinction F inancial Expert Eva Macias believes all working families deserve equal access to financial information. Through her company Eva Macias & Associates Financial and Insurance Services her goal is to bolster financial literacy and raise awareness. Eva Macias & Associates is a financial and insurance service marketing firm representing not just one but many of the largest and most well respected financial services companies in the world. The company offers a variety of highly personalized services including debt management college saving life insurance and retirement planning. Founder Eva uses her highly trained eye to take an X-ray of her client s finances and create a customized financial plan to reach short and long term goals while always keeping the big picture in sight. Eva has assisted hundreds on the road to financial security earning her a trusted reputation within her field. Eva is a wonderful smart intelligent woman who has helped me in numerous ways one client wrote. My life had changed and Eva was abundantly instrumental in helping me get financially organized which was very difficult for me without her. She made things smooth and easy to understand. I am so very appreciative for all of her knowledge and for helping me through it all. Ms. Macias guidance has helped me in so many ways to embark on my next journey in life without worrying. Eva s own financial curiosity and family inspired her pursuit toward financial equality and public awareness. I realized there are so many hard working people such as teachers police officers and city employees that truly don t understand in full their job benefits especially when it comes to retirement and also their additional supplemental options Eva said. People need to know about this and I feel responsible in spreading the word to these communities. I am the person you want to have in your corner at all times. Your best interest is always on my mind. I want you to know that when I see you and your families I ultimately see my own family. I love and have a passion for this work like no other. My actions will always speak louder than my words. I started because I wanted to start saving in a 401k but my current employer did not offer a plan so I went to the banks she recalled. I then realized I would be getting peanuts saving with them. When I asked my sister and my parents to help me understand this 401k stuff I discovered my parents combined income was only about 1100.00. Given my parents worked for over 30 years I was not okay with that At that moment I realized I needed to do something about it. Eva attended California State University of Fullerton and previously worked for Escrow Today Inc. in City of Industry for eight years where she learned the roles of Probate Short Sales Auctions Sales and Refinances in the Real Estate field. Later she worked for Legacy Full Circle Financial Services and learned about 403(b) 457 401k Social Security Benefits Annuities Life Insurance -- and much more. Eva licensed by the State of California to provide Financial Awareness. However her success did not happen overnight. One of the greatest challenges was being looked over for contracts with multibillion-dollar companies. Because Eva is a young female at times she felt as if industry veterans and older clients did not trust her knowledge. She encourages others aspiring to work in the financial industry to persevere through professional hardships. 27 Women of Distinction Don t give up no matter how hard it may get she advised. Be a sponge take in all the information use what works for you and don t worry about the rest. Know your strengths and use them to your fullest potential. In my view the biggest lesson is to focus out and not make it about YOU. My vision has been my biggest lesson because I realized I needed to get out of my own way if I wanted to share my knowledge and vision with the rest of the world. Don t be afraid to ask for support from others because at the end of it all if you care enough about a person they will see your vision and not the fact that you may only want to get their business. ALWAYS keep this in mind it s all about the customer s goals and vision - not about my wallet. An inspirational leader and sought after public speaker Eva specializes in helping women create a simple-to-follow financial plan in 60 minutes or less. Continuing her mission to share easy to understand financial information with people from all walks of life she authored A Woman s guide to MONEY and uses her expertise to educate her community through charitable contributions. Eva is the Founder of La Latina Y Su Dinero TM Financial Literacy workshops and is a Community Sister Circle Leader for Amigas4mysoul a non-profit that reaches out to women regardless of their background age financial status or sexual orientation and provides tools for them to create a better tomorrow through empowerment and education. Eva offers monthly 30-minute motivational conference calls and hosts sister circles in different cities based on the topic discussed on the call. Additionally Eva volunteers as a Life Coach for Mastery In Transformational Training (MITT) where she has dedicated hundreds of days to support in transformation workshops. She is also a speaker for California State University of Los Angeles and and La Federacion Jaliscience helping to raise financial awareness in her community. When Eva is not working and volunteering her time you can find her spending time with her family and her dog Marley. She is looking forward to continuing her mission and one day starting a family of her own. I would like to leave a legacy where women know they are worth it Where kids know they matter and where humanity restores its faith in trusting to support one another and in dreaming and reaching for their dreams Eva said. I feel like as we get older we stop dreaming like we did as kids. I want to leave a LEGAGY where money is no longer the issue of dreaming big. Free from financial considerations as visionaries in this world our main goal should be about how can we serve humanity as a whole. 28 Women of Distinction Jodi Monetti Real Estate Realtor Associate - Keller Williams Realty East Monmouth Shrewsbury NJ T hrough her work as a Realtor Associate with Keller Williams Realty East Monmouth Jodi Monetti is dedicated to helping her clients find the right home to purchase to the best of her ability. I have a passion for helping people. Buying or selling a home can be very stressful so I enjoy guiding them through the process. Before becoming a real estate agent Jodi worked as a mortgage loan officer for her now husband Frank at Hometown Mortgage which last from 2005-2007. In 2007 she decided to become a licensed real estate agent as she saw it as a much better fit for her. Jodi credits her husband as being her biggest professional inspiration. His 25 years of experience in the business knowledge work ethic and determination have set a positive example for her to follow and he has served as her mentor since the start of her career in real estate. I ve written an autobiography called The Steps of the Righteous . It tells my life story touching on the struggles I ve endured including childhood sexual abuse and showing how my faith in God carried me through the dark years transforming me into the woman I am today. You can find out more by visiting In her leisure Jodi enjoys spending time at church and with her family. She also heads a soup kitchen along with her husband and their church group. Jodi is a Ministry Leader at Abundant Grace Church in Toms River NJ and is a member of the New Jersey Association of Realtors the Monmouth Ocean County Association of Realtors and the Monmouth Ocean County Multiple Listing Service. The advice I would give those starting out in this industry is not to despise small beginnings. Learn all you can. Join with a company that has top notch training like Keller Williams Realty. The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that FEAR is false evidence appearing real. You can have fear or faith but you can t have both. I will make mistakes and that s fine. I just have to keep moving forward. As a Realtor Associate with Keller Williams Realty Jodi is a full time real estate agent who engages in all types of residential real estate on a daily basis. In 2010 she earned a NJAR Circle of Excellence Award. Each year her real estate firm gives back to the community through RED Day which stands for Renew Energize and Donate by serving worthy organizations and causes in the area. The only legacy I would like to leave is that I helped millions of people through my story. 29 Women of Distinction Jolanta Paterek E Education & Art Associate Professor at Georgia State Perimeter College Bethlehem GA ducator and artist Jolanta Paterek believes each and every student has the potential to bring something unique and special to the world. As Associate Professor of Fine Arts Arts and Humanities at Georgia State Perimeter College her goal is to help students to develop their potential by encouraging them as capable individuals. She particularly emphasizes learning to think about trends and directions rather than rote memorization of facts. Her course activities in the classroom are organized competent and thorough. She takes pride in perfecting each given lecture. Equally important to her is ensuring that her students are informed about new art trends and art techniques. Her unique way of communicating through art is quickly becoming a historical importance it is called art beyond time and the future. With artwork that is considered a work of genius Jolanta s the Abstracts Narrative Exhibition has been dubbed the event of the century. Current prices range 300 000 to 620 000 but are expected to triple in the near future. Throughout the 15 years contributing to her fields Jolanta has attended workshops conferences and exhibitions and has researched the study of art history -- tracing the old and the newest trends so that she can share discussions and information with other professionals in the field as well as friends colleagues and students. A dedicated member of a several organizations including Gadsden Art Association and Woman of the Impact Jolanta has earned numerous awards including a Focht Award Marshall County First Place Award and Hartselle Festival Depot Days First Place Award. She holds a MFA in Mixed Media from Georgia Southern University. Being a philanthropist has helped me raise my knowledge in art history and as an artist Jolanta said. Because of my knowledge experience and passion of art I am able to awaken the desires in students to study and obtain their own knowledge of art history and essentially feel art for art s sake. Jolanta previously spent time in graphic design before becoming an instructor. Prior to accepting her position at Georgia State Perimeter College in 2010 she taught at Georgia Southern University in Continued Education as a Fine Arts Instructor. She has enjoyed many years travelling and exhibiting her artwork in across New York and Europe. Jolanta art epitomizes ongoing artistic investigation of the cultural sexual psychological religious and political conditions of man mind. It reveals and explores the depth and death of the human soul especially the state of agony. Each viewer will find something both different and personal in her work. She welcomes controversy which is portrayed brilliantly in art sculptures currently being exhibited at the Agora Gallery. One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students as I share my own passion for learning with them she said. Finally I tie learning into the world community to help students become caring and active members of society. Jolanta is available for newspapers radio television and interviews. Contact the artist directly at 678-425-1100. 