ROCK COUNTY (WIFR) -- YWCA Rock County has announced this year's selections for the prestigious Women of Distinction Awards. These awards honor women who have distinguished themselves through leadership, personal achievement or volunteer work in the community. The award winners have made a difference in the lives of people in the Rock County area and serve as role models to other women.
The winners are chosen by a selection committee comprised of YWCA staff, board members, and past recipients. 2013 marks the 39th annual awards luncheon.
Marion Barlass is the co-operator of her family's 560-acre dairy farm. The 500-head Barlass Jersey herd has ranked in the top ten nationally for dairy production. Marion currently serves on the board for the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. She is also always willing to mentor the next generation of producers through her involvement with 4H and FFA. Marion is also well-known as the first to bring comfort to community members who are ill, grieving, or in need.
Ann Forbeck serves as a social worker and homeless liaison in the Janesville School District. She works diligently to address the needs of homeless students in Janesville, while collaborating with social workers in surrounding districts to promote the community effort called 16:49. Her relationships with community organizations have allowed the school district better access to the students they serve; donating time to ensure students' transportation to school, stable housing, medical services and clothing.
Elisabeth Hinkle works as a finance manager at AT&T in Janesville, and has started a catering business with a focus on local farmers. Her goal with her catering company is to provide employment to women who were incarcerated, and helping them find affordable housing. Elisabeth also donates five percent of catering revenue to the non-profit of her customer's choice. These achievements come after Elisabeth overcame personal struggles with substance abuse.
Kerry Swanson is president of St. Mary's Janesville Hospital. Since she moved to Janesville in 2008, Kerry also has helped forge a partnership between UW-Rock County, Blackhawk Technical College and UW-Oshkosh for the SOAR Ahead nursing program. Securing St. Mary's Health Systems' financial support for the program went beyond Kerry's usual duties as president, and she ensured the organization was the first donor for the project that helps Rock County women achieve their career goals.
Christine Rebout serves as the executive director of the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Christine's leadership helped create more than four million dollars in economic impact for Rock County in 2011, and has helped distinguish Janesville as a destination for conventions and tours. Her philanthropy extends to a number of Rock County organizations, and she is frequently the first to volunteer when there is a need.
Harmony Sheperd is a junior at Parker High School and our YWCA Young Woman of Distinction. Harmony's experience with domestic violence is personal: four of her cousins were murdered during a domestic assault. Harmony took this tragedy as an opportunity to spread awareness in Janesville and prevent other families from experiencing such heartbreak. In conjunction with Student Leadership Council, Harmony created a video about the dangers of domestic violence. She shared that with other students and accepted monetary donations for purple awareness ribbons. In all, she collected more than $700, which she donated to the YWCA domestic violence shelter.