Meet the dynamic women who will be celebrated for their contributions to the community at the YWCA Lancaster’s Women of Achievement Luncheon being held Friday, November 2, at The Inn at Leola Village.
Together, the honorees for YWCA Lancaster’s 2018 Women of Achievement awards tell a powerful story. For some of the six women, it is the story of overcoming personal challenges – even tragedies – to not only make better lives for themselves, but to also ensure that others who are in similar situations will be given greater opportunities for healing, growth and success. For others, it is the story of recognizing needs for new ways to give a hand-up, stepping beyond one’s comfortable career path to make greater commitments to the community.
For each of these women, their personal experiences fuel their passions, and the Lancaster community is all the better for their presence. In an effort to pay tribute to the community’s sometimes unsung heroines, the YWCA created this special event to recognize and honor women who have demonstrated qualities of leadership and excellence in their personal and professional endeavors while supporting, embodying and complementing the organization’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.
In addition to sharing a wonderful lunch and meeting this year’s honorees, guests will also hear from keynote speaker, Dr. Wendy Osefo, who is a professor of education at Johns Hopkins University, as well as an award-winning researcher and progressive political commentator and strategist.
Refugee to Restaurateur to Role Model
When Vy Bahn’s family departed from Saigon in 1975, they left behind a successful family business of restaurants. What they didn’t leave behind was the know-how and family spirit to recreate that restaurant empire in New Orleans. Then, 30 years later, the family faced yet another challenge in the form of a historic hurricane called Katrina. The Crescent City took the brunt of the storm’s winds, rain and destruction. Lancaster became home when they fled the Gulf. Here, Vy and her siblings, husband and brother-in-law created a new restaurant, Rice and Noodles, which quickly became a Lancaster favorite, along with its downtown location, Sprout of Rice and Noodles.
Vy knows the importance of a strong community, and the lessons of entrepreneurship. She fosters other start-up businesses and supports economic diversity through her multi-faceted involvement in organizations, including the steering committees of the Building on Strength Economic Development Plan for the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster City Alliance. Fête en Blanc and Lancaster City Restaurant Week – which support the economic vitality of the many small businesses like her family’s – also benefit from Vy’s contributions as a committee member and volunteer.
Engage Vy in a conversation, and she will undoubtedly remind you that this country, and Lancaster, has been built on welcoming those in need.
Advocate for Domestic Violence Survivors
Forty years ago, domestic violence was not something we talked about, and many who fell victim to that abuse suffered quietly, shamefully and without hope of changing their future. Bonnie Glover helped change that for the women and children of Lancaster.
In 1976, Bonnie was one of very few women of color earning her bachelor’s degree at Franklin & Marshall College. She stepped into a leadership role for the Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County, and over the next 42 years, transformed the county’s first refuge for abused women from a small shelter with a 24-hour hotline to an organization offering comprehensive services like counseling for resident and non-resident victims, a legal services unit, a bridge housing facility, a children’s program and a violence-prevention education program.
Thousands of local victims of domestic violence have found hope and a new life through Domestic Violence Services.
Bonnie’s passion has taken her advocacy to the state level, as she is one of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV). She served on its board of directors for 35 years, including a four-year term as board president.
Bonnie worked to educate the community about domestic violence at a time when it was considered an unmentionable subject, reaching out to engage with local law enforcement and medical personnel to ensure that domestic violence victims receive the help and services they need. On a state level, Bonnie’s work through PCADV focused on efforts to get laws passed to protect victims of domestic violence and to obtain funding to support facilities and programs to assist them.
The influence of Bonnie Glover has impacted many lives, both locally and statewide.
Champion for Underprivileged Students
For Hempfield High School’s ninth-grade girls, staying after school is a privilege, not a punishment. Dr. Beth Becker, the school’s Grade 9 Principal, runs the Thursday Girls’ Club, which specifically reaches female students who need mentoring beyond what they receive during the traditional school day. Female staff members serve as advisors and role models for the club, whose members are representative of a diverse group of ethnicities, races and backgrounds. The ultimate goal is to encourage engagement and participation in school activities.
