City of Berkeley 2011 Outanding Woman Awards reminds all of us that it has only been since 1995 that Berkeley has allowed women in the chamber of commissions that first addressed violence and women a with citywide policy on domestic violence. We are reminded that this brief period of history acknowledging and keeping alive the rights of women and their children in Youth Wellness Programs, for example, are new advances. None of what the 2011 winners contributed came easy. We are reminded to keep awake, and keep others aware of the value of these program that could disappear. In the competition for funds and diminishing budgets, we as a state and a nation are seeing the potential slippage in limiting early education, birth control and addiction and mental health services. Berkeley of all places can and should continue to stand for dealing with inequities in society, and not stand for the most vulnerable having their programs taken away.Berkeley Outstanding Woman Awards bring life to their community and speak volumes about the path, the groundwork that creates the fabric of a life of care and service. Each saw a need and created support around themselves and it is this group of five that the City of Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women presented the awards for 2011.
Hope Mc Donnell, Healer, Advocate and Health Entrepreneur, the quiet woman sitting across from me is the dynamic entrepreneur committed to “serving the underserved.” For the past 38 years, she co-founded two non profits, two health food businesses and five health clinics for the homeless, youth at risk –while being the founder of Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Her “passion for improving the lives of others began in 1973 with At Risk Youth and leading by example, she has inspired the development and training of student leaders to take her work to provide and expand services today.
Ginger Ogle, Founder, Berkeley Parents Network has seated her this evening her husband and son, who supported in her role as community builder. Ginger saw a need unmet as she made hr way through UC extension, Laney College and finally got her undergraduate degree and graduate degree at University of California, Berkeley in Computer Science. She and her husband formed the 28,000-member Berkeley Parents Network.
Dr. Vicki Alexander has shown a “lifetime commitment to ensuring the health of women and children, particularly in South and West Berkeley as Director of Maternal Child and Adolescent Health for the City of Berkeley. She required, demanded that attention be given the disparity between the class and race factor. Her work in Berkeley’s Black Infant health Program has become known for the value it contributes for the 500 African American women in Berkeley dealing with the specific rate of higher rates of low birth weight infants and premature babies. An activist, author and mentor, though retired, she continues to contribute to her community, drawing our attention to providing programs and funds to protect the most vulnerable of our society.
Nancy Schimmel, Songwriter, Storyteller, Activist and Troubadour, moved to Berkeley in 1976, and with Ann Hershey, formed The Plum City Players. Nancy taught storytelling to the UC Library School. Her story ends and begins with a “voracious curiosity” and a strong position that as a people we have the power to sustain the earth and it’s people. She is the daughter of Melvina Reynolds and considers herself a “red diaper baby”-not the only award winner who claimed that identity.
Linda Schacht Gage, a Board Member of the Berkeley Public Library Foundation has personally raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the fixture and services of the Central Library as well as four neighborhood branches, as well as Berkeley Reads. Berkeley Reads has brought “literacy and empowerment” to thousands of Berkeley Residents. Linda is on the Board of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, UC Berkeley Board of Trustees, Advisory Board of The Daily Californian. An Emmy award winner for her 20 years of excellent reporting on nightly news shows. Her real goal is to keep the services of the Public Library, so all the people have use of it. Many of us go to Amazon.com, and from Linda’s perspective, the Library is about community and the well being and advancement of the people of the community, providing access to the public for free legal advice, reading and writing classes for adults.
Jennifer Burke is the founder of Young Artists Workspace (YAWS) formed in 2000 making available affordable, accessible art instruction for thousands of Berkeley children ages 2 and 17.
The people on the row introduced Suzoni Camp, Activist and Leader with pride where I was sitting. Quite by coincidence, sitting on this row of women in the room of over 100 people turned out to be such a treat. The women next to me had all been directors and workers for Options Recovery Services, and they were here to see their former client have her moment in the sun. Even though all of their jobs had been restructured and they were no longer employed with Options, their excitement for Suzoni was warm and enthusiastic. As the former worker next to me said: “ You have to treat each person who arrives at the door as if they might be able to achieve what Suzoni has in order to find a Suzoni.” Suzoni, a Native American, arrived at their doorsteps with twenty years of addiction to drugs and alcohol, having lost her home and her children. She took advantage of the support and encouragement through Options Recovery and Berkeley Food and Housing Project, residing at the Dwight Way Women’s Shelter and never looked back. “Reconnected and reengaged” with family and children, employed and living in her own apartment, the beautiful woman at the podium is clear about the need and the value of the services that brought her to this place. Now Administrator at Options Recovery, she acknowledges, for her, her ability to serve others as the means to keeping sober and clean is her path. The work ahead for Suroni as an Activist and Cultural Leader is being an authority on turning one’s life around to meet the challenges and the benefits of sobriety. Her two children beam with pride and our whole row is very engaged in her award.
The evening has been a celebration and a charge to all attending that there is much to do and to use the inspiration that these women provide is what would take our future where we want to go as a City and as a nation.