Boone wins Athena Award

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce selected the area’s Athena Award from a field of nine nominees. The winner was announced at the Chamber’s annual Women of Influence Luncheon earlier this month.


    The winner was Mary Jo Boone. Boone, who serves as CEO of the Bedford Area YMCA, was nominated by a number of people associated with the Y.    

    “If you were to look up the word ‘awesome’ in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of Mary Jo Boone right next to the definition, not only because it’s a word you hear coming from her lips quite often, but also because it describes her personal style,” the nomination states.

    It cites her for her desire to positively impact the health and well being of families in the Bedford area. It states that one of her most respective achievements was earning the Carole M. White Physical Education Grant.

    In addition  to her work with the  YMCA Boone volunteers with the Bedford Primary and Bedford Elementary PTA, Junior Achievement, the county’s School Health Advisory Board and the Bedford Education Alliance.

    This Athena Award is an international award that goes back 20 years. It is given annually in communities around the world to recognize a woman in the community who has achieved a high level of professional excellence while giving of her time and talent to her community. This woman has also opened up leadership opportunities for others. The award is a bronze sculpture, with a crystal prism, on a marble base created by Linda Ackley.

    Other nominations:

    Dr. Linda S. Beahm was nominated by Anita Lowe of Bedford Memorial Hospital.

    “Dr. Beahm is recognized as a wonderful and caring doctor who is compassionate and down to earth,” the nomination states.  Dr. Beam’s top priority is taking care of her patients first. She is respected and loved by all, unselfishly giving of her time and talents to make Bedford a better place to live, raise a family and retire.”

    Beahm also volunteers at the Bedford Christian Free Clinic and was instrumental in putting the Bedford Hospice House’s steering committee together. She currently serves on the Hospice House’s board of directors.

    She has been the medical director of Bedford Hospice Care for nine years. Last year the Virginia Association of Hospices recognized her work, selecting her for the association’s Hospice Dream Team.

    Joey Coakley-Beck was nominated by C. Lee Clark of the Roanoke Rescue Mission.

     Coakley-Beck heads Beck Media Group, which she founded in 2006. Beck Media publishes Bella Magazine, a monthly women’s magazine. Her nomination states that she supports community organizations through sponsorships and by providing advertising space for free or at reduced rates. She speaks to groups about professional development.

    Wende Gaylor was nominated by Martin Leamy, site manager for the National D-Day Memorial. Gaylor founded Hope4u, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that helps make crisis resources available to teens and college-age young adults. Its initial focus has been on Bedford area teens.

    She’s a member of the Bedford Business and Professional Women (BPW) and the Virginia BPW named her the state Young Careerist in 2004.

    Gaylor has also set up a business referral group in Forest called Kings Club. Its purpose is to provide a forum for people to share business leads, expand their business knowledge and help each other’s businesses grow.

    A member of Brookhill Wesleyan Church, she sings with the church’s Praise Ministry Team, as well as singing locally on an invitational basis.

    “Her core belief is by putting God first she is helping others,” the nomination states.

    Rhonda Long was nominated by Marsha G. Lauer of StellarOne in Forest. Long is the bank’s financial center manager for its Bedford office.

    Long has been involved with Relay for Life and the Horse and Hound Wine Festival and the Reading is Fundamental program in Bedford County Public Schools.

    She volunteers a the Bedford Community Christmas Station, Chamber of Commerce events, the Shepherd’s Table, United Way Day of Caring and Bedford Middle School’s Reality Store.

    She’s a member of Bedford Baptist Church where she serves in multiple capacities.

    Annie Pollard was nominated by Nancy Johnson of Johnson’s Orchards and Peaks of Otter Winery.

    Pollard serves on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors as District 6 Supervisor, a seat she won in 2007, defeating two challengers and drawing more than 60 percent of the votes cast. She is also a volunteer at the National D-Day Memorial and serves on the Bedford Museum’s board of directors.

    “Annie’s knowledge of the County of Bedford and her passion for preserving the benefits we all enjoy while living here is evident in her responsible, well grounded vision for our future.  Annie is indeed a woman of vision and passion,” the nomination states.

    Along with the nomination, she received letters of support from a number of people including District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler. One of the letters was from her daughter, Lisa Holandsworth.

    “I know my mother as a survivor,” Hollandsworth wrote.  “A lot of people in the community know of my father’s 2007 accident and some of the effects it has had on my mother.  However, you will not know the depth of her pain and how much of a struggle each day can be for her.  You also will not know of how many other personal trials and tragedies my mother has faced through the past several decades, but I will tell you I have seen her struggle, survive, adapt, thrive and continually live her life to help others.  I’ve also seen her grow from mom, to Sunday school teacher, to PTA officer, to a caregiver for her parents, to an artist, to a volunteer, to a board member and director, and to county supervisor, all with an unwavering faith in God and to whom she would give all the credit.”

    Donna Proctor was nominated by Peggy Bias of the Bedford Public Library System and Michael Cross of the Bedford Community Health Foundation. She also received letters of recommendation from Mary Jo Boone, who ultimately won the award and Patricia Knox, Bedford County Public Schools school nurse coordinator.

    Proctor is executive director of the Health Foundation and the nomination credits her for completely revitalizing the Foundation’s activities while showing outstanding tact and cooperation with colleagues. It cites her for her work at seeking a resolution to the issues of teen pregnancy and childhood obesity.

    She is chairman of the Bedford Area Family YMCA’s board of directors and is a founding member of Bedco Cares. This is a project aimed improving teens’ driving ability. She is also a member of the Bedford Rotary Club.

    Nancy Strachan was nominated by Karen Hughes, director of the Bedford Community Christmas Station.

    Strachan is co-owner of Shiny Stuff Teapot Jewelry. She is an active member of her church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and often takes a leadership role in collecting food, school supplies and personal care products to support the activities of Bedford Community Resource Center, including Easter Food Boxes, Thanksgiving Food Boxes and school supplies for needy students.

    Her volunteer work includes working at the Bedford Christmas Station and serving on its board of directors.

    Strachan has also spent time in Rwanda teaching skills to women and children impacted by violence in that country and has organized shipments of supplies to people in that African country.

    “Her tremendous energy and personal resources help all women reach the point that they not only take care of themselves, but they in turn are in a position to reach out and help others.  She is the embodiment of empowerment,” the nomination states.

    Jacqueline Wente was nominated by Sandra Boyels, owner of Periwinkel Enterprises. Wente is the volunteer CEO of Bedford Hospice House, Inc. She also arranged of Bedford Memorial Hospital to donate property on which to build the hospice house. She also organized teams of volunteers to get out the word to the community and to participate in the Smith Mountain Lake Community Home Tour. The home tour is an annual charity fundraising event.

    Along with this, Wente is a member of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wharton Foundation St. Thomas Moore Church, the Garden Club of Bedford and the Bedford Community Health Foundation.