Dr. Becker leads the club’s mission with activities focused on exposing her female students to experiences that many would have otherwise missed, such as relationship-building, community-service projects, writing circles and mentor presentations. She also works to secure donations of materials from staff and local organizations to create meaningful activities and organize after-school transportation from school to students’ homes. When a student lacks a strong parental voice to support her, Dr. Becker steps in to be a respectful voice and a skilled mediator.
For at-risk students who typically may not receive positive recognition or participate in clubs or other activities, the Thursday Girls’ Club represents a chance for inclusion, a place for self-confidence to grow, and a reason to stay in school. (Ninety percent of club members go on to graduate.) Four years later, former club members become eligible for post-secondary scholarships in their senior year.
You can find Dr. Becker keeping track of their successes – quietly, yet passionately, cheering them on.
Building a Community of Strength through Collaboration
As CEO of Bright Side Opportunities Center, Willonda McCloud is a champion for Lancaster City’s southwest area and its residents who need a hand-up to help make their neighborhoods safe, their families healthy and keep their kids on the right track.
Through collaborative partnerships with Fulton Bank, IU13 and Lancaster Health Center, the Bright Side Opportunities Center provides a full-service bank and access to financial literacy programs for youth, annually teaches English to over 335 people representing as many as 27 native languages, and offers accessible health care to low-income and uninsured children and families in a full-service medical facility.
But, that’s just her day job.
Willonda’s interests in building a strong city go far beyond the streets of southwest Lancaster. Her service on boards and committees of other supportive organizations demonstrates her commitment to diversity, inclusion and mentoring others for future leadership. United Way of Lancaster County, Leadership Lancaster, City of Lancaster Land Trust Board, South West Lancaster Collaborative, Lancaster County STEM Alliance and Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity are just a few of the organizations benefiting from her influence through board or committee positions.
From Victim to Powerful Voice
Twelve-year old Kayla Schneider knew it wasn’t right to be treated the way she was by a family acquaintance. Today, 20-year-old Kayla Schneider has transformed those traumatic experiences of her young life into power: She is a passionate voice, promoting awareness and inspiring hope and healing for other victims of child sexual abuse.
Her work is far-reaching, as she is involved with international, national, state and Lancaster County-based organizations. By sharing her invaluable perspective as an adult survivor, Kayla offers insight into our system’s investigative experience and the effectiveness of children’s advocacy centers in providing comprehensive, coordinated services to child victims of abuse. Having experienced the investigation process firsthand at the Lancaster County Children’s Alliance, Kayla led a community project to transform the space into a more welcoming, comfortable environment for survivors to begin their life-changing journeys.
Kayla’s compassion for children goes beyond those who experience sexual abuse. As a titleholder in the Miss Pennsylvania Scholarship Pageant organization – Miss Keystone 2018 – Kayla is championing her cause to offer hope and encouragement to all survivors, including children facing chronic illnesses and long-term hospital stays at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
A frequent public speaker, Kayla shares her difficult story with a message of positivity, confidence and empowerment – much-needed qualities for those who have experienced the trauma of child sexual abuse.
Launching the Entrepreneur
Having a great product, idea or service, yet possessing no understanding of how to manage it into a business is a bit like having a gold mine and not having the tools to dig.
Melisa Baez works to change that scenario, particularly for women and people of color.
As the first director of the Women’s Business Center at ASSETS Lancaster, Melisa is dedicated to making business ownership possible by providing individuals with resources to successfully start, manage and grow their businesses. Coaching and mentoring, technology training and resources are just a few of the opportunities offered to emerging entrepreneurs in the city of Lancaster.
Growing up on South Prince Street, Melisa saw firsthand the needs of young people of color to get training to launch them into higher education. Through Children Deserve a Chance, she helped to create Attollo, a college-access program designed to introduce computer science and other skills to high school juniors and seniors. Melisa’s work at Attollo paved the way for many young people of color to set their lives in new directions.
In addition to launching new business owners at ASSETS, Melisa recently began an MBA program focused on sustainability in business. She also serves on the board at The Stone Independent School, remains involved with the entrepreneurs she worked with at ASSETS, and continues to mentor many of the young people whose lives she influenced through Attollo.
The Women of Achievement Luncheon will be held Friday, November 2, at The Inn at Leola Village, 38 Deborah Drive/Route 23 in Leola. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets to this event are now sold out.