Details for WOMEN OF ACHIEVEMENT TRADE SBJ - Ad from 2021-09-12

2021 Women of Achievement honor 10 area women
for their outstanding efforts in the community

When Lourdes Bailon noticed a communication
gap for St. Louis’ Spanish-speaking communities
to receive crucial COVID-19
updates, she took it upon
herself to bridge that gap.
“With things changing
rapidly and lack of information from local governments in our language,
the [STLJuntos Facebook]
page was created to give the Spanish-speaking community a safe and reliable place to obtain verified and
updated information about the current health crisis,”
Bailon says. “STLJuntos was created with the aim of
having a place where the Spanish-speaking community could obtain safety recommendations and a place to
find local resources available with the intent to give the
Spanish-speaking community equal opportunities to
access what was available.”
Bailon published inspiring videos in hopes of
connecting the communities and also interviewed
Spanish-speaking doctors to provide important
health information.
“We have had students from the medical school of
Washington University [in St. Louis], the Latin Association of Medical Students, Saint Louis University and
Lindenwood University collaborating and creating content in Spanish that has been used on our platforms,
our food distributions, as well as at our COVID vaccine
events,” Bailon says. “Collaborating with others has allowed us to carry this out and achieve our goal of reaching the communities that have been most affected.”


Since moving to St. Louis
as a Coro St. Louis Fellow
in 1998, Rebeccah Bennett
has yet to cease serving.
“All of my work is really focused on how to fully
live up to the principles of
our democracy – how to
make sure that there are no
excluded or marginalized
groups in our nation and
specifically in our region,”
Bennett says. “I am principally interested in those
groups that find themselves in the margins and how we
can change our systems and our structures and our policies to make sure that we live fully in the spirit of our
democracy and the promise of our democracy.”
Bennett has served on the boards of Boys Hope Girls
Hope, the Professional Organization of Women, Forward
Through Ferguson and Generate Health, to name a few.
“I’m honored that my work has contributed to a larger body of work led by women in this region to make
our region prosper and thrive and be a place that people
want to live, work, raise their family, build businesses
and all of those things,” Bennett says. “So I see my little
piece as one piece of a larger body of work that’s being
led by women to advance progress in our region, and I’m
thrilled to be a part of that community.”



For years, social justice
artist Susan Colangelo has
expressed herself in embroidery by stitching stories she’s clipped from the
paper. However, after two
girls were shot while simply sitting on their University City porch, Colangelo
could no longer create.
“We live in Clayton,
not far from U City, and
this incident awakened me to the gun violence epidemic,” Colangelo says. “I tried to stitch a panel about it,
and it didn’t make any sense to me to sit there by myself
and try to do something about gun violence.”
Thus, Story Stitchers – now an award-winning, nationally recognized artists collective – was born.
“Today, Story Stitchers is about helping the young
people to heal and be healthy and to learn to move
things the way they want to see them move with nonviolent collective action and with art,” Colangelo explains.
“Creative youth development can help young people to
build resiliency through [forming] friendships; having
safe spaces to gather; learning how to cooperate, listen,
make yourself heard in a peaceful way; understanding
and helping your community; and learning how to say
‘no’ to friends who might be involved in crime. All
those things that the arts do inherently help youth to
grow and become happy, productive adults.”



For approximately 35 years,
Annette Eckert served in
criminal courts – as an attorney, an associate judge
and, eventually, the first
female circuit judge elected
in the five-county 20th Judicial Circuit in southwestern Illinois. Then, just five
years out of retirement, she
launched St. Clair Coun-

ty’s Teen Court – an alternate approach to juvenile justice that holds first-time nonviolent teens accountable
through remedies selected by their peers.
“Having been in the justice system and having seen
the people who were in front of me in criminal court
all those years, I find it heartening to be able to be on
the other end,” Eckert says. “Once a person gets one
toe in the water, the whole foot goes in. And so to have
the opportunity to have an early intervention in young
lives to keep that toe out of the water, hopefully, will
keep a lot of young people in our county out of the justice system.”
Eckert notes that the teens themselves are what
keeps her in this field: “I do this out of passion and being passionate for it. I love working with these teenagers. I think they are absolutely great, and it has given
me a new view of the future.”



For Lannis Hall – the director of radiation oncology
at Siteman Cancer Center
at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters
Hospital and an associate
professor of clinical radiation oncology at Washington University School
of Medicine – cancer has
caused a lot of heartache.
“Three of my four
grandparents died from
preventable malignancies, and what I remember is the
devastating pain and loss,” Hall says. “When I chose
the field of medicine, I quickly learned that the suffering
they experienced was avoidable, and I could have enjoyed them for many more years. Because of that experience, I felt comfortable with the field of oncology and
how I would practice, but it drove me to have a larger
ambition around prevention.”
Hall not only has dedicated her career to cancer but
also has co-founded the Prostate Cancer Coalition,
aided in the development of a breast health equity program, served on the board of The Breakfast Club (a
local breast cancer support group), developed a prostate cancer podcast series, forged a partnership with
Hazelwood School District to provide breast health
education, and worked with 100-plus churches in the
metro area to promote early detection and prevention
of malignancies.
“Many people believe that cancer is something you
have no control over,” Hall says. “That is not true. …
The more positive message about wise life choices, early detection and prevention is credible and empowering
in combating cancer.”