30 Diane Jircitano Service industry providing Move Management services to seniors and busy families Owner of Custom Moves Baltimore MD fter working in the government sector for most of her professional career Diane Jircitano was felt unsatisfied and in need of a change. She was in search of something more challenging and more fulfilling. She found both in 2014 when she acquired Custom Moves a specialized concierge moving services for seniors and busy people in the Baltimore metropolitan area. As owner and general manager Diane manages every aspect of the business including accounting payroll advertising and managing projects. Though the majority of Diane s business deals with downsizing packing unpacking and settling clients into their new home no two jobs are ever the same. Each client is slightly different making each job slightly different. Diane has established a reputation of being honest reliable and hardworking by being able to adapt and change in any situation. She works personally with each client to ensure the services she provides are tailored to their personal needs. Diane who holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and a Project Management Professional Certification is also an active member of NASMM (National Association of Senior Move Managers) and Baltimore County Provider Council. She encourages those just starting out in the industry to never give up and never stop learning. A Q&A Q What exactly is a senior move manager A A senior move manager is a professional who specializes in assisting older adults and their children with the emotional and physical aspects of relocation. Q Do you only provide move management services to seniors A No Custom Moves provides move services to anyone who needs it. This can be busy families or even individuals who do not have the time to declutter downsize or pack and unpack. Busy families often have both parents working and children with extracurricular activities leaving little time to pack and unpack. Q Why is senior move management needed A Most older adults making a transition have not moved in 30 40 or 50 years and need to downsize considerably. The organizational and physical tasks associated with planning and implementing such a move can be overwhelming. Family and friends often want to help but there may be barriers. Adult children may be sandwiched between their parents their careers and their own family obligations. For family members living far away the barriers may be geographical. Keep working Diane said. Learn from each project and each individual you come in contact with. Reach out to others in your industry and learn from them. 31 Judith Iris Quate Arts Writing Owner Artist Author Public Speaker ScrapperJude Designs Warrington PA R etiring from her career with the Bureau of Prisons in 2010 after working 40 years as a Medical Secretary and Accounting Technician Judith Iris Quate is now dedicating her days to leaving a legacy for her son Jason creating a foundation in his name and spreading the word about advocating for the disabled. Back in 1979 Judith had taken eight years off to raise her twin sons Jason and Michael as a stay-at-home mom. Two months premature her one twin Jason suffered a hemorrhage in his brain a week after he was born that resulted in spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Learning to cope and care for her baby boy while also raising his brother who also suffered learning disabilities from slight brain damage Judith pushed through. Jason passed away in 2006 at the age of 28 Judith said. Michael is now 36 and married to a wonderful woman and mother. I have one grandson who is seven and one granddaughter who is four. They are the light of my life. Going back to work in 1987 after her eight-year hiatus Judith s son Jason was placed in a special home for severely physically challenged children and she returned to work. Securing a job with the Department of Justice she worked another 22 years before retiring at the age of 60. In 2010 Judith formed her business ScrapperJude Designs by writing a memoir of her son s life. She later began creating mixed media inspirational art sharing her wisdom with creative quotes to inspire others who are also experiencing challenges in their lives. Judith sells her work at fall craft shows and uses these shows as a platform to also sell her book and spread the word about advocating for the disabled. The craft shows enable me to network with other crafters and customers too. There is always at least one customer at each show who has a child or knows of a child with disabilities and we learn from each other by talking and sharing Judith noted. Judith is a member of The Women s Business Forum which meets once per month and she serves as Treasurer. She also recently reached out to The Skills of Central Pennsylvania an organization that cared for her son for 20 years to hopefully begin volunteering with them in the future reaching out to politicians serving as a parent advocate and learning about all of the programs they provide to the disabled community funding they receive and how they research grants and accurately apply them. Dreaming of forming an organization of parent advocates throughout the country that would be comprised of powerful speakers political advocates and parents Judith hopes that children will soon be taught more about disability awareness in schools. Hoping to also spread disability awareness throughout the country Judith s work is not finished. Born August 15 1950 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania Judith spent her entire upbringing there only relocating to Bucks County 20 miles north of Philadelphia just 10 years ago with her husband. She grew up with wonderful parents who taught her the many values she still honors today. Judith also has a sister who is her best friend and many cherished cousins who live throughout the country. 32 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What do you hope to achieve through the formation of your business A We live in a very violent world. Discrimination is a large part of the violence. I hope to send a message through speaking engagements and media to offer alternative views related to discrimination and disability awareness. Working with our politicians is a priority. It is clear to me they are not setting a good example in this regard. Q What is wrong with the health industry today related to caring for special needs individuals and their families A I believe more education is needed for physicians and other health professionals. Sensitivity training should be included in their curriculum studies specifically knowing how to approach parents with special needs children. Professionals who care for the special needs child need to be aware of the families as well of their emotional and fragile state of mind. Q Do you take advantage of social media to help your business A In today s world social media is a must. It provides online exposure advertising and a way to spread my brand. Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest and Instagram have all contributed to my exposure on the major online search engines. Q What is the importance of having a blog A A blog is just another online opportunity to spread my brand. The more that my business is placed online the better exposure I ll receive on search engines. It is important to keep to a specific agenda and to use the appropriate tags to gain attention to my brand in the search engines. For example my blog s name is Jude s Inspirational Wisdom because I spread inspiration with each blog post related to disability awareness women s rights and my experience wisdom and expertise related to my years of challenges. Q What was your experience like writing your book A I wrote my book with no experience and I depended on my editor. However I had a good story to tell and nothing was going to stop me from writing it. I had a very important story to tell and I wanted the world to meet my son. I wrote the book in the style of the way I would verbally tell the story simple and precise. Although dealing with publishers editors and marketing people and the lack of communication was and still is very frustrating my success so far has been my social media contacts and friends and family who helped me spread the word. 33 Women of Distinction The Honorable Karen D. Camper Government State Legislator State Representative Legislative District-87 Tennessee House of Representatives Memphis TN 34 Women of Distinction T he Honorable Karen D. Camper s commitment to her community is unparalleled. After 21 years as a United States Army Intelligence Officer Karen retired and returned to Memphis to establish the Humble Hearts Foundation. The non-profit organization is dedicated to helping inner-city youth through music. With a strong commitment to serve her community more Karen became deeply involved with a number of organizations to uplift and revitalize the vibrancy of her neighborhood and hometown - Memphis. Her commitment was evidenced by her active participation in her homeowners association and local political party meetings. During this time Karen recognized that the voices of everyday citizens were not being heard. She decided to run for office and become that voice. Elected in 2008 Karen is a Democratic member of the Tennessee House of Representatives and represents District 87. During her five terms Karen has accomplished a great deal and serves on a number of committees. Fostering coalition on difficult issues was challenging for Karen. However she has overcome this challenge by keeping an open mind on the issues and being willing to compromise to achieve overall success. Her greatest professional inspiration has been the late Honorable and Speaker Pro Temp Emeritus Lois M. DeBerry who paved the way for so many in her capacity as a legislator. She went on to win the Junior League of Tennessee Legislator of the Year Award (2014) There is still a lot of work to be done she said. I have built relationships within my political party and across party lines. I am in a position to pass meaningful legislation impacting the lives of Tennesseans. Hoping to leave a positive impact on the world Karen is dedicated to empowering the lives of youth in America. Karen is the youngest of four children and has one son Bruce Camper Jr. In addition to founding the Humble Hearts Foundation she spent seven years as a substitute teacher in Memphis City Schools. She has participated in reaching for the Stars Youth Talent Competition the Positive Note Entertainment Industry Awareness Program and the Mid-South Fair Youth Talent Competition. Additionally she supported transportation and organized constituents to attend several community events including Washington DC for the People s Inaugural Project the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial unveiling Girls Gigabytes and Gadgets summit at the White House and House District 87 Day on the Hills. Outside of being a politician Karen gives back as a Charter Member of Women in Military Service for America Life member National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Life