Senator honors “Women of Distinction”

Eighteen women from Oswego County were  honored Thursday May 1 by state Sen. Patricia Ritchie.

They are being named “Women of Distinction” through the New York State Senate’s yearly program to honor women who have made a difference, including teachers, activists, advocates and other change-makers.

All honorees were recognized at a special event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at  Watertown’s historic Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library.

The Women of Distinction program honors women’s history in the Empire State by recognizing outstanding leaders and everyday citizens from the present who are making a difference.

“Over the past several years I’ve been humbled to have been given the opportunity to recognize the amazing women of this region,” Ritchie said.

“From teachers who have inspired countless students to those who make it their life’s mission to help those in need, this group of women is truly dynamic,” she said.

Last year, 17 women from Central and Northern New York were honored. This year’s honorees are:

Oswego County

Stacy Austin-Root, Melissa Baker, Melanie Proper, Maureen McClain, Carol Gazitano, Tracy Henry, Amanda Capeling, Norene Cook and Sandy Delano — staff of the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, Fulton, for all the work they do with children “to ensure that children who have suffered abuse are able to cope with their feelings, recover, and once again enjoy their childhood,” said nominator John DeRousie

Jane Backus, of Mexico, retired English teacher at Mexico High School, contributed to the design of the school’s Quest Program, served on the SUNY Oswego College Council for five years, editing the Mother Goose Nursery School newsletter, volunteering for the Mexico JROTC program and cooking for the Mexico Methodist Church “Monday Meal,” serving as a sacristan and lector at St. Anne, Mother of Mary Catholic Church and serves on Rep. Richard Hanna’s Military Academy Review Committee.

Karrie Damm, LMFT, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County, Fulton, led the charge to open a satellite office of the center in Pulaski, active in the community, was once named one of the “Top 100 Most Inspiring Women” by Girl Scouts of America.

Michelle Hughes, of Pulaski, very active in the Pulaski community, a member of the Preservation and Restoration of Pulaski Committee, is a St. Baldrick’s Cancer Research Benefit volunteer and a volunteer for the Pulaski Academy and Central Schools. She also owns her own business,  “A Cut Above Full Service Salon,”.

Denise Simmons, of West Monroe, a mother of three often found exploring nature,  fishing in the North Country’s many rivers and streams and hunting in the deep wildernesses.

She volunteers with Baldwinsville Rod and Gun Club, Madison County Friends of the NRA, Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs and has been involved with Central New York Friends of the NRA.

Roxanne Stewart, of Fulton, teacher, president of the resident council at Michaud Residential Health Services, “has become a tireless advocate, pushing for better living conditions for nursing facilities.”

The Rev. Brenda Weissenberg, of Central Square, involved with foster care program, she serves on the Board of Directors for Oswego County Foster Parents, Central Square Pop Warner, Hastings Mallory PTO, Parish Community Pre-School and the Fort Brewerton Chamber of Commerce.

The Rev. Meredith Williams, of Oswego, teacher who also assists in food drives, facilitates Art Club, Christian Club and is an active member of Positive Behavioral Interventions. She is an assistant pastor, provides security for the church and is the owner of Trinity Art Studio.

Susan Witmer, of Oswego, long-time volunteer with Oswego Rotary, Rural Health Network of Oswego County, and Emergency Planning Committee for Oswego County, United Way Cayuga Community College, Oswego County Humane Society, Youth Soccer League and High School Sports Boosters. She was instrumental in the “Stuff a Bus Bookmobile,” Stone Soup canned food drive, Ronald McDonald House collection and Salvation Army canned food drives.

Teresa Woolson, of Oswego, took the tragedy of losing her son to synthetic drugs use and turned it into a positive for the community, opening a nonprofit foundation, the Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, created in her son’s memory that aims to assist and educate the public in an effort to make the community a safer place.

In addition, Teresa’s advocacy was also the catalyst behind comprehensive legislation addressing synthetic drugs in New York state. She also is involved in Bridges out of Poverty, COACH, Friends of the Oswego Public Library, WNET, Vineyard Church and other organization.

Those honored from the other two counties in Ritchie’s Senate district are:

St. Lawrence County

  • Ilene Burke
  • Virginia Davey
  • Kelly Glasgow
  • Imogene Wagner
  • Lila Youngs

Jefferson County

  • Joanne Lazore
  • Cari McAvoy
  • JoAnn Reed
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