21 Leading Ladies honored at 20th anniversary event

Twenty one women were honored at the 20th Leading Ladies luncheon on Friday, Oct. 18. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Southington Leading Ladies organization celebrated their 20th anniversary the way you’d expect. At the annual Leading Ladies luncheon at the Aqua Turf on Friday, Oct. 18, the organization recognized 21 influential women for their generosity and dedication to the community—one for every year…plus one for the future.

A commemorative bottle celebrates 20 years of Leading Ladies luncheons. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

NBC Universal’s Taylor Kinzler hosted the event, keeping the positive vibes and laughs rolling as she shared information about each of the 21 awardees: Joanne Alfieri, Sandra Brino, Cristin Buckley, Nancy Chiero, Gloria Colonero, Valerie DePaolo, Dolores Fanelli, Susan Fowler, Christine Gagnon, Helen Henne, Paula Knight, Gina LaPorte, Jackie Laramee, Terry Lombardi, Paula Lopatosky, Janet Mellon, Linda Mendelsohn, Betsy Tooker, Victoria Triano, Rachel Wache, and Kathy Reinhard.

The purpose of Leading Ladies is twofold, explained Leading Lady Donna Ayer, with the goal of gathering women to honor their collective accomplishments in the Southington community, and to raise money to “give a helping hand to women who need a hand up.”

“A group of six of us got together [because] we wanted to do something to give back to the women in our community. And here we are 20 years later, honoring 20 beautiful women from our community who have made great contributions,” said Leading Ladies co-founder Pattie Dunn. “We honor people who have made a contribution to the community through their work, their volunteerism.”

Since the inception 20 years ago, Leading Ladies has started a dating violence support group at Southington High School, funded a girls empowerment program for middle school students, offered free mammograms to women in financial need, provided wigs to women with hair loss due to cancer treatments, set up an educational scholarship at the Prudence Crandall Center, and purchased books with positive female role models for all school libraries in town, amongst other community-minded efforts.

“After these many accomplishments, along the way we realized that our funds would have a more direct impact through small immediate response grants to women who are faced with financial expenses that they cannot meet,” said Ayer.

Dunn explained that 10 years ago Leading Ladies partnered with the Main Street Community Foundation to establish the Leading Ladies Immediate Response Fund. The fund, she continued, “provides immediate response grants for women and girls experiencing financial hardship.”

By the close of the event, they were able to raise more than $10,000, with about $5,700 raised in tips alone throughout the luncheon. These funds will be donated to the Leading Ladies Immediate Response Fund.

To learn more about the immediate response fund, and the work being done by the Leading Ladies Organization, visit www.leadingladiesct.org.

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