member Blacks in Government Veterans of Foreign Wars and Order of the Eastern Star. She is a Council of State Governments Henry Toll Fellow (2013) and recently founded New Beginning All Life Ministries in Memphis. She holds a number of certificates in her field. She is certified as an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor and in Equal Opportunity Leadership. Representing the people s voice is very important to me and is needed at the highest level she said. I routinely ask the questions that the average person on the street wants an answer. To get the answer and keep the community informed about what s going on at the state level and how that impacts on the local level. Karen sponsored and passed the first criminal records expungement bill in the state of Tennessee as well as a bill to create a certificate of employability which will give former felons a pathway to an honest living reduce recidivism and create more stable neighborhoods. Additionally Karen supported a measure requiring all law enforcement agencies that store and maintain sexual assault collection kits to conduct an inventory to determine how many kits are being stored or untested. Karen serves on a number of key committees including the House Finance Ways & Means where she is responsible for reviewing understanding interpreting and passing the state s 33 Billion budget. She also serves on the Budget Subcommittee Transportation Ethics and House Rules Committees. Karen holds leadership positions in the Tennessee House of Representatives as Former Democratic Floor Leader Democratic Caucus Treasurer Chair of Legislative Women s Caucus Chair of Shelby County Legislative Delegation and Co-Chair of the Veterans Caucus and Chair of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women In addition to serving in state capacities Karen also has several national positions. She currently serves as National 2nd Vice President of the National Black Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (N.O.B.E.L. Women) Region IV Chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and is a board member of Women s Action for New Direction. 35 I want people to know that I have impeccable integrity and I am a solution oriented person she said. Because many people lack trust in their elected officials I want to get results. Women of Distinction Leah Carlos Marketing Brand Ambassador at Elite Marketing Group Chicago IL W hile giving care to an aging loved one Leah Carlos realized that she could not work full-time and she needed to be in an industry that allowed her schedule some flexibility around the caregiving and she could still enjoy her hobby among many others sewing. Leah knew she needed to have to some income between her sewing projects and decided to search online for part time jobs. Leah believes that many Brand Ambassador jobs are being given to younger people however she also knows through experience that jobs come from being in the right place at the right time and Leah feels blessed and fortunate to continuously be employed. At the end of the day Leah knows she will be remembered for being quiet. Although her introverted personality posed some barriers in terms of her profession overcoming these boundaries helped create success both personally and professionally. I saw the brand ambassador position several times online so I looked into it and applied. A few years and several job opportunities later I began working with Elite Marketing Group for Amtrak at Union Station. In her role as a brand ambassador Leah is responsible for approaching travelers particularly Amtrak travelers telling them about the benefits of being a Guest Rewards member inviting them to sign up at that moment and tell them what to expect after they are accepted. Leah is also responsible for giving directions to the travelers and answer any general questions they may have. Leah also works on the side selling her designs her father s poetry books and designs and fills the inventory needs of certain online storeowners. In spite of financial troubles I gave care to an aging loved one. I understood the need to maintain what my parents left behind including the creativity talents and faith they gave me. I stayed with the Lord through many trials and tribulations and came out just fine in the end. Everyday Leah makes a conscious effort to represent the desirable qualities of her family community church and state. She feels like she will never outgrow the accountability friendship positive attitude that Leah attributes mostly to her married parents to whom she dedicates this article. My father owned a shoeshine stand when he was younger on the west side of Chicago and had his own business selling things to support his family. He always exhibited the can-do attitude necessary to provide for our family in the toughest of times. It s this attitude that I take with me everyday. In order for me to continue successfully promoting marketing and selling his poetry books and accessories my own designs and now financial freedom through gold I knew I needed to be friendly speak clearly communicate effectively find the target audience approach engage buyers and assume the sale. 36 Women of Distinction Loriana Armstrong Maldonado J Construction General Contracting Residential Commercial Building and Remodeling President Armstrong General Contracting Milwaukee WI ust under two years ago in May 2014 Loriana Armstrong Maldonado and her husband Nicholas Armstrong both decided to make a huge career change. With Nicholas looking at other options for future growth beyond the company he was working for and the fact that he and Loriana both shared backgrounds in construction they took the bull by the horns and founded their own business Armstrong General Contracting. Taking advantage of contacts and resources with them they began to build a new life for themselves and their family in the wonderful city of Milwaukee Wisconsin. Currently certified as MBE WBE WOSB and SBE by the City of Milwaukee the Hispanic woman-owned general contracting firm does general contracting work in both the residential and commercial industries and specializes in carpentry siding roofing painting and landscaping to name a few. Their portfolio includes everything from multi-story learning centers to the historic preservation of some of Milwaukee s most beautiful homes. Proud to contribute by helping the city continue to thrive they only hire local professional employees that share the very same passion as they do for the industry. As President I lead to the best of my abilities. I m here to inspire influence and motivate Loriana said admirably. As the leader of the company I try to inspire my employees to pursue excellence to extend themselves and to go beyond just performing their job requirements. Working hard to prove herself in a very male-dominated field Loriana is fortunate to have her husband right behind her every step of the way. The mother of two Valentina Nicole 4 and Ana Karolina 1 also light up her life and make her feel that her work is truly worth it. I embrace the fact that I m a business owner a mother and a wife she added. I m a mom who can manage a team from my home office or on a business trip and can build a culture for women with children to succeed. I ve never been more productive satisfied and excited about my future. Loriana is an active member of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Wisconsin. Recently Armstrong General Contracting was part of the Greater Milwaukee Committee s Scale Up Milwaukee Scalerator program an action project focused on developing the entrepreneurial capacity in Milwaukee by bringing together policies structures programs and climate that foster entrepreneurship. They were also awarded the 2016 Central City Award for Small Business in the City of Milwaukee. Believe that Armstrong General Contracting is succeeding as a company by generating creative ideas Loriana says that there is a lot of excitement that comes from working in construction. The never ending possibilities to explore in the industry is immense and the growth potential is immeasurable. Loriana began her career in 2007 as an Executive Assistant for the president of a local construction firm before being promoted to Operations Coordinator. She learned a lot about project management and further discovered the importance of coordinating and running various projects at once. Today she leverages her talents by being a boss that can be counted on 37 and a contractor that clients can trust. Women of Distinction Melinda Dame Christensen Real Estate Investment Staging and Interior Design President - Christensen Capital Inc. Columbia MO T hrough her work as President of Christensen Capital Inc Melinda Dame Christensen displays her passion for design by providing top level services for her clientele. Christensen Capital is also involved in real estate investment. Design has been a true passion of mine for as long as I can recall. I ve always wanted to make things look pretty and I ve never left the industry for too long. Melinda started her career in design after graduating from the University of Missouri in 1988. As the President of Christensen Capital Melinda s main responsibilities are to renovate and stage properties and hire and work with employees to manage all properties and projects. She works on almost every level of interior design and staging from rearranging furniture and accessorizing homes to working on large commercial projects. Melinda also helps clients remain within a budget find appropriate furnishings and manage spacial orientation and codes while also aiding in the compromising between the project decision makers. When it comes to her biggest influence in her career Melinda gives the credit to her mother whose amazing attitude and talent in design and art influenced her to achieve the success she has today. Starting in the design industry is difficult to do on your own. My suggestion to anyone starting in this industry is to work for as many architectural firms or design firms as possible in order to get a good grasp of the concepts. I highly recommend being affiliated with ASID (American Society of Interior Design) as it is a high organized group with education involved. This will lend credibility to your name and designs. Also always look at all sides of an issue in order to make all parties happy to the best of your ability. Regarding her education Melinda has a BS in Housing Structure and Interior Design from the University of Missouri which she earned in 1988. She earned her Real Estate License in 2001 and become both an ASID affiliated member and a Certified Property Manager in 2015. At the moment Melinda is pursuing her Masters and Ph.D. in Architecture. In her leisure Melinda enjoys reading writing spending time with her family and producing computer art and graphics. As a writer she has published a book called Lost in the Here under the name of Melinda Wilferth. She hopes to one day teach architecture. I m a longtime designer with many projects under my belt so I can be trusted with your space. Many people need help but don t know where to find that help. I want to be the person that can help them. 38 Women of Distinction Mika Tomac RN Ph.D. Healthcare and education Mental Health Nurse (South West Detention Center) Registered Psychotherapist (University of Windsor & Peace of Mind Counseling Services) Professor (University of Windsor & St. Clair College) Children