Rachel Miller, one of the
countless hidden children
of the Holocaust, has a
story some would struggle
to share.
“I am a human being, but I’m also history,”
Miller says. “The sad part
is that only 40 percent of
young people know about
the Holocaust. It’s my responsibility to my family
that I love and to the 6 million Jews that were murdered
to tell my story wherever I can, at any time I can.”
Miller began sharing her story after the St. Louis
Holocaust Museum & Learning Center opened in
1995 and asked survivors to speak, and she hasn’t
stopped since.
“I’ve been involved in the Holocaust museum for 25
years,” Miller says. “I have spoken for many thousands
of people, young and old. I get a lot of responses, which
tells me that I have connected with the people to whom
I have spoken, and that makes me feel good.”
Miller also volunteers at the Better Business Bureau and the St. Louis Symphony, and co-founded the
nonprofit Shaving Israel, which aids in providing basic
necessities to Israeli soldiers.
“This is my life story,” Miller says. “When I became
an adult, I became aware of what my mother did. She
saved my life. I would not be talking to you if she hadn’t
sent me away. I would have died in Auschwitz like they
did. I’m grateful to her, and maybe she wanted me to
tell the story, and that’s why she saved me.”



For more than 20 years,
Carole Splater and her
crew of volunteers have
been organizing and dispersing donated fabric
through Charity Sharity.
“Our fabric has gone all
over the world in the form
of finished items and fabric
itself,” Splater says. “There
are missions in Haiti and in
Honduras who teach women to sew so they have a marketable skill. Also, there
are many groups making clothes for kids in orphanages in other countries – little kids that don’t have much
to wear except maybe a pair of shorts.”
Charity Sharity’s donations go to approximately 250 groups locally and internationally, including
schools, prisons, churches, hospitals and more.
“Every week, we give away an average of 50 kitchen
trash bags of fabric to people sewing for the benefit of

others,” Splater says. “Charity work is just as beneficial
to the volunteer as to the recipient of the products. Many
people want to serve but don’t know how, and our charity
has given hundreds of women and men this opportunity.”


When Grace Strobel, a
24-year-old model and
motivational speaker with
Down syndrome, was
working alongside her
mom at an elementary
school cafeteria in 2017, a
moment of adolescent cruelty changed her life.
“Several groups of students kept calling me over
asking for my help in opening their milk cartons and fruit cups,” Strobel says.
“Many students were waiting, so my mom went to ask
if she could help, as well… They said, ‘No, we want her
to help us’ – pointing at me – ‘because we know she
can’t do it.’ When they laughed and made fun of me
that day, I felt alone, misunderstood and hated.”
Strobel decided she wanted to make a difference
and created a 45-minute presentation with her mom
called #TheGraceEffect.
“I challenge students to look beyond what they see
and seek kindness, respect and dignity for all individuals,” Strobel says. “I wanted to bring my experiences,
challenges and perspective on living with a disability
to others. To share with students some of the struggles
we face, elevate empathy, understanding, and to help
break down the fears and barriers many people have.”
Strobel’s goals don’t stop there: “Through my
speaking and modeling, my hope is to empower and
inspire people to feel good about themselves – to be
unapologetically OK with who you are.”



When Cassie Strom joined
the U.S. Air Force as a
judge advocate general in
1984, she never expected to
stay for more than 31 years.
“You meet and work
with a diverse group of
people that I never would
have encountered growing
up in the Midwest,” Strom
says. “The Air Force challenged me and gave me
much more responsibility than I would have had in a
law firm.”
Nearing the end of her Air Force career, Strom
founded the Veterans Advocacy Project, which focuses on removing barriers to accessing veterans’ benefits
under Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry.
“Clearing barriers to allow veterans to access housing, employment and health benefits is huge,” Strom
says. “It allows our veterans to hold their heads up and
be proud of their service.”
Strom also started an annual Stand Up! For Women Veterans event in collaboration with other St. Louis agencies and organizations and serves as the president of the Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation,
president of the Missouri Veterans Hall of Fame and
co-chair of the Gateway Community Veterans Engagement Board.
“As a retired female general officer, I feel a responsibility to get out and let young girls, young women
and their parents know about the opportunities in
the military services and at the service academies,”
Strom says.



For more than 30 years,
Cheryl D.S. Walker has
served as a lawyer, but it’s
her commitment to community service that certainly makes her shine.
“I just remember as
a child doing volunteer
things with my mother,
and so it was almost like
it was always there in my
life,” Walker says. “It was
just a part of the essence of who I am.”
Just to name a few of Walker’s accomplishments,
she is the president of the St. Louis Regional Health
Commission, president of the Missouri Ethics Commission and vice president and mayoral appointee of
the board of commissioners of the Regional Arts Commission. She’s also the daughter of Paula Smith, a 2008
WOA honoree.
“She was in the middle of her cancer battle when
she received the honor, and so it immediately took me
there – in a joyful way – that I was receiving something
that she had received,” Walker says. “That’s one of the
things that I tried to do, and how I live my life is to
honor my parents and honor those who came before,
[who struggled] so I could be who I am.”

Monday, September 13 at 7 p.m.
Don’t miss this chance to recognize this year’s honorees in an hour-long awards celebration broadcast on Nine PBS.


NewsRadio 1120

The Voice of St. Louis



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