Darlene Ward-Reno, program manager and planning operator with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, was awarded the top honor as Woman of the Year during this year’s Tribute to Women of Achievement.
“Well, I am in awe,” Ward-Reno said Friday night.
Ward-Reno was honored for her “organized and meticulous” efforts to raise money and seek out volunteers for numerous charities, as well as donating services as a CPA and grant writer to the National Native American Law Enforcement Association.
“We look forward to another year of donating our time,” Ward-Reno said.
After nominations are collected from the community, past honorees narrow down the selection to 15 women.
These honorees, who either live or work in Cobb, Cherokee or Paulding counties, demonstrate leadership in both personal and professional endeavors in business, nonprofit and volunteer arenas.
The Woman of the Year finalist is picked by a group of five judges, said Holly Tuchman, the CEO and executive director of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, who has been organizing the event for the past seven years.
The list of the women recognized in past years has grown to more than 400 honorees.
Deane Bonner, president of the Cobb NAACP, was honored as Woman of the Year in 2008.
“You don’t do anything alone,” Bonner said, describing what it takes to receive the honor.
Bonner’s daughter, Jeriene Grimes, who recently was elected to the Marietta school board, was a Woman of Achievement at the 2010 awards.
“There are some dynamic leaders that come from all walks of life … all with a mission of empowering,” Grimes said.
In 2013, Cassandra Buckalew, an entrepreneur who owns and operates the Historic Marietta Trolley Co., Peachtree Trolley Co., Marietta Pedicabs, Ghosts of Marietta and Cassandra Buckalew Interiors, received the Woman of the Year award.
In 2012, the Woman of the Year was freelance writer and historic preservationist for more than 30 years, Becky Paden. In 2011, the top award was given to Harrison High School social worker Penny Warren, wife of Sheriff Neil Warren.
At Friday night’s ceremony, the Pat Head Dignity Award was given to Kimberly McCoy, who heads the Victim Witness Unit of the Cobb County District Attorney’s office.
McCoy, who also serves on the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s board of directors, guides victims and witnesses through the complexity of the criminal justice system.
A third prestigious honor, the Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, was given to Josetta Walker, a retired teacher, principal and administrator who spent 32 years working in the Marietta School District, and her husband, Louis Walker, a retired Marietta High School industrial arts teacher.
The Walker couple has addressed racial inequality through efforts such as founding the Old Zion Heritage Museum. Louis Walker serves on the board of the Marietta Schools Foundation.
Raising money, awareness for women
This was the 29th year the YWCA of Northwest Georgia has recognized Women of Achievement. The dinner is one of four annual fundraisers for the organization, which this year raised nearly $200,000.
The night began with a silent auction, “Open Your Hearts and Purses,” featuring 350 items like purses, gift certificates, wine and sports memorabilia.
The Cumberland Diamond Exchange’s master jeweler, Patrick O’Brien, designed a one-of-a kind ‘Stop the Violence’ jewelry piece, valued at $4,000, which was raffled off Friday night.
Robin Bishop, chief deputy clerk in Cobb State Court, and her husband, Allan Bishop, executive director in retail operations of WellStar Health System, served as the 2014 Tribute to Women of Achievement co-chairs.
Tuchman said the awards dinner is meant to “bring awareness to who we are and what we do.”
It is the vision of the YWCA to have a community free of domestic violence and sexual assault. The YWCA of Northwest Georgia was established in 1917 in Marietta.
Now the program runs a crisis hotline, provides shelter for sexual assault or domestic violence victims and offers counseling and temporary protective orders for women and children. The organization serves about 5,000 people a year, Tuchman said.
“This event is extremely important to those we serve,” said Tuchman. “The funds raised from this event help the women and children who come to us for a safe place to heal and become survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Tuchman emphasized that domestic abuse is not a female-only issue.
“We are not strictly a women’s organization,” said Tuchman, who highlighted that several men have served as members on the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s board.
One in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. One in six women and one in 33 men will be victims of sexual assault. The atrocities affect everyone from families to entire communities, Tuchman said.
The money donated at Friday’s event will go to the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s campaign to raise the remaining $500,000 the organization needs to meet a $7.2 million goal.
Mary Provitt, who has been a shelter advocate for three years, said the funds will go to feed children and provide clothes to women to search for jobs.
The shelter, where 32 women and children are housed and 84 meals are served each day, is also in need of renovations to the bathrooms and bedrooms.
Provitt, who lives in Austell, said without the shelter, the abused and often physically and emotionally bruised women would be on the streets.
The women and children at the shelter face struggles that are hard to imagine, “unless you have gone through it yourself,” Provitt said. “And trust me, I have been there.”
2014 women of achievement honorees
• Pam Brems, director of Mansour Center
• Cathy Brown, retired Cobb County librarian
• Wendy Bunch, broker/owner Re/Max PURE
• Beth Eckford, senior vice president, Bank of North Georgia
• Karen Hallacy, former Cobb County legislative liaison
• Meg Hartin, administrative law judge, Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
• Rhonda Jacobson, co-owner, Cumberland Diamond Exchange
• Jennifer Johnson-Lynch, wedding planner and community volunteer
• Tracy Rathbone, director of business development, Coxe Curry & Associates
• Michelle Robinson, vice president marketing, PR & internal communications, WellStar Health System
• Tammi Saddler Jones, assistant city manager, City of Smyrna
• Mattie Small, managing member, education chair, NAACP
• Darlene Ward-Reno, program management and planning operations, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
• Rebecca Wood, services delivery manager, Genuine Parts Company
• April Wright, principal, 524 Creative