s Author Windsor Ontario Canada M ika Tomac s career choices have led her to success in more than one field. Mika attended McMaster University from 1983-1987 and acquired a BA in Psychology. For as long as she can remember she had a keen interest in the mind how people think and subsequently behave. Predating university she hoped to help people animals and generally anything or anyone that needed it. She entered the nursing program at Mohawk College in 1987 to secure a profession that would allow her to do just that. Mika works for several different organizations specifically the South West Detention Center (SWDC) the University of Windsor St. Clair College and lastly her private practice Peace of Mind Counseling Services. She is a registered mental health nurse clinical therapist professor and registered psychotherapist. She even became an author when her children s book Let it Go How Matilda Finds Her Happiness hit the shelves under her pen name Mimi Thomas . Her specific tasks ultimately center on caring for those that suffer severe mental illness. Working with educating and advocating for those who struggle with their situation have no support or do not know how to navigate the system allows her to provide the necessary care to maintain their optimal health and quality of life. With a strong passion for the mental health field Mika feels mental illness is an under serviced population yet one that is in great need of attention. No matter how challenging or harsh the world can be Mika describes herself as an eternal believer in kindness and compassion . Her everyday logic is to be the observer and witness in life not the judge. She feels that despite her own struggles it is her goal in life to lift others up in order for them to see all that is good on this Earth. She is a huge advocate for communication transparency and humor finding the beauty and lightness of life. Mika names Dr. Irene Patelis-Siotis whom she worked with from 1995-2007 at St. Joseph s Healthcare in Hamilton Ontario as her greatest professional inspiration thus far. She has great respect in Dr. Siotis for teaching her how to believe in herself to step outside of the box and to not be afraid to stretch her mind. Mika names her mother Barbara as her personal inspiration. She pays homage to her mother for her undying devotion to her children and her unconditional love for who they have become. When she has some down time which she very much enjoys she spends it in the presence of nature with her dog Nugget walking gardening meditating. Mika Tomac is thankful every day for what she calls the wonderful gift of life and her hope is to live it to its absolute fullest. 39 Women of Distinction Stacy Vencill Cunningham Transportation President KTJ Transportation Inc. Tazewell VA F rom humble beginnings Stacy Vencill Cunningham overcame a seemingly never-ending series of obstacles to become the successful president and founder of KTJ Transportation Inc. The full service freight and shipping company specializes in moving freight weighing 45 000 or more -- the dedicated staff maps routes provides customers and drivers with pertinent information as well as manages office logistics to ensure KTJ Transportation complies with all local and federal laws. Each day Stacy performs a wide variety of tasks to keep her organization running smoothly. She oversees all departments including human resources insurance and client relations. She relishes the opportunity to help others and bolster the economy through providing reliable shipping services. By never giving up and putting working hard first Stacy is living proof that anything is possible. After graduating high school 16-year-old Stacy married her sweetheart and became pregnant. Unfortunately the baby was stillborn. The experience gave her new insight into life and the value of children. It took quite some time to return to normal after that but Stacy carried on. She went on to have a daughter named Tabitha and a son named Justin. Life was fairly normal. The couple worked and bought a home but by the time she turned 21 years old Stacy reached the realization that growing up had divided her and her husband. Tabitha was in pre-school and Justin was only a toddler when the couple divorced. So began one of the most trying times in Stacy s life. At the time she lived in Virginia but relocated to Raleigh North Carolina which was named one of the top ten states for job growth. She started over working in a convenient store while going back to school for phlebotomy and medical lab technician. During this time Stacy successfully landed a position at Duke Regional Medical Center in patient accounts which increased the household economy tremendously. I was always so busy with trying to raise my children work to provide for them and better myself for the well being of us all Stacy recalled. There were times I even took them to school with me at night and put them in the teachers lounge with TV dinners homework and toys. But I had also picked up a third shift job at Duke Hospital in the lab. I had a day time position home with the kids in the evening little to no sleep and then off to third shift job while roommate watched over the children. My parents were about 7 hours from me and I relied heavily on friends for support to accomplish the goals I had in mind. In 1999 Stacy was handed another devastating blow. Stacy s children moved to Myrtle Beach to be with their father. I had completed my phlebotomy classes and worked only during the day at Duke hospital but to my children it was a much greener fence on the other side she explained. They had decided they wanted to live with their father in Myrtle Beach SC so after a lot of counseling and heart wrenching decisions I let them go he was their father and they did have the right to know him and give it a try they were early teens at that time. Once her children left life didn t seem to hold much meaning for Stacy. She became extremely depressed and her goals no longer seemed worthwhile. It was at her lowest point Stacy decided to take a trip to Denver with a friend who was a cross-country truck driver-- the choice changed her life. She instantly found a passion for the transportation industry. The peace seeing the country new people...I had found a new spark Stacy said. As I learned to drive a truck I was also gifted with being able to see the bigger picture in trucking. The freight the demand the cost expense ratio... it made me decide that I wanted to own my truck maybe even my own company. 40 Women of Distinction With a new long term goals in mind it was time to get to work. From then on Stacy drove a lot. She saved her money and took time off only to rotate visits with her children or parents. Having went back to college she was able to see the demand and impact transportation did hold as well as now knowing how to drive a truck other factors played in from a business standpoint. Goals of owning her own company coming off the road buying a home and having time to dedicate to her parents children and grandchildren was a realistic future. An accident took Stacy off the road earlier than she planned. She suffered a fall that broke her neck fortunately she was not paralyzed but had to have surgery and cadaver bone replacement with plates pins and rods. From there Stacy mapped a new path. She returned home to her roots in Virginia and began working for Speery Trucking where she became friends with her new boss owner of Speery Trucking Inc. Steve Peery. He taught me about flat bedding as I knew about refrigerated trucking and the position I held within the company helped boost my confidence levels she said. I bought my first truck from him as I continued to work for him and run my truck as well. I continued to learn more about the Department of Transportation rules and regulations the ins and outs of trucking the logistics and the ever constant changing state and federal laws side and found I was pretty good at it. Matching customers freight needs with available trucks and negotiating the rates improved Speery Trucking s status with customers employees and for my employer...Steve Peery. The satisfaction from doing a good job for Speery Trucking the customers whose employees relied on us to move the freight and the drivers whom I could identify with their needs and wants on the road was very rewarding. In 2011 Stacy launched her own company KTJ Transportation. The joyous accomplishment was cut short a few weeks after starting her company. On March 04 2011 Stacy woke up on a Friday morning to find her only son dead. It took quite some time before Stacy could function again with the support of Steve and other family and friends she was able to regain her footing. In May 2012 Stacy refocused on her company and was enjoying both a growing career and a growing family. At the time of his passing Justin had left a young lady pregnant with his child. Stacy did all she could to help be there for mental emotional and physical support for the pregnancy and then the child s birth she is now currently raising Jaycen Justin s four-year-old son. Her daughter also welcomed children into the world including triplets. Her grandchildren gave Stacy a sense of great purpose. During this trying time Stacy finally found love again. By 2014 the couple was married and Stacy had gained two stepchildren. Her business was picking up as well. She expanded the company by buying another truck and trailer. There were many obstacles came but I overcame them she said. My friends and family would not give up on me nor would they allow me to give up. My mother was my North Star. Even though she had obstacles in life she constantly reminded me to continue to rely on God to not be bitter or angry to see the good and remember that family and love are the most important reason for us being here. That everyone has things to deal with in their lives and where they are can be just as hard as where you are at that time. To remember to focus on what I had set out to do and keep my faith intact for the family I still had here with me and that my son was watching over me. That my God still had plans for me and those I was to interact with for His purpose and it was ok to live my life to find purpose happiness and love. My business gave me freedom I never had known I was able to travel and see my grandchildren and try to heal all while working and creating an income. Spending more time with my daughter and grandchildren helped me to heal. I have found that to keep moving forward achieve your dreams never stop believing and always move forward. Anything you set your mind to can be achieved. You have to take time plan work and don t lose faith in yourself or God. You have to want it bad enough to make sacrifices work hard and plan really well to include the other aspects of life. If it s worth it to you you can find a way you can get through the hard times and you can come through the storm to find the sun shining. 