'Phenomenal' women to be honored for going above and beyond

News-DemocratOctober 26, 2013 

Forty women from the St. Louis region will be recognized Sunday by Racial Harmony for the phenomenal work they have done in their schools, churches, families and communities.

The women were all nominated by people who thought they deserved to be recognized at the fifth annual Phenomenal Women of Metropolitan St. Louis. The dinner auction is Racial Harmony of Belleville's only fundraiser.

"We ask people throughout the community who they feel is exceptional and goes above and beyond what they are required to do," said event co-chairwoman Paula Jones. Jones is a co-founder of Racial Harmony. "A committee of about 10 people select the phenomenal women."

The event started as a dinner auction about 10 years ago, Jones said, and five years ago, the organization decided to recognize women in the community during the dinner auction.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Amy Hunter, director of Racial Justice for the YWCA of Metro St. Louis. She is expected to talk about racial justice and the mission of Racial Harmony. The event also will honor Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head and neck in 2012 by members of the Taliban. Yousafzai was shot for being an activist for girls and women to have the right to an education. Her book will be one of the dinner auction items.

Sharon Strausbaugh, an administrative assistant to Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, is one of the women who will be recognized. Before she took that position eight years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom and was active at Jefferson School. She developed and operated the school store and served on parent boards. She remains active with the Franklin Neighborhood Community Association, is vice-chairwoman of the committee to build the September 11 memorial walkway and serves as secretary and treasurer of the Belleville Cultural Enrichment Organization. She had a hand in creating the non-profit organization to help enhance the cultural resources of Belleville.

"It's an honor to be nominated," she said. "Mary McHugh nominated me and that, in itself, is an honor. I don't think I'm phenomenal in any way, but, I think Mary is a phenomenal woman and for her to think I am a phenomenal woman is an honor."

She said she doesn't do any of the things she does for the recognition.

"These are the things I enjoy doing and I feel like I'm called to do them," she said. "I never really thought of it being anything phenomenal. It's just what I do and I'm so grateful I have the opportunity to do these things."

Connie Barre, a first-grade teacher at Jefferson School, has been nominated before, but declined the nomination each time. She has been teaching at the school for 20 years.

"I feel very humbled. I'm just doing what I love, nothing exceptional and phenomenal," she said. "I guess I walk the talk. If I ask someone to do something, I do it with them. If I ask the children to join the ecology club, then I'm right there with them."

In addition to coordinating the ecology club at Jefferson School, Barre also heads the mentoring program where she invites people and residents of nursing homes to come to the school and meet with the students. She takes students and parents to nursing homes to spend time with residents. She also is a member of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville's Ministry of Sick and Aged and coordinates volunteers to go the Memorial Hospital and nursing home to bring communion to patients and residents.

"I love doing it," Barre said. "I love connecting people and I love to see the kids happy. They love being around the residents, but they don't have the opportunity and I give them the opportunity to do it.

A past member of the board of Racial Harmony, Barre finally accepted the nomination this year.

"This is their big fundraiser and I want to support them," she said.

The women who will be recognized this year are:

Michelle Denton of East Alton; Connie Barre, Debbie Belleville, Corky Derstine, Marylou Dettenmeier, Barbara Ducey, Regina Greer, Christina Gibson-Cipfl, Sindy Smith-Kubitschek, Donna Mauno, Caroljean Peters, Janet Schmidt, Sharon Strausbaugh, Dovie Vowell-Steele and Patricia Wharton of Belleville; Patricia Watkins of Caseyville; Staci Yandle of Carlyle; Erma Millard of Centreville; Ellis Conley Davis of East St. Louis; Lois Brown, Marilyn Kinsella, Stephanie Posey, Melissa Rumph and Ethel Shanklin of Fairview Heights; Shirley Giger, Marilyn Koenig, Lori Strode, Wyvetta Temple-Granger and Barbara Turkington of O'Fallon; Jennifer Cipfl-Filyaw, Linda Cipfl, Devon Moody-Graham and Yolandea Wood of Shiloh; Joslyn Anthony and Kim Enriquez of Swansea; LaShanda Boone, Amy Hunter and Angela Whitlow of St. Louis; and Ronda Roberts of Henderson, Ky.

How to help

What: Racial Harmony will host its fifth annual fundraising dinner auction: Phenomenal Women of Metropolitan St. Louis.

When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Cost: Tickets will be available at the door for $45.

Info: Contact the Center for Racial Harmony at 234-0508 or email centerforracialharmony@yahoo.com. All proceeds benefit Racial Harmony of Belleville.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service