A Tribute to Women

Seven women from all walks of life and professions — but who share a passion for serving their communities — will be honored Monday night, May 19, at the YWCA-Wheeling’s “A Tribute to Women” at Wheeling Country Club.

At the celebration, the honorees will share insights into their roles as community leaders and how they have helped the YWCA-Wheeling’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland, the first woman to be elected to the state’s executive branch, will be the keynote speaker.

“It will be an evening that celebrates the many strengths and gifts women bring to our community,” said YWCA-Wheeling Executive Director Wendy Barbeau. “We are pleased to be honoring so many women who have been the first in their fields, women who have opened doors for other women and empowered by example. … I hope every woman who attends will leave feeling inspired, appreciated and empowered.”

The honorees were selected by a YWCA committee from a pool of nominations from the community, based on each candidate’s accomplishments in her field and commitment to the YWCA mission to eliminate racism and empower women.

“I’m not aware of any other organization that publicly recognizes women and their achievements in the Upper Ohio Valley,” said Lesa Thieroff, YWCA board president. “We thought it would be a wonderful thing to do.”

The event, which includes an extensive hors d’oeuvre buffet, cocktails and desserts, begins at 6 p.m., capping the first Kathy Fortunato Memorial Women’s Golf Scramble and Tennis Round Robin, the proceeds of which will benefit the YWCA’s programs. The fundraiser is named for Fortunato, a former president of the YWCA board, who died unexpectedly in 2006.

A registered nurse, Fortunato will be honored posthumously at the Tribute for Women for her leadership roles with the Ohio County Medical Society, Wheeling Health Right, the Wheeling Symphony, the Junior League of Wheeling, St. Michael Catholic Church and the Ohio County Republican Executive Committee.

The other six honorees and the categories in which they are being honored are:

? Government: Thais Blatnik, former state legislator who helped found the YWCA women’s shelter in Wheeling, the first in the state;

? Domestic Violence Prevention: Bonnie Bonar, the first female deputy with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department and co-founder of the women’s shelter;

? News Media: Linda Comins, 31-year veteran journalist and Arts & Living editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register;

? Community Service: Brenda Danehart, Muscular Dystrophy Association advocate and news director for WTRF-TV 7;

? Law Enforcement: Sharon Potter, United States attorney for the northern district of West Virginia;

? Education: Tammi Secrist, breast cancer awareness advocate and director of college relations and marketing at West Liberty State College.

The YWCA-Wheeling serves about 3,000 people a year through its programs and services including the women’s emergency shelter, transitional housing, Court Appointed Special Advocates, racial justice, Women’s Boutique and family violence prevention. For information, call the YWCA, a United Way agency, 304-232-0511.

“A Tribute to Women” is being sponsored by Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Wheeling Hospital, WesBanco, Advanced Communications Co., Paul and Hali Exley, Jason Haswell, Ohio Valley Medical Center, Women’s Health Specialists, the James and Lynn Comerci family and Altmeyer Funeral Homes.