41 Women of Distinction Tracey Lucchesi Dental Dental Distribution President - Trako Dental & Medical Supply Grayslake IL T hrough her work as President of Trako Dental & Medical Supply Tracey Lucchesi loves helping people and takes pride in providing clients with the dental and medical products they need to help others as well. One of Trako s specialty products is their private label of diamond burs which has been a big help for the company s business. Dentists who buy from Trako find the quality of their diamond burs to be superior and the cost savings to be beneficiary especially for the company s DSO groups. Set goals and stay on track with where you want to be in 5 10 15 years. There will always be setbacks but learn how to overcome them. The most important advice is to never ever give up. Also be authentic tell the truth do what s right and don t be afraid to dream big. In her leisure Tracey enjoys music traveling helping others and spending time with her family including her loving husband and two sons. Her company promotes oral health by donating tooth brushes floss and toothpaste to local organizations such as homeless shelters and St. Vincent De Paul. I love what I do I ve met so many positive genuine and professional people both customers and owners reps. Many of our customers have been with us for over 20 years. It s the relationships that keep me in it. After working in a dental office for 10 years and growing tired of her day to day routine Tracey decided to search for a position as a dental sales representative. While she was successful finding a job in the new position she felt there wasn t enough of a challenge and went on to start her own company. In 1993 with the help of her parents Tracey began Trako Dental & Medical Supply with a small inventory of five products. At the start she ran her business out of her parents basement and would visit 25 offices each day in search of new clientele enlisting the help of her mother and father when it came to bookkeeping and order shipments. While starting her new business was no easy feat Tracey s determination has paid off as her company has grown into the successful business it is today. As President of Trako Dental & Medical Supply Tracey s main responsibility is to oversee all daily operations. The specific task that keeps her company functioning at the highest capacity is to make sure their customers are happy and that they can supply them with the products they need. As challenging as it may be at times I think women should know that they can balance a successful career marriage and raise great children. I hope to be remembered as an honest caring down to earth person who enjoyed working hard so I could enjoy the finer things in life and spend quality time with my family. 42 Women of Distinction Viola H. Glaze Healthcare Nursing Healthcare RN Supervisor Xerox Health Management Menands NY F rom an early age Viola H. Glaze was drawn to the healthcare industry. Her passion was ignited by a 9th grade career day assignment. She was asked to find an individual who worked in a science-related field to speak to the class. Viola immediately thought to ask her best friend s mother who is a registered nurse. Four years after that assignment Viola enrolled in a nursing program in 1987. Today Viola has been a practicing nurse for more than 24 years. She currently works as a Healthcare RN Supervisor at Xerox Health Management. At Xerox Viola is a clinical liaison on the project to assist New York State Department of Health transitioning the Medicaid Management Information System (NYMMIS) for claims reimbursement. The talented author has penned a children s book entitled Kitty of My Heart with a message geared towards heterosexual gay and lesbian parents. Recently Viola had a production company review another one her novels with the possibility of a stage production. Jazzman A prophetic love story by v prophetess haizlip is available for purchase on One of Viola s greatest challenges in her writing career came when it was time to publish her works. Most agents and publishers were not interested in taking chances on an unknown author and she had to put her books on hold for a time. But the publishing industry has become more digitalized. Now Viola is able to do much of the legwork myself -- she calls the shots and makes changes according to her own creative plans. As a writer I d say now is a great time to carve your own niche within this industry and call your own shots she said. Believe in yourself. The most inspirational ideas come from the people and events closest to you. Family friends coworkers neighbors all have a story that you could weave a creative tale. Story telling is also therapeutically cathartic. In her spare time Viola enjoys spending time with her husband Sean 16-year-old stepson Devon cat Gabby and dog Lily. She loves dancing cooking long motorcycle rides and seeking inspirations for more stories. I love data analysis problem solving medical record review requires she said. My career path enabled me to view health care from the bedside caregiver s view and from the corporate perspective as well. Viola s career affords her the professional mobility to support herself and follow her true passion -- writing. She believes a writer s life is her work. Viola draws inspiration from embracing experiences and learning from them no matter how painful strange or upsetting they may be. 43 Women of Distinction Jacqueline Robinson Retirement Life Coaching Owner- Life 2.0 Community JRR Consulting Inc. Monmouth Junction NJ At that point in my journey which started out as a horrible experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise said Jacqueline. I was totally lost but I just took the first step and realized I was still standing. Then I took the next step and I was still standing. It is just taking that leap of faith. It allowed me to learn life lessons that created the who of who I am now. s Founder and Owner of Life 2.0 Community Jacqueline oversees all aspects of her business from marketing seminars to networking to participating in speaking engagements. Her ultimate goal is to spread the word to all women that retirement is not the end and to create opportunities that allow professional Baby Boomers to continue to utilize their skills and talents to serve others. When Jacqueline was working in corporate America one of her most fulfilling tasks was training and developing her team by helping them tap into their talents and inspiring them to achieve more. She uses this skill set to coach her clients. Jacqueline believes in the power of support. Her webinars and seminars provide an intimate setting for women in similar stages of life to connect with one another. A We help each other she said. It is really group accountability that we draw upon. It starts with you taking the time to sit and reflect on your life not just now but in the past. Even as child what did you enjoy doing What do people tend to come to you for naturally Is it advice Is it craft From there have the courage to take the first steps. Hoping to leave a legacy of service Jacqueline is zealous about helping people find the talents and skills that they love using. What has kept me in my career is meeting women and realizing that my story has really helped others to move on she said. I am very passionate about helping people become their best and to live the best life that they can live. Those talents skills and passion will help them be of service to others. 44 Women of Distinction Christina Conner Writing and speaking Inspirational Author and Speaker Katy TX s a young girl inspirational author and speaker Christina Connor always felt a deeper yearning for the spiritual aspect of life and an innate curiosity about God and love. In 1988 she discovered a large New Thought spiritual organization in Houston Texas. A short four years later she was hired as the organization s receptionist which lead her on a ten-year journey of training to become a Licensed Teacher and Spiritual Counselor. It was within those ten years that Christina came into her own after having lived practically in survival mode raising her three children on a waitress wage with no child support. Her gifts and talents unfolded at that time when Christina was in her forties she tapped into her natural ability as a writer. In 1998 Arielle Ford published Christina s first story in the book Hot Chocolate for the Mystical Lover. Christina then had another piece published in Cindy Cline s book Always Hope before authoring her first book titled You Deserve It A True Story of Learning to Say No in Order to Say Yes to Big Love under the pen name Marisa Bellami. Admittedly the road to success was not without its challenges. Childhood was chaotic and painful. The messages Christina received left her bound by negative and limiting beliefs. Additionally Christina challenged herself to overcome extreme stage fright by working on becoming a teacher facilitator of classes workshops and laughter sessions as she trained to do through the in 2002. I feel that the hardships I endured and overcame in life taught me so much about faith and belief and happened so I could help others know that they have everything within them i.e. love faith strength etc. to overcome adversity express their unique gifts and talents and live victoriously. A Actively working to build her brand and learn new skills Christina relies on her inner voice to guide her down the right path and help her share her message with the world through social media classes workshops and speaking engagements. Through my writing and speaking I want to pass on first to the women of the world to know their worth and that they have the power within themselves to change their situation if they need to and second that we ALL have what it takes to create our lives the way we want them to be. A lifelong lover of learning Christina believes in having a healthy body mind and spirit. She enjoys Jazzercise walking biking and continuing her education through reading learning Italian and guitar and writing songs. She encourages everyone to make positive changes in their life at any age. You can learn to love yourself in a healthy way at any time and also that you can achieve your dreams at ANY AGE of your life because it was when I was in my forties after raising my kids that I was able to and inspired to expand and express my talents in the world. 