Janesville, WI- The YWCA is hosting the 44th Annual Women of Distinction Dinner and Awards on April 11th, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. at the Pontiac Convention Center. Tickets are $50 each or a table of eight for $400.
The event recognizes women, young women and businesses or organizations who serve as outstanding role models for others in Rock County. The YWCA presents Women of Distinction Awards and Young Women of Distinction Awards (21 and younger) to women and young women who have shown strong achievement in their work and personal lives, and who have given back to their communities in the spirit of the advancement of other women. Many have been trailblazers in their professions, pathfinders for social justice, or young women on the rise, bringing forth key issues facing Rock County women and girls.
The evening includes cocktails, a seated dinner and a program featuring the work of the YWCA and the Women of Distinction awards presentation. In addition to honoring outstanding local women, the event raises funds for victims of domestic violence and programs that empower women through the YWCA’s Transitions for Women program.
The YWCA Rock County is please to announce the winners for 2019 Women of Distinction: Linda Lyke, Kelly Willoughby, Marlene Roessler, Sandy Johnson, Shari Faber; the two Young Women of Distinction recipients are both from Craig High School: Claire Mikkelson and Taylor Salmon. There are also two recipients of the YWCA Corporate Award of Merit. This award recognizes Rock County businesses or organizations that serve as a role model corporation that supports policies, practices, attitudes in the advancement of women and are dedicated to diversity in our community and have a commitment to improving the quality of life in the community. The YWCA Roc County is please to honor both the Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin (located in Janesville) and the Women’s Fund of the Stateline Community Foundation (located in Beloit). Please read the bios below of each of these honorees; their headshots are also attached to the email.
Linda Lyke is the Volunteer Coordinator at Cedar Crest where she started the volunteer program nine years ago. She loves encouraging a variety of ages and stages of volunteers but especially enjoys the Chinese students from UW-Whitewater at Rock County. This program is the first of its kind in this area, providing a diverse intercultural and inter-generational component for the older adult residents.
Having a heart for non-profit work, Linda previously worked at United Way of North Rock County for six years and at SpotLight On Kids for four years. Just as important to her as her paid work is her volunteer role in her church, The Connecting Church – Milton Seventh Day Baptist. As the Outreach Coordinator, she organizes programs focused on refugees as well as Operation Christmas Child and volunteering at GIFTS Homeless Shelter. A big supporter of her local library, Linda founded the Friends of Milton Public Library, building the group to 100 members, and now serves as Secretary of the Milton Public Library Foundation.
Building rapport between people, Linda loves encouraging and mentoring women. In the past, she was a career mentor for young women through UW-Whitewater, her alma mater. As a follower of Jesus, she believes that any good in her comes from God, and any good she has done to others is an outpouring of her faith. A favorite activity is to facilitate spiritual conversation groups where women of different beliefs are welcomed to discuss life, God and the Bible in a non-judgmental place to build understanding and respect for each other. Businesswomen of Faith is another local group that Linda initiated in 2011.
Linda is thankful for her parents’ example of faith and hard work, and the support of her husband Jim and adult children, Ash and Rob.
Kelly Willoughby is a Senior Account Executive at the Gordon Flesch Company and has worked there for 15+ years. She’s not so sure about the “Senior” in her title but absolutely loves working at GFC and embodies the company’s focus to not only provide amazing customer service and technology solutions but also their significant focus on giving back to communities where their employees live and work.
Kelly is actively involved as an Ambassador for both Forward Janesville and the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC), as well as sitting on the MACC Board of Directors and trying to attend as many events at the Beloit Chamber as well. Connecting and inspiring people and making an impact on her community is extremely important to her, so you’ll likely see her out volunteering at numerous events for organizations such as KANDU, Community Action, ECHO, the Chambers, and pretty much anything you ask her to help with. She is also very passionate about helping children and encourages everyone to check out “Rosie’s Birthday Club” and “Rock House Kids” in Rockford too. One of her mentors, Dola Gregory, said it best by saying “Help a Child Today and You Won’t Have to Repair an Adult Tomorrow”. Kelly believes if you can help anyone, child or adult, by simply making them smile or connecting them to resources, you can make such a huge difference! A very little gesture really goes such a long way and doesn’t cost a thing!
Kelly is extremely thankful for her husband Bill, her incredible family and friends, and her inspiring triathlete networks. She’s super grateful for all their love and support and for always pushing her to be a better person! Oh, and their cat, Sidney, for providing loads of laughs and growls along the way!
Marlene (Grosbeck) Roessler started her teaching career in the fall of 1965 as a kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary School here in Janesville. She taught for the next three and half years at Lincoln until she and her husband started their family. In 1977, she was hired by Lynn Wood to teach three year old children at Lynnwood Nursery School, now Goelzer’s First Step Preschool. Marlene continued to teach at the preschool until 2010 when she retired.
After retirement Marlene was invited to be a part of Rotary Garden’s Story and Stroll program. A few years later she was asked to be the program coordinator. Her experience as a preschool teacher grounded the program in stories and activities designed to promote children’s literacy and awareness of the natural world. Marlene also carried her teaching experience to the Historical Society where she volunteers as a teacher at the Frances Willard One Room School House for 3rd and 4th grade children who come for field trips. Marlene also volunteers at Trinity Episcopal Church as a Sunday School teacher, altar guild member, lay reader, brings communion to shut-in’s, brings birthday gifts from Trinity to St. Elizabeth Nursing home residents, helps with the Gifts Men’s Shelter meals as well as delivering Meals on Wheels.
