By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (March 21, 2019) – A crowd of about 275 gathered on March 16th in a banquet room at Serbian Social Center to celebrate the contributions of females during Women’s History Month. The annual Women of Honor brunch has been taking place for the past 11 years, organized by the Thornton Township Human Relations Commission.
Girl Scout Participation
Lansing Girl Scout Troop 10092 senior scouts Korey Ziemkowski, Anya Yadron, Kaitlyn Popp, Hannah Popp and Gracie Pucher assisted with table and stage set-up and clean-up and presented flags at the start of the ceremony. Also attending were adult volunteers Colleen Ziemkowski, Betty Hilley and Jan Bockel, all from Lansing. The troop is part of service unit 636, which also includes five surrounding communities.
Bockel has been an adult volunteer for over 40 years and spent 10 years as an active Girl Scout. “I think it’s fantastic that they are honoring women. They are the backbone of so much and sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve,” she said. “And I feel so strongly about Girl Scouts and what they do in helping girls become the best they can be and become productive adults.”
Honoring Successful Women
“I think it’s a great event,” said Tui Muse, commissioner with Thornton Township’s Human Relations Commission. “I encourage more women to come out who have been successful in their endeavors.”
Joyce Washington, Thornton Township Trustee and Chairperson of the Human Relations Commission said that four women are typically honored each year, but some years there have been five. “We try to concentrate on Thornton Township, but honorees can be from anywhere,” she said. “We don’t limit it.”
Four women who have made an impact on their communities and beyond in their professions accepted awards.
Stacey Baca was honored for her contributions as a journalist, news anchor and reporter. A Colorado native, Baca currently can be seen on weekend morning newscasts on ABC 7 News Saturday and Sunday Mornings shows and on 10 p.m. ABC 7 News newscasts. Baca has been married to her husband Todd Gilchrist, a retired naval aviator, for 22 years, which inspired a passion for covering military news in the Chicago area.
Darlene Gray Everett, current president of School Board District 149, was also honored for her expertise in school board relations and leadership. She also serves as a Board Delegate and Director At-Large for the Illinois School Board Association and is vice president for the Calumet City Library. In 2015, she was recognized as an Emeritus Board Leadership Academy Fellow. She is also owner and operator of Everett Safe Express Transportation LLC.
Also recognized was Johnnie M. Lane, Village of Phoenix Clerk. A Phoenix resident since 1961, Lane is an active member of Daniel Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church and has served as a member of the Cook County Health Department, Treasurer of the Southwest Municipal Clerks Association, and works with the United Way of Harvey and Phoenix Ladies Auxiliary. She’s a founding member of the Phoenix Fest committee and served as treasurer for its 25 years. She has been village clerk for over 40 years.
Debra Shore, the final honoree, is Commissioner on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, first elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 and 2018. She has been a strong advocate for cleaning up Chicago waterways and for resource recovery. In 2013, she received the Public Officials Award from the Water Environment Federation. She was founding editor of Chicago Wilderness magazine and was a founding board member of Friends of the Forest Preserves.
“We want to honor women and as time passes more and more women are being honored,” said Washington. “We should be recognizing women for all their accomplishments in life.”
Thornton Township Human Relations Commission members
Members of the Human Relations Commission are Shirley Bloodworth (Homewood), Oscar M. Canales (South Holland), Evanne Carvlin (Dolton), Paula E. Counts (Calumet City), Ruby Donahue (Harvey), Joseph L. Marjan (Riverdale), Tui Muse (Dixmoor), Mabel P. Ricker (Calumet City), Bert Rivera (Lansing), Joyce Washington (Dolton), Loretta Wells (Phoenix) and Annette Whittington (Harvey). Township staff includes Sonia Gutierrez, HRC secretary; Ernst Lamonthe, Jr., community relations; Elizabeth Gonzalez, staff assistant; Delia Medina, program assistant.