45 Women of Distinction Q&A Q What is the message of You Deserve It and why is it important for women A The message is that despite our culture s high expectations about beauty and weight or demeaning attitudes toward women there are ways that we can dispel any negative beliefs about ourselves that prevent us from having a fulfilling and happy life (including a Big Love) by learning to love and honor ourselves. Q Why would a woman (or a man) want to read your book A It is a true story of a woman s journey of self-discovery and growing into her own power and self-worth which is universal for all women. And as it has been shared with me by the opposite sex a man can glean important insights about women by reading it. Q What are some of the challenges you have faced in becoming an author A As an author trying to pay bills while writing a book it was finding the time or being disciplined enough to take the time to write and finish the book that was challenging. Q What don t people understand about the book publishing business A Most don t understand that writing a book is just the beginning and is 20%. Marketing your book is 80% and it takes a lot of effort time and money. And publishers are not providing advances like they used to in times past. Q What is the most gratifying or rewarding aspect of being an author or speaker A The gratifying aspect is when someone who has read my book or heard me speak shares with me that they really resonated or were helped by what I shared. It helps me to know that I am doing my purpose in helping others. Q Have you always known you wanted to be an author and speaker A No I loved writing poetry growing up but did so mostly in angst of my life and had no idea who I was until my forties when my life and spiritual experiences led me to want to help others in their search for the truth of who they are and why they are here. Q What life experiences helped you in pursuing your career as an author A Fortunately working at the spiritual center that brought in such major author speakers as Deepak Chopra Wayne Dyer Norman Vincent Peale Marianne Williamson and so many more gave me the insight into that field and how it worked and something within me yearned to be able to do the same thing with my writing. Q What important thing do you want women to know about you A I would like women to know that I came from a mindset of being poor struggling to make it with my three children as a single mom to finding my calling and coming up the ladder of self-esteem to know that we as women have everything it takes to be and do what we want when we have faith perseverance and listen to our inner guidance. Q Where do you see yourself in five years A I see myself having published more books and my avenues of expression i.e. books inspirational CD s music I see my writing and speaking having expanded to being my total source of income. Q What advice do you have for those who want to author a book A Find out as much as you can about publishing. Get involved with writer s groups. Don t give up on the message you want the world to know about or the story you are inspired to write Your story matters 46 Women of Distinction Deborah Lynn Strafuss Complementary Integrative Medicine Reiki and Energy Work Reiki Master and Teacher CDP Owner Crystal Reiki Poet and Author On Angels Wings A Journey Through Alzheimer s With My Mother Framingham MA I It is never too late to change your life change your world and change your health. n 2011 Deborah Lynn Strafuss learned and began practicing Reiki for her mother who had entered the later stages of Alzheimer s disease and needed skilled nursing care. Deborah was looking for a way to stay connected to her mother beyond the failing means of communication and cognitive interaction they were progressively losing. Words cannot describe what happens in a healing space as Reiki flows into a life. Bearing witness to the healing journey of others watching Reiki open and expand those who receive it is a humbling and extremely wonderful experience. An opportunity to secure a healing space presented itself and Deborah responded by creating her Crystal Reiki practice. She can be found at The Gentle Place Wellness Center in Framingham Massachusetts and is expanding her connections to bring Reiki into other wellness centers. Deborah is a passionate advocate for the benefits of Reiki for those with Alzheimer s and other dementias and for their care partners as well as an advocate and supporter of research for its cure. As a writer and poet Deborah has recorded her experiences and insights as a care daughter in her upcoming book On Angels Wings A Journey Through Alzheimer s With My Mother due for publication by Balboa Press later this year. I was looking for a way to bring her peacefulness and support her in her journey. At that point she was no longer able to tell us when she hurt or where and transitions into nursing homes are very unsettling for those with dementia. As a member of The Dream Factory Community a group of women dedicated to supporting one another in taking on their lives work and world Deborah learned to honor her own dream creation process and became open to new experiences. In her search to deal with the devastation of her mother s Alzheimer s disease she attended a Reiki class at her local hospital. I had no idea what it was when I signed up I simply went to see if it could be of help with mom and it was. In 2012 while receiving Reiki as part of her Master Level Practitioner training Deborah had a strong impression that she was to share Reiki with others. The idea of developing a professional practice was never her intention it developed out of the Reiki itself. I m also dedicated to promoting Reiki as a viable reimbursable complementary integrative practice in the integrative holistic health field that is beginning to build within our country. I believe in promoting wellness. 47 Women of Distinction To that end Deborah invests her time giving Reiki workshops while providing training and information to the public. She is a member of the planning committee for the Celebration of Reiki Inc. a non-profit dedicated to building a Reiki community in New England by providing programs and services to support Reiki practitioners and educate the public about Reiki. She is also a member of the Metro West Alzheimer s Partnership which provides community education and resources for living with Alzheimer s where she continues to promote Reiki for those with Alzheimer s and their care partners. As a Certified Dementia Practitioner Deborah is qualified to work with those affected by dementia and volunteers at a local Adult Day Memory Caf bringing Reiki to early and mid-stage attendees and their care partners. Her compassion and personal experience give her the resources to provide end-of-journey Reiki to those with advanced dementia. Q&A Q What is Reiki A Reiki falls under a unique classification in the rapidly growing field of holistic approaches that support our search for health and well-being. It facilitates our own innate ability to heal ourselves on all levels is non-invasive non-manipulative safe for all situations and a wonderful tool for personal health and spiritual growth. Q Do I have to believe in anything to benefit from Reiki A No. Reiki is not a religion and works independently of belief. When I give mini-clinics I give 2-3 minutes of Reiki to many people who have never heard of Reiki at all before with consistently beneficial results. Q Can Reiki cure my cancer A Reiki will support your healing process for any ailment. Healing is your own inner response to outer mechanisms designed to bring about relief from ailment. There is a whole dialogue around cure versus heal. If you are looking for a miracle cure the miracle is within you. It is found in your ability to heal to restore balance and wholeness within. Q Is there scientific evidence to support Reiki Many of us find something we do well and live our lives doing it never going the next step to find what truly lights our fire and illumines not only our lives but the lives of others around us. After twenty-five successful years in Office Administration Deborah s response to the challenge of her mother s illness took her down a completely new path toward Reiki reconnecting her with inner resources and spiritual and creative energies she didn t know she had. She counsels others to seek out their deep inner longings and desires. Your longings and desires are there to guide you to your true and purposeful path. Find that and you will begin to move differently through your life. Deborah knows that one of her most important roles is to educate others about Reiki and so in the following brief interview she describes Reiki and its practice. A Scientific research is underway but is difficult to set up for Reiki or any other type of non-traditional non-drug related treatment that works to promote health and well-being. Our current research models test drug responses for specific illnesses. While Reiki isn t to be used in place of conventional medicine it s continuing use by millions of people worldwide with no contra-indications indicates beneficial responses which have been a subject of some early small studies. Look for more specific research to be forthcoming especially as Reiki is used more and more in medical settings and by medical personnel. 48 Women of Distinction Lisa A. Paul RN BSN BS Nursing RN Kennedy Health System Cherry Hill NJ L isa A Paul s love for taking care of people and helping them get back to their best living ability is the quality that initially triggered her to pursue a career in nursing. Her compassion dedication and commitment to her goal earned her a Bachelor s Degree in Political Science in the year 2003 at Penn State University. Lisa strived to further educate herself in the medical field without losing her first degree and found an accelerated bachelor s degree program for nursing before beginning her career in 2009. She graduated in 2011 and started working in 2012. Lisa has been in her chosen field for almost 4 years but has been working for Kennedy Health System located in Cherry Hill New Jersey for the past two and a half years. Although she has not been in the industry for very long she ultimately plans on continuing for the rest of her life. Lisa is responsible for assessing patients providing the best quality care and therapeutic communication as well as educating patients about their disease process. She is required to keep them safe at all times monitor their health status and is always on her toes as she takes charge of necessary staff and floor needs. Lisa is a critically care trained registered nurse who gives her all to her organization and executes her duties to ensure every patient is comfortable satisfied and completely aware of their condition. She explains that she imagines herself in their position in order to treat them the way that she would want to be treated. It doesn t matter what their ailment is or who they are she envisions herself in their shoes and is willing to do anything she possibly can to assure them that they will soon recover under her care. Lisa is no stranger to challenges as she claims there are difficulties in any work environment however she believes that it is the way a person handles these stressors that helps determine whether or not they will continue toward success. In the beginning of her journey facilities were on a hiring freeze and most did not want to hire new grad nurses due to little experience. She remained positive and focused as she applied for various positions prepared for interviews each one contributing to her gaining experience and pushing her to the next level. Keep your head held high and fight for what you want it will eventually get you there. She says. Lisa feels that keeping such a positive attitude is extremely important especially without any experience. Lisa is presently working on achieving her many goals one being the completion of her DNP at Wilmington University School of Nursing. She is the leader of her daughter s Girl Scout troop in her spare time and cherishes every moment spent with her husband and children especially when traveling and going to the beach. Lisa believes that if she can juggle her career and a family of five anyone can 49 Women of Distinction Luequita Oliver Education Technology Teacher and Consultant Founder and Executive Director of Literacy for Urban Empowerment Queens NY W hen Luequita Oliver became an elementary and middle school computer teacher in 2004 she quickly developed a passion for the field after seeing the impact she had on her students. Enjoying the opportunity to work with children so much she was inspired to found her own non-profit organization Literacy for Urban Empowerment Corporation (LUE) in 2010 named after her mother Lue Pearl Lidge. LUE s goal is to support and encourage the educational development of youth and adults in urban communities by providing them with access to learning resources in an experiential learning environment. Education