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YWCA to recognize 18th round of Women of Achievement

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Bond Bond
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CHARLESTON, WV -

The YWCA Charleston believes in empowering women and in honoring those women who walk the walk.

The annual Women of Achievement Awards honors women who do that: trailblazers who contribute to the Kanawha Valley, who perpetuate the YWCA's mission of eliminating racism and empowering women who live as role models for other young women.

YWCA Board of Directors member Jane Powell is chairwoman of the 2014 Women of Achievement awards luncheon, and it's her second time at the helm.

She said the biggest thing she learned last year was how much fun all that work would be. She said the honorees lend a different feel to each event every year, and the community responds in kind each year as well.

This year's Women of Achievement are: 

Mary Kay Bond, executive director of Read Aloud West Virginia since 2008 and former manager for the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra. Bond is a founding member of Read Aloud WV and is active with the Library Foundation of Kanawha County, Faculty Merit Foundation, the Governor's Conference on Libraries, Literacy Volunteers of West Virginia and the Family Resource Center Advisory Board.  She received a 1989 Celebrate Literacy Award from the International Reading Association, a citation of merit from the West Virginia Reading Council in 1990 and a citation as an "American Heroine" from Ladies Home Journal in 1991.

Susan Poffenbarger, who has won four Governor's Awards and 12 Allied Artists awards, among others. She was the first West Virginia female artist to receive a federal commission for artwork, and she has received two of them. She has worked to strengthen women's place in the art community. Her primary medium is pastel, but she also uses oil and acrylic. She has served on the West Virginia Commission for the Arts for more than 10 years, served twice on the West Virginia Inaugural Committee and has served on the University of Charleston's board of directors and its emeritus board. Poffenbarger also has served on the Kanawha County Public Library Board since 1996 and volunteers her expertise for the Kanawha County School system. She has taught gifted art in Putnam County Schools for seven years.

Diane Strong-Treister, has been the president and franchise owner of Manpower since 1987, heading up 11 offices throughout West Virginia and Kentucky. She is a commissioner for the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, serves on the state's Workforce Investment Board, the foundation board for Mountwest Technical and Community College, the Charleston Roundtable Committee for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, as a trustee for Christ Church United Methodist and on the steering committee for West Virginia State University, among others. She and her children established the Strong-Treister Family Foundation to distribute funds to various philanthropic organizations, the first of which was given to the Loren A. Treister Soccer Field at Cato Park, which the Foundation continues to support.

Powell explained that nominations for the awards are opened to the public in June, and then the selection committee looks for certain traits. Powell said the selection process is fun because the committee has such high praise for all the nominees, and they often learn things about people they thought they knew well. It's an organic process, she said, and the winners naturally end up spanning a variety of career paths.

"My favorite part is recognizing and applauding women for what they've achieved and setting them up to be role models for other women," Powell said.

Since 2006, the YWCA has named an Empowerment Award winner to recognize someone within the Y's programming who has overcome obstacles with help from the YWCA. This year's winner has not yet been selected. 

And YWCA Communications Director pk Khoury said the Empowerment Award is exceptionally emotional because it defies stereotypes.

"These are women who have really struggled against a lot of issues: abuse, abandonment, homelessness," Khoury said. "But they pick themselves up, become self-sufficient, gain independence and set about making lives for themselves.

"It's a true example of empowerment."

The idea for the Empowerment Award came from former honorees who thought it would be a nice addition, and it stuck.

Khoury said so many stereotypes still exist in regards to homelessness and domestic violence, but an educated and sophisticated woman can experience a sudden layoff from work that leaves her in a scary situation.

Part of spreading the mission of empowerment is the annual Breakfast of Champions, which allows the honorees to speak to 24 local fifth-grade girls and then tour the campus of WVSU together.

"Last year I saw one of the honorees giving out her business cards to the students, telling them to contact her any time," Powell said. 

The 18th annual event is scheduled for March 7, 2014 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston. The annual fundraiser benefits all the YWCA's programs, which include the YWCA Sojourner's Shelter for Homeless Women and Families; YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program; YWCA Mel Wolf Child Development Center; YWCA Alicia McCormick Homes, YWCA Empowerment Homes for Women and the YWCA Shanklin Center.

The event has sold out at 500 tickets the past several years, but it is open to the public to attend.

"It's open to anyone who might want to learn about the YWCA, the honorees, or anyone who wants to network," Powell said.

Contact Pam May at pmay@ywcacharleston.org or 304-340-3557 for sponsorship or ticket information.