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On Saturday, March 15 AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) will hold its seventh annual Women of Distinction Dinner and Silent Auction at Centennial Hall. The event will honor four distinguished women who have made significant contributions to improving the lives of Juneau's women and children. Community members submitted nominations and the honorees were selected by AWARE's board of directors.
Women of Distinction dinner
When: Reception begins at 6 p.m. on March 15, dinner follows at 7 p.m.
Where: Baranof Hotel
What: AWARE dinner and fund-raiser that honors women who have contributed to the community
This year's honorees are Merry Ellefson, Ethel Lund, Margaret Pugh and Tish Griffin Satre.
Merry Ellefson is Perseverance Theatre's most produced playwright - in the past 10 years Perseverance has staged four of her original plays. But Ellefson's talents extend beyond just entertaining locals; through the years she has used her creativity to help at-risk youth and battered women as well. As part of SEARHC's Teen Express Theatre Project, Ellefson worked with at-risk youth to produce and perform a series of plays based on their life experiences.
These plays included topics on date rape, violence, teen pregnancy and alcoholism. She also wrote two video scripts for KTOO to benefit state agencies working to help women and children.
Ellefson is one of Alaska's premiere long distance runners, and has received numerous running awards in Alaska, the Yukon and lower 48. She serves as a mentor to high school writers and created a summer camp for pre-teen girls entitled "Exploring Your World through Running and Writing." Ellefson has been the assistant coach for the JDHS cross-country team since 2001, where she inspires the girls to be their best, both in athletics and in life.
Ethel Lund almost didn't choose the path that ultimately made such an enormous impact on the lives of so many Native women and children. Following the deaths of both parents, Lund had little desire for a career tending to the sick. But in the summer following her high school graduation, a local physician persuaded her to take a summer job in the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital children's ward. She was so inspired by their strength in the face of illness that she enrolled in the Good Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in Portland, Ore. Since then she has worked to change the structure of health care for the Native population. She was instrumental in the move to greater tribal control of its health care services through SEARHC. She championed the need for substance abuse treatment programs for Native youth, which resulted in the creation of the nationally recognized Raven's Way Program. She also organized the Council of Elders to ensure the presence of traditional Native culture in SEARHC programs and facilities.
Margaret Pugh has made a profound impact in a field traditionally dominated by men - the Department of Corrections. She began her career working with delinquent adolescents as a corrections agent with the McLaughlin Youth Center from 1969 to 78. When she became superintendent at both Johnson Youth Center and Lemon Creek Correctional Center, she began working with adult women offenders as well. She completed her ascent through the correctional ranks by serving as director and then commissioner of the Department of Corrections.
"I believe that government and citizens have an obligation to take action in working with folks to achieve the American dream," she said. "Actions small or large to benefit people are what it's all about." An on-the-go retiree, Pugh remains an active member of both the National Association of Social Workers and Association of State Correctional Administrators, where she is chair of the victims issues subcommittee. She is also an elder of Northern Lights Church and keeps lists of things she hopes to learn about in the future.
Tish Griffin Satre has been working to help women and children since her days as an undergraduate student at Washington State University, was an active participant in the development of a women's shelter, crisis center and response plan for the University's sister community of Moscow, Idaho. She also served on the University's President's Commission on Women her last year at WSU. But her greatest challenge came in 1997 when she was diagnosed with kidney, bladder and cervical cancers. With the support of her mother, Barbara, Satre became a survivor who now uses her strength to help others diagnosed with cancer locate resources to help them overcome their illness. Cancer-free for more than a year, she is vice president of the Southeast Cancer and Wellness Foundation, president-elect of Glacier Valley Rotary, representative to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, a member of the Arctic Winter Games Board Committee and a volunteer with the Glacier Swim Club. When she's not busy volunteering, she works full-time as Director of Student Services at the University of Alaska, Southeast.
The Women of Distinction Dinner will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. There will be a no-host bar and silent auction, with dinner catered by the Baranof Hotel following at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend, and can reserve tickets by calling (907) 586-6623. The cost is $50 per person, or $550 to reserve a table of 10. One-quarter, one-half and full-page advertisements or messages of good cheer can also be purchased in the program.
Funds raised from the Women of Distinction Dinner and Silent Auction will go toward helping AWARE provide services to women in Juneau and the nine southeast communities it serves - Elfin Cove, Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah, Klukwan, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Skagway and Yakutat. AWARE offers crisis intervention, personal and legal advocacy, safe shelter, support groups, counseling and rural outreach to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
For more information about AWARE or the Women of Distinction Dinner, please call executive director Saralyn Tabachnick or volunteer coordinator Cydney Boyer at 907- 586-6623.
To contact the honorees, please call AWARE at the same number.