Empowerment & Evolution is the organization s mission. As Founder and Executive Director Luequita implements the goals of LUE to be a successful entity in the community giving direction and leadership toward program objectives and achievement of the organization s philosophy and mission while also overseeing program delivery and designing an educational curriculum that fosters educational advancement in literacy technology and employability. Luequita s mother Lue Pearl Lidge has been her greatest professional inspiration. Lue was a single mother and for quite some time had to put her dreams on hold to raise Luequita. She was not able to complete high school and instead worked to support her family. Lue was able to save the money she earned from work and eventually opened up a family daycare in their home. Education was always stressed in my household and so my mother after years of being quite the business savvy woman she was without the documentation to prove it pursued and earned a college degree in Human Services from Metropolitan College of New York Luequita said. Hoping to leave the world with her philosophy of Education Empowerment Evolution Luequita believes that there is no better way to live then by helping others. Prior to forming her non-profit she was as a GED Teacher Library and Computer Teacher Faculty Advisor Literacy Coach Instructional Technology Coordinator Adjunct Professor and Technology Education Coach. Earning her Bachelor of Professional Studies in Human Services at Metropolitan College of New York in 2004 Luequita then completed her Master s in Education at Cambridge College in 2006. In 2010 she became a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner through the Center for Credentialing and Education followed by her New York State Grades 5-9 Middle School Generalist Teacher certification in December 2014. I am very dedicated to what I do Luequita said. I pride myself on being able to provide advice and guidance to people on how to attain their educational and career goals. Most of the time people are afraid to reach out but I want them to know that I am an advocate for education and empowerment and that I am here to help them. Communication is the key. She encourages aspiring educators and community leaders to participate in networking events. The more people you know and support the more people will support you she said. 50 Women of Distinction Nasi Raissian Accounting Sole practitioner MKR Accounting Oakland CA N asi Raissian graduated from Middlebury College in 1978 when she chose to stay in America foregoing a prominent position in the Central Bank of Iran. Subscribing to the Hard work and Perseverance way of life she found herself comfortably adapting to her new situation and surroundings. Nasi obtained her degree in economics and went on to become a teacher. Within two years she was introduced to the world of accounting and she began working as a staff accountant. The concept of her duties was second nature to her which is why she decided to commit to this industry. After holding several different accounting positions she decided to obtain her CPA license and her MBA degree. She then took the CPA exam in 1994 and passed it in one sitting. She has remained working in the public accounting field ever since. According to Nasi the upper echelons of her profession were very male dominant which made it difficult for her to break through. She states This problem is not as much of an issue today but going through that challenge allowed me to see a clear path to where we are presently in a more gender equal work environment . After partnering in three different regional firms it was in June of 2014 when she decided it was time to launch a firm of her own MKR Accounting located in Oakland California. Finance sounds like it is all about numbers but in this business you have to be able to tell a story. She says. Numbers are just the beginning. Nasi sees the big picture and uses these numbers to convey the story that makes it possible for the organizations she works with to achieve their mission. Despite the long hours and high expectations of her career Nasi still finds time to give back to her community mentoring many young CPA candidates to help shape their careers. Nasi is presently affiliated with the California Board of Accountancy Qualifications committee and is also on board of nonprofit organizations connected with funding and services for people with cancer. Breast cancer specifically is a cause very personal to her after unfortunately losing her mother to the disease. As a single mother Nasi feels very accomplished with her own success but is even more proud of her children s achievements. 51 Women of Distinction Tammie McLendon Holistic Medicine Owner of Balance Anew Wellness Murfreesboro TN J There are people out there that care. When they come to me for a session that is their time. My primary goal is to help them on their path to living a quality life with less stress and pain. ust over fifteen years ago Tammie McLendon had been ill for several months. She had taken many different antibiotics and visited numerous doctors with no success. Tammie knew that her immune system was essentially nonexistent. In desperation Tammie visited her relative that had left her job as a registered nurse in order to pursue a career natural remedies. At that time I had no knowledge of holistic healing but I began holistic treatment. Within days my health had turned for the better. Astonished at her newly found health Tammie began extensive research into natural means to health and medicine. After years of research self-education and home practice Tammie was finally able to obtain her license to begin her massage therapist license. In 2015 she started her own business based around holistic medicine Balance Anew Wellness which was one of Tammie s proudest moments. There is nothing more rewarding than to have a client come in with some sort of discomfort stress or pain and then see them leave with a smile and a look of relief on their face. Whenever she s not working at Balance Anew Wellness she volunteers for local health fairs and serves the senior community as much as possible. I don t want people to avoid taking care of themselves due to physical or financial limitations. That s one of my greatest fears. One of Tammie s greatest inspirations was her father a hard working man who worked multiple jobs to help support his family and was diagnosed with Parkinson s disease and passed away without a cure. Since her father s diagnosis Tammie has wanted to learn as much as she can to see if there is a way for the body to fight the disease or to prevent it altogether without drugs. I now know and want others to know that there are natural ways to help the body be at its optimum to live longer and with a better quality of life. It doesn t always have to be financially draining. When she opened Balance Anew Wellness Tammie took on the roles of owner CEO bookkeeper shopkeeper sales manager and so on. Although she is the sole proprietor Tammie hopes to see Balance Anew grow into a facility large enough to serve many clients everyday. 52 I want people to think of me as someone that truly cared about the well being of others. I want a person s experience with me to bring a smile to their face and hopefully a desire to pass that happiness on to others. Women of Distinction Charlene Peterson T Children s Books - Pre-K to 4th Grade Children s Book Author President - DCAPT Enterprises LLC Fredericksburg VA hrough her work as a Children s Book Author Charlene Peterson loves to express her passion for writing while providing children with an entertaining way to learn special life lessons. She is also the President of DCAPT Enterprises. I have a strong passion for writing. If you love what you do then you will thrive at it. One should never give up on writing if it s their passion. Keep pushing yourself and don t let anyone derail you from what you re trying to do. Do your research and do not rush the process things will happen. Seek advice from others who have taken the same journey. Having developed a love for writing in high school Charlene has been able to realize a dream of hers after having her first children s book titled Cowhead s Big Move published recent years. Along with her series The Misadventures of Cowhead she is planning on starting her own product line revolving around her main character. No matter who or what you are you should always live your dreams. If I didn t have the tenacity to move forward with my writing then my book would have never come to life. Without risk or hard work there is no reward and if you believe in it see it through. I give this same advice to my children. Regarding her education Charlene has a Masters Degree in Organizational Management and is currently working on earning her PhD in Organizational Development with an Emphasis in Leadership and Communication. Aside from writing Charlene loves to spend time with her husband and three children and enjoys cooking for them. I want my books to inspire children to continue reading and learning. Reading is 53 Women of Distinction Q&A Q Why did you choose to write a children s book A I decided to write a children s book because my daughter was four years old at the time and I wanted to read her something that she could relate to. The stories I write about are based on her antics growing up -- things she did tried tested and spoke about. The book is relatable to all kids and their parents as well as teachers. Q Why is your book worth reading A Every kids loves to read or to be read to. My book has a gentle message for all kids and their parents to help explain things such as why some children are different from others. The messages I put forward in these stories are meant to help children grow and to help parents teach their children to cope with different things that happen in life. Although there are gentle messages my stories are cute fun and enjoyable to read. The illustrations capture the attention of the kids. Q What s something interesting about you What s something weird about you A Something interesting -- when it comes to crunch time I sit in my recliner put my feet up and close my eyes. This allows me to close out the world around me. I am alone and my thoughts come together and I m able to create magic. Something weird -- I like to pretend that I m a famous singer and that I m giving a concert in my car on my way to work. (No I cannot sing but in my mind I am the next Whitney Houston.) Q Besides writing and being with your family what else do you enjoy doing A I enjoy shopping and cooking. I love watching the Food Network as it gives me great ideas that I can turn into my own ideas. Q Is writing your full time job A No writing is not my full time job. I have a paying job working in support of the Department of Defense as well as in support of the Department of Homeland Security. I am hoping that one day soon writing will become my full time job. Q You say your book is part of a series. When will the next book be released A This book was just released. Once I get a little more recognition on the first book I will release the second book. It is already written but needs illustrations. Q Are you interested in doing anything else with your book series A Yes I m hoping to launch a product line with plush dolls rain boots DVDs birthday party themed items and so much more. Hopefully a cartoon will come out of this. That would definitely be a blessing. I think the kids would love to see this book as well as the others I m working on in live animation form. I think a cartoon would be great (So if there are any investors reading this article let s talk. I promise you will not be disappointed.) Q How would you define success A Success is a mindset. A person s idea of success is based on the goals they put for themselves and those goals can change depending on the direction a person wishes to go in. Q Have you reached success as of today A No I have not. In my mind I will never reach success because I will always be reaching for my next goal. Now if you ask my nine year old daughter she will say success is when I reach 100k in sales so I can take her and the family to Paris. I may not be successful in other people s eyes but my book is out so I will not discount that as part of my success. This is a very nice start to my future. Q Where do you see yourself in 10 years A I see my book and main character as a household name. I see myself book on the 1 best sellers list. Also in 10 years I see myself sitting in a cabin in the snowcapped mountains writing more books expanding my series and working on other books. I also see a full line of products flowing off the store shelves and my main character Cowhead on the silver screen bringing smiles to kids faces everywhere. 