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On March 9, AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies) will hold its sixth annual Women of Distinction Dinner and Silent Auction at Centennial Hall. The event will honor four distinguished local 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.
This year's honorees are Robin Gilcrist, Toni Mallott, Mary Tonsmeire and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer.
Gilcrist, owner of residential design company Interline Design, has always made a point to volunteer her professional services to non-profit housing development agencies. President of Housing First for the past two years, Gilcrist also works closely with Juneau Housing Trust and Habitat for Humanity, providing no-cost residential drawings and helping builders navigate through the permit process. She is helping Housing First and Juneau Housing Trust with the design and construction of 12 new residential homes for low-income families. Gilcrist also serves as a mentor to young women seeking to enter this male-dominated field.
Mallott, a teacher at Gastineau Elementary School, can oftentimes be found dining at McDonald's with a group of students. She spends hours of non-school time providing homework help to students andoften treats her students to Happy Meals as a reward for their accomplishments. An Alaska Native, Mallott also seeks to incorporate the Native history and culture of many of Gastineau's students into the school curriculum. She actively encourages teachers to celebrate Native cultures and works to promote understanding between the Native community and the school system.
She is the school liaison representative for the Indian Studies program, a Juneau School District Strategy II member and a facilitator on the Gastineau Site Council.
Tonsmeire has worked in big city hospitals and tiny clinics, but it is in Juneau that she has had her biggest challenges. As adolescent health care coordinator, a position she has held since 1990, Tonsmeire created the Teen Health Center at Juneau-Douglas High School, the only one of its kind in the state. The often-controversial center provides confidential services to students in mental, reproductive and physical health. A graduate of the Holy Cross School of Nursing in South Bend, Ind., Tonsmeire has traveled the country, doing everything from emergency room medicine to obstetrics. In addition to providing services to students, Tonsmeire also works with school staff to help facilitate discussion with students on such topics as homelessness, violence, chemical dependency and sexual assault.
Ulmer's goal throughout her years of dedicated public service has been to beautify Juneau. As mayor, she spearheaded the effort to improve the city by redesigning sidewalks, adding park benches and planting flowers throughout the downtown area. As a House legislator from 1986 through 1995, she fought to improve the lives of Juneau's women and children by introducing legislation that has increased penalties for child abuse, toughened sentencing laws for sex offenders, made it easier for women to get court-ordered child support and required state insurance companies to cover mammograms for women. A member of the Governor's Children's Cabinet, Ulmer was twice named Kids Champion of the Year by KIDPAC and Child Advocate of the Year by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for her advocacy in support of education, child care, and the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
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 a dinner of Pesto Salmon and Penne 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.
Funds raised from the Women of Distinction Dinner and Silent Auction will go toward helping AWARE provide services to women in Juneau, Elfin Cove, Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah, Klukwan, Pelican, Tenakee Springs, Skagway and Yakutat. The shelter provides crisis intervention, personal and legal advocacy, emergency 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 Annette Coggins or volunteer coordinator Cydney Boyer at (907) 586-6623. To contact the honorees, please call AWARE at the same number.