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News release from the YWCA:

YWCA of Genesee County is proud to announce this year's Fabulous Females Award recipients.

Loren Penman has been selected for the 2014 Blossom Award, Elizabeth Myers for the Petal Award and Hannah Durham for the Seedling Award.

These women will be honored during "A Garden Party: Celebrating YWCA's Fabulous Females & Friends of Batavia Peace Garden" May 10 at Terry Hills, 5122 Clinton Street Rd.

Penman, a former Batavia High School and Elba Central School teacher, drama club adviser, director of learning and interim superintendent at Byron-Bergen and a Youth Bureau Board member, is a passionate volunteer team leader at Gillam-Grant Community Center and a 2011 Volunteer of the Year for the Bergen-based organization. She has been a role model for empowering women through her personal and professional endeavors for many years, Kathy Broderick, Shirley Puleo and Lenora Sands said in their nomination letter.

Not only does Penman give of herself but she asks for nothing in return, Puleo said. She is just "a take-charge person" who gets the job done, no matter if it's to raise money for a community need, deliver Valentine's candy to senior citizens or volunteer as a dog sitter for neighbors. When thinking about why Penman deserves the award, Puleo listed the nominee's "leadership, intelligence and compassion" for starters.

"She's just all of those things for everybody," Puleo said.

The nomination letter further stated that "as her intelligence and enthusiasm filter through the Western New York Tech Academy, Gillam-Grant Community Center, Delta Kappa Gamma, the Manor House, Silver Lake Institute, area school districts, her community, her neighborhood, her friends and her family, many, many lives are being positively impacted."

Genesee County Young Life Area Director Adrienne Cali nominated Elizabeth Myers for her deep level of involvement with her school and church, and for being a positive role model in her community. The Batavia High School senior has demonstrated the characteristics of being a "true leader among her friends and peers," Cali said.

"I have always admired this attribute in her," Cali said. "Elizabeth is a dedicated and passionate person and gives her very best in all that she does."

One area in particular was the teen's passion as youth leader at the Salvation Army and as a worship dance instructor. Other interests have been softball, basketball, tennis, singing in the All-County Chorus and academics, which is evident through her being a member of National Honor Society.

As another city high school student, Hannah Durham is making Batavia proud by being chosen for the Seedling Award. School counselor Kelly Garner nominated her for having persevered more in 14 years than "most people three times her age." Hannah and her brother were removed from their home due to their mother's drug addiction and emotional abuse. Hannah's father died from a terminal illness when she was in middle school, and she was sent back to be with her mother who had been substance free.

Last summer her mother relapsed and Hannah ended up living with their grandmother, determined to finish school successfully and happily.

"I work with many students who are put into difficult or adverse situations. Some find success, others succumb to their surroundings," Garner said. "I am truly astonished by Hannah's transformation over the last three years. She has something special within her that has helped her to find wonderful advocates, build strong relationships and get involved in worthy programs and events."

A Garden Party is set to begin at 5 p.m. and is to include a string and brass quartet, sit-down dinner, champagne toast, DJ and fun garden hat contest. A panel of distinguished citizens will award prizes for the most beautiful, creative and craziest hats. There will also be a surprise announcement of the Bouquet Award recipient, chosen from prior Fabulous Females for her continuing efforts and accomplishments in Genesee County.

"I look forward to this event because we can highlight some very special women who make a noticeable difference in our community," YW Executive Director Jeanne Walton said. "This year's Garden Party also celebrates a mutual effort of two nonprofit organizations that have worked together to plan a truly wonderful awards dinner for everyone to enjoy."

Friends of Batavia Peace Garden will be honoring five people who have been "instrumental" in making the West Main Street site a success since it began more than five years ago, Chairwoman Barb Toal said. They are Former Genesee County Legislators Esther Leadley and Mary Pat Hancock, retired Batavia elementary school teacher Anne Marie (Peca) Starowitz and, posthumously, Charlotte Conable and Lynn Brown.

"Since the very inception, they have been involved in the Peace Garden in some way, shape or form," Toal said.

The organization has also chosen Alex Wallace for the Youth Ambassador Award, for his devotion to the garden the past two years. A student at Genesee Community College, he has spent many hours working in the garden, participating in related fundraisers and generally "making himself available to the committee for whatever is needed of him."

Tickets are $35 each or $300 for a table of 10. There are also sponsorship opportunities available that include special promotional perks.

For tickets or more information, call (585) 343-5808.


WBTA spoke to Blossom Award winner, Loren Penman, whom you can read more about above. She said she was shocked at her win because she thought any of her nominators could have won the honor themselves. That's why it's a competitive award in Genesee County, she says, because there are so many people, men and women, who are deserving of having their volunteer, leadership and professional characteristics recognized.

"There's something about the female psyche," she said, "that allows us to give and not necessarily need to be compensated. That's not popular as we're fighting for equal pay and so on, but I think my intrinstic reward from volunteering is far superior to anything I could expect to be paid to do."

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