54 Women of Distinction Chloe Leigh Yost Kaena which means proud in Hawaiian. Wine Industry Tasting Room Manager Marketing Specialist - Kaena Wine Co. Los Olivos CA T hrough her work as Tasting Room Manager and Marketing Specialist with Kaena Wine Co. Chloe Leigh Yost aids the company in its growth to the best of her ability and serves all customers with a dose of aloha spirit. Chloe first began working in the wine industry in the fall of 2011 landing a tasting room associate hospitality position with Bridlewood Estate Winery. It was this position that led to Chloe s development of a strong passion for the wine industry. While employed with Bridlewood she took full advantage of the Gallo Wine Academy program that the company offered in order to expand her knowledge of the field. My advice to anyone who is considering a professional position in the wine industry would be to remain open minded. This industry is an open book of education. I can honestly say that I am thrilled to learn something new every day and enjoy dissecting my ever evolving palate. There are so many unique attributes that every wine region brings to the table the education is purely addicting. Chloe also hosts a weekly talk radio segment called The Valley Palate on KVTA 1590AM every Saturday morning under the alias of Vino Vaquera and updates listeners in Santa Barbara County about the latest wine events and happenings in the Santa Ynez Valley. I am a self-motivated and positive soul who strives for the best at all times while keeping the aloha spirit in my heart. Family is my ultimate backbone and my mother will forever be the brightest light on this planet for me. Being raised by a single mother my yearning to become a strong and independent woman was always extremely present. I believe in the law of attraction and that we truly become our beliefs. I will forever preach that laughter is the greatest medicine and that love conquers all. In her leisure Chloe enjoys traveling hiking horseback riding and spending time with her loving family and fianc . She also spends her time creating beautiful raw feminine pieces for her jewelry line the Vino Vaquera Collection by Chloe Leigh. Passion is the root of my existence. Live with passion and create with love for the world is already yours. To embrace a passion is to be whole. After exploring the corporate world I quickly honed in on what truly made this industry so utterly appealing to me. The intimacy that comes along with the smaller family operated wineries and tasting rooms is what thoroughly attracted me to the industry. In the last four years I have had the pleasure of working with two incredible family owned small production companies. Being a special part in the building of two rapidly growing brands has been the pleasure of a lifetime. In her current role of tasting room manager Chloe has the pleasure of sharing her wine knowledge and providing a welcoming tasting experience for all guests. She educates first time tasters manages a wine club of close to 1 000 members and oversees all tasting room operations on a daily basis. As marketing specialist she contributes a great deal to the company s social media channels and helps coordinate company events as well as annual wine maker dinners. Chloe also feels she is fortunate to manage such an incredible staff at 55 Women of Distinction Christina M. Berard Nonprofit Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Utilization Review Clinician and Clinical Therapist - The Providence Center Providence RI C hristina M. Berard started in the mental health field in 2010 as a case manager working with those with mental health and substance use issues. However prior to that and through today she has been earning credentials that keep her knowledge as current as possible including Bachelor of Arts in English and Sociology (University of Rhode Island) Master of Science in Psychology (University of Phoenix) Advanced Chemical Dependency Professional II Qualified Mental Health Professional and Counseling certificates from the State of Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals Working towards a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (Salve Regina University) and eventually plans to gain licensure to be a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the State of Rhode Island Currently Christina is a Utilization Review Clinician and Clinical Therapist at The Providence Center s Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) where she works with insurance companies to have people s coverage extended based on mental health substance use needs. She also meets with individuals to complete assessments treatment goals and provide individual counseling. I genuinely want to help people because we are all recovering from something whether it is substance use mental health issues unhealthy relationships etc. We all deal with something and need each other. Helping people makes me want to wake up in the morning and go to work. She is greatly inspired by her clients. Her advice for anyone starting out in the mental health field is to not give up or allow anyone to get in the way of your goals. The beginning is always difficult. You ll have tough cases but they will help you grow. Additionally maintain strong healthy boundaries both professionally and personally. Oftentimes as counselors we feel the need to help everyone who crosses our path. I m not advising you to turn your back on people but be mindful that everyone has a limit. Be aware of yourself and those around you and don t let others take advantage of you. Christina also writes poetry and recently published the poetry book Internal Bleeding . In addition she has a 5-year-old son in kindergarten. I m a single mother who works six out of seven days a week. I recently gave up working Sundays so I could spend more time with my son and focus on schoolwork. However in the beginning I had trouble leaving work at work . I would take everything home with me which put more stress on myself and my family. I strongly encourage finding an outlet (ex. gym writing or counseling) to help you stay strong and positive. You need time for you. Ultimately Christina would like to be remembered as a mother who raised her son to be strong independent and compassionate a caring hardworking effective clinician and a talented author. Despite all the obstacles they ve faced they continue to seek help and get up daily to face whatever is there. While it may sound extremely clich I ve learned to appreciate what I have rather than focus on the things I don t have. 56 Women of Distinction Minerva M. Garcia Advertising Vice President of Human Resources Accordant Media New York NY My passion for helping people has turned into a career that helps other professionals develop their careers. hile taking a human resources course in college Minerva M. Garcia fell in love with the concept of developing careers. She loved the subject matter so much that she went back to school and obtained her Masters of Science in Human Resources. I ve also fell in love with the advertising industry because it s not only fun but also allows my colleagues and I to express our creativity. Now Minerva serves as the highly qualified well-developed Vice President of Human Resources for Accordant Media an Advertising Media Tech firm company based in New York City. There she has gained invaluable experience in human resources leadership and extensive employee development. On a daily basis she must supervise staff and conduct employee relations by implementing diversity strategies recommending solutions to improve processes and implementing effective training programs to streamline personnel productivity. With over seventeen years of experience she has been able to establish a great working environment for all of her colleagues. W Q&A Q What do you like about the Human Resources profession What are the qualities an HR Executive should possess A You must like working with people and love the profession in order to help others. Intuition flexibility an open mind and above all a human touch in everything you do. Q What re some of the things you do to ensure the effectiveness of the teams you lead A Communication is key. If you have open dialogue you can get anything done. You must be strategic and view the problem from all angles so you can tackle it without difficulty. Also work ethic is a valuable asset that describes hard work and dedication. I strive for excellence and pass along my work ethic to those I collaborate with. Striving for excellence comes at a price but it s well worth paying for. Q Do you have a personal philosophy of management A I believe in setting an example. My favorite managers in the past were the ones that worked smart and efficiently. I learned a great deal and found that leading by example is a strong way to influence people to work diligently. Q What s the best way to motivate you A The best way to motivate me is with integrity and respect for my expertise in the Human Resources and management fields. In order to advance in this career or any career one must stay humble be informed and reach back in order to reach forward. I believe in the potential of all people regardless of circumstance opportunity or lack of. I made a conscious decision to direct my abilities toward helping others and I have dedicated myself to this mission regardless of what life puts in my way. In the following brief interview Minerva further discusses her career industry and passion 57 Women of Distinction Women of Distinction Team WDM Jennifer Hardy EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Holli M. Narvaez EDITOR LAYOUT GRAPHIC DESIGN Jill Mongonia Anne Silar SELECTION COMMITTEE SELECTION COMMITTEE Diane Barry Women of Distinction 560 Broadhollow Road Ste. 310 Melville NY 11747 Phone (631) 465-9024 Fax (631) 465-9035 Jacqueline Robinson Retirement Life Coaching Owner- Life 2.0 Community JRR Consulting Inc. 59 Women of Distinction Loriana Armstrong Maldonado Construction General Contracting Residential Commercial Building and Remodeling President Armstrong General Contracting 60 Women of Distinction