Tribute Winners Make A Difference

October 28, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The YWCA of Grand Rapids will recognize seven special women Thursday at the 2005 YWCA Tribute! Awards luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

The awards honor local women “who have been able to move the community forward in a variety of ways,” said Kelli Langan, YWCA director of development and marketing. An 11-member Tribute! Award selection committee chose this year’s honorees from nearly 60 nominees.

Tribute! Award Steering Committee Chair Elsa Kerr and Selection Committee Chair Betty Burton will be mistresses of ceremonies at the event. Tickets to the event sold out weeks ago, and some 730 people have registered to attend.

Tribute! Award honorees are:

Rev. Pam Doty-Nation — Advocacy

Doty-Nation is credited with developing Habitat for Humanity of Kent County from “grassroots functionality” to a professional business and social service agency that operates on a continuous quality improvement model. Her leadership has resulted in more affordable housing in the community. Under her direction 115 homes have been built for families in the $15,000 to $30,000 income bracket. According to those close to Doty-Nation, her entire professional life has been one of action and service, and her ability to communicate the need for decent, affordable housing and motivate people to action is “unparalleled.”

Deanna Morse — Arts

Morse is considered a leading figure in the field of animated filmmaking. She has produced more than 30 films and videos, and her works have been screened in international venues including Canada, the United States, Japan, Italy, France, England and other countries. A faculty member at Grand Valley State University since 1979, Morse has participated in many local arts organizations and has served as juror and reviewer at international film competitions. She is credited with supporting and empowering contemporary artists in West Michigan, as well as serving as a “powerful role model” for her female students.

Linda LaFontsee — Business, Management, Industry and Labor

LaFontsee has co-owned and operated LaFontsee Galleries for 19 years. As co-owner, she oversees project management and art coordination on a grand scale, working directly with many prestigious design firms and private art collectors. The Grand Rapids community has voted LaFontsee Galleries “Best Art Gallery” for nine out of the last 10 years. Under LaFontsee’s leadership, the company has made regular and significant contributions to a variety of deserving organizations, including donations of art works and framing services. She often takes time away from her busy schedule to give tours and presentations at the gallery for area high school and college students.

Mary Caroline “Twink” Frey — Community Service

“Twink” Frey has long been recognized as a philanthropic leader and dedicated volunteer and advocate in the Grand Rapids area. She founded the Nokomis Foundation, a private women’s foundation dedicated “to creating stronger voices for women and girls.” The foundation doles out about 80 grants a year — totaling more than $1 million — to nonprofits. A breast cancer survivor, Frey is one of the original founders of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a cancer support network that has touched the lives of more than 5,500 cancer patients in 25 Michigan counties. The Grand Rapids affiliate is said to be the largest and busiest Gilda’s Club in North America.

Gwendolyn Hoffman, M.D. — Professions

Hoffman started the emergency medicine residency program in Grand Rapids, went on to become residency director of the program, and trained more than 190 doctors in the specialty of emergency medicine. Hoffman was a key player on the team of health-care professionals that pulled off the merger that created Spectrum Health, a merger said to have saved the community millions of dollars over the past seven years and that “resulted in a more vigorous and robust medical institution.” Hoffman has shown advocacy for women’s issues by bringing women into the emergency medicine program and by authoring a chapter on sexual assault in a major emergency medicine textbook.

Maria Del Carmen Cruz — Sports, Fitness and Wellness

Del Carmen Cruz has founded or contributed to many programs that empower Spanish-speaking women locally, and she is said to be a visible and inspiring role model every day. A native of Puerto Rico, Del Carmen Cruz is well aware of the cultural, social, educational and gender challenges that today’s Hispanic women face. She has served as a community specialist for the local Latin American Services, was involved with the Spectrum Health Mothers Offering Mothers Support program, and also served as Spectrum Health’s first Hispanic community health worker. She is founder of PANC, a program that provides Hispanic families new to the community with better access to health-care services.

Megan Threats — Student

Threats, a Creston High School senior, has been singled out for demonstrated leadership in a number of areas. She is described as “an empowered, young, ambitious, vital African American woman with great potential.” She has received several “outstanding high school junior” awards, volunteer service awards and a Close-Up Scholarship award. Threats wants to pursue politics when she graduates from college. As Creston Counselor Ron Andrus put it: “Megan just seems to know what to do and what to say to get things done. She is not one to sit back and watch someone else do the work. She has lofty goals for herself and she inspires that kind of attitude in others.”    

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