Celebrating Women in our Communities!

Thursday March 8th, 2012, my office will hold our third annual AD14 Women of the Year celebration honoring 15 extraordinary women and women’s organizations that are strengthening our communities and increasing opportunities for women.

Thanks to all of you who submitted nominations. The great nominations we received demonstrated once again that our AD14 communities are alive and well with wonderful women and groups who are fighting the good fight and showing us the way to a better future.

Please join me in thanking my volunteer committee who helped me establish the Women of the Year event and this year’s honorees who do so much for so many.


Nancy Skinner

AnewAmerica is a virtual business incubator that helps new immigrants secure micro-loans and earn business skills so that they can start their own small businesses. Women represent 70% of Anew America clients, most of their women clients operate family-owned businesses. Headquartered in Berkeley AnewAmerica has satellite offices in Oakland, San Jose, and Richmond and is a designated Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center.

Bananas, Inc., founded in 1973, serves both families and childcare providers. Bananas offers parents workshops and referrals to family child care, preschools, in-home caregivers, and play groups. For childcare providers Bananas offers help on licensing, health and safety, curriculum, and recordkeeping, all in several languages. In 2011 it had an amazing 133,279 service contacts. Bananas, Inc. also founded the Family Resource Network serving families of children with disabilities and Parent Voices, a childcare advocacy organization.

Valarie Burgess empowers young women to develop leadership skills and to explore math, science and engineering. Past President of the American Association of University Women in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda, Valerie chaired the Sister to Sister program that assists junior high school girls, and has directed the Tech Trek camp for 7th grade girls to explore the sciences.

Dr. Pamela Comfort’s non-traditional path to professional success led her to earn the following degrees between the age of 35 and 43: her bachelor’s, teaching credential, Master’s, Administrative Credential and a Ph.D. Dr. Comfort is currently Associate Superintendent of Educational Services for the Contra Costa County Office of Education.

Patricia Durham led the coalition involving her church, the NAACP, West Contra Costa School District and others to realize El Cerrito’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and events. Pat played a leadership role in the rebuilding of El Cerrito High School and has served as a role model for others in retirement when she took over her late husband’s tax preparation business.

Toody Maher helped turn the dream of a safe neighborhood park into reality. She began by forming the Elm Playlot Action Committee, targeting the land at the corner of Elm Avenue and 8th Street in the Iron Triangle Neighborhood of Richmond. Toody led the effort to secure a $1.9 million grant and helped raise more than $37,000 for park improvements.

Rocio de Mateo Smith has worked in the field of developmental disabilities for 30 years. She is retiring this year as Executive Director of Area Board 5, State Council on Developmental Disabilities. Among her many good works, she is responsible for organizing the annual Congreso Familiar, a Spanish language educational conference for families with developmentally disabled children.

Karen McKie has devoted herself to ensuring that music and the arts remain a critical component at Berkeley Schools. Karen led the parcel tax effort to fund Berkeley Unified, chaired Berkeley’s Public Education Foundation where she raised thousands of dollars for classroom grants, and led programs to increase successful completion of Advanced Placement exams by students of color.

Peggy McQuaid is devoted to all things Albany; she has served on the Albany Arts Committee, the Police Activities League, the Albany Community Foundation, Albany Rotary, Historical Society, the Albany Youth Task Force and the Albany YMCA, among others. Peggy is also admired for her tireless efforts to build a new community pool.

Katie Ricklefs is promoting healthy communities and increasing access to quality health care and reproductive freedom throughout our region and especially in low-income communities. As Chair of the Board of Trustees for Planned Parenthood Shasta-Pacific, Katie has ensured that neighborhoods served by the now defunct San Francisco chapter did not lose services.

Maria Resendiz, as a volunteer community organizer among the parents at Riverside Elementary Maria Resendiz, led a group of moms to use their skills to make scarves and caps for homeless residents. Now Healthy Start Coordinator at J.O. Ford International Microsociety Elementary School, Maria was named a Koshland Foundation Fellow embarking on a three-year Leadership Training Program.

Chris Sorensen, a multi-decade volunteer, has been pivotal to improving education at Kensington Hilltop and Portola Schools and El Cerrito High; she led the PTA and presided over the Kensington Educational Foundation. A former Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, Chris was instrumental in bringing Planned Parenthood’s clinic to El Cerrito Plaza.

Dr. Mary Tagliaferri, a co-founder of Bionovo Pharmaceuticals, is dedicated to treating cancer and women’s health issues with botanical medicines. A pioneer in women’s health, breast cancer treatment and alternative medicine, Mary is known for mentoring younger women to assume greater responsibilities in the biomedical arena.

Nour Tweimeh attended Hercules High School and subsequently graduated from UC Davis with a degree in communications. Now with the City of San Pablo, Nour shares her success by mentoring girls ages 9 to 18 through the Girls Circle Model, a program that develops young leaders.

Women’s Cancer Resource Center creates opportunities for women with cancer to improve their quality of life. Founded in 1986, WCRC provides direct services and advocates for changes in the health care system. Resources are in English and Spanish and include prevention, help for those with new diagnoses, remission/survivorship, living with metastatic disease and end of life care. The board consists of women who are cancer survivors, health care professionals and others with expertise and experience.

A special thanks to the volunteers who helped me establish the Woman of the Year recognition event, and made it what it is today. They developed the program, solicited nominees, reviewed nominations, and much more, they worked behind the scenes to ensure a well-deserved night of recognition for others: Chair Joann Steck-Bayat, Pam Belchamber, Patricia Durham, Rhoda Haberman, Laurie Schumacher, Pat Player, Dolores Dalton, Genoveva Calloway, Jill Friedman, and Judy Garvens.

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