Marlene is a new member of the Women’s Salvation Army Auxiliary and volunteers at the Agrace Thrift Store. She says the people you meet and the friends you make through volunteering are a true gift.
Marlene and her husband Bill have three children; son, Tom (daughter-in -law Melissa), daughter, Heidi Zuehlke and son, Nate. Four wonderful grandchildren, Levi and Drake Zuehlke, Emily and Katelyn Roessler
Sandy Johnson is the Program Director of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Rock County. Sandy came to the CASA program as a volunteer advocate in 2014 and witnessed first-hand the difficulties and uncertainty children face in the child welfare system. Her experience as a CASA volunteer fueled her passion and desire to grow the CASA program and serve more children.
She considers it an honor to lead the CASA staff and is constantly in awe of their hard work and dedication to provide quality advocacy for the “kiddos” they serve. Sandy believes the growth and expansion of CASA is a shared success and would not be possible without this stellar team, who feel like family.
Sandy is amazed by the CASA volunteers who take on a job that can be challenging and sometimes heartbreaking, all for the love of children. She is a witness to the sacrifices the volunteers make and knows how much time and energy they expend to show the children they are important and valued. On a difficult day, Sandy thinks about all of the remarkable things CASA volunteers have accomplished – and is re-inspired.
Sandy has been part of various committees that work to improve the system, such as the Family Treatment Court Committee, Safe and Stable Families and the Rock County Trauma Task Force. She considers it a privilege to work alongside people who are so committed to making positive changes within the system.
Sandy and her husband have four grown children. She is proud to say that her life revolves around CASA, and although her previous career as an Account Manager in the medical mobility industry was rewarding, it does not compare to being part of the CASA organization.
Shari Faber works as a Project Coordinator at Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change (JM4C), a substance abuse prevention agency in Janesville. She is currently the chair of the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Committee of the Rock County Heroin Task Force, the chair of the Rock County Children’s Systems of Care (CST/CCOP) Advisory committee, and facilitates the Rock County Trauma Task Force. She is an instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid and ACE Interface. At JM4C, Shari is the Project Director for a grant from the Office on Women’s Health aimed at preventing opioid misuse in young women by mitigating risk factors. The grant application was based on Shari’s idea of creating a more trauma-informed community in order to address Adverse Childhood Experiences and the systems of care around children who have experienced trauma.
Shari has a BS degree in Psychology and an MS degree in Human Development & Family Studies from Iowa State University. In addition to running a small business with her husband, Shari’s career path has included in-home family therapy, teaching Psychology at Blackhawk Technical College, and working with troubled youth. She is guided by the belief that every individual should be afforded the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
Shari enjoys spending time with her husband, Rick, and their two children, Elijah (a freshman at UW-Stevens Point) and Marah (a sophomore at Craig High School). They have enjoyed volunteering together at GIFTS Men’s Shelter, Bags of Hope, Kids Against Hunger, and their church.
Claire Mikkelson is a senior at Janesville Craig High School. She is an active member in many clubs and organizations, including: International Club, Art Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Letterwomans, and Internship. Claire is also president of Student Council’s executive board, Vice President of National Honor Society, and team captain of the Janesville Girls Lacrosse Club.
Through Student Council, she has organized and led many fundraisers, not only for the club, but for the community. The most recent fundraiser was for Isaac Johnson. Isaac is a four year old with neuroblastoma. Through Penny Wars, a winter dance, a raffle, and t-shirt sales, she and Taylor Salmon were able to organize a fundraiser that generated almost $20,000.
When Claire is not busy with club activities or lacrosse, she is most likely working at Threads Consignment or doing homework at a local coffee shop. Claire will be attending University of Wisconsin-Madison or University of Minnesota-Twin Cities next fall. She will major in Biomedical Engineering and is excited to begin a design project working on cancer treatment development. After college, Claire plans on finding a career that will allow her to improve the lifestyle of cancer patients by developing new tools and procedures.
Taylor Salmon is a senior at Janesville Craig High School. She is an active member in many school clubs, such as National Honors Society, National Spanish Honors Society, Student Council, and Letterwoman’s Club. She currently serves as vice president of National Spanish Honors Society and Student Council and president of Letterwoman’s. She also plays volleyball and softball.
Through Student Council, she has been able to take part in many fundraisers over her past four years. Each winter, the club organizes a fundraiser and chooses a local cause to receive those funds (Project 16:49, Cougar Closet, etc.). Usually, these fundraisers raise around $8,000. This year, instead of an organization, they chose a person to support and the money raised went above and beyond. Isaac Johnson is a four year old boy with neuroblastoma and the recipient of this year’s student council fundraiser. Taylor, along with Student Council president Claire Mikkelson, organized Penny Wars at multiple schools/programs, a school dance, raffle, other fundraisers, and reached out to local businesses for donations in an effort to rally the entire community behind the Johnson family. In the end, they raised almost $20,000 for the Johnsons.
Taylor will attend Edgewood College in Madison, WI next fall and seek a degree in Nursing while playing volleyball. Through her work on the Isaac Strong Campaign, she has developed a passion for helping children with cancer and plans to be a part of the Love Your Melon Campus Crew in college, which is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of pediatric cancer patients. After she graduates, she hopes to become a nurse in a Pediatric Oncology.