YWCA to honor fifth class of Women of Excellence

Each year, the YWCA Northcentral PA takes the time to honor the dedicated and driven women whose vision and insight shape our community. This year, the Fifth Annual Tribute to Women of Excellence will take place at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Holiday Inn, 100 Pine St.

The 2013 class of women have profoundly impacted church communities, health and education systems and nonprofit organizations. “This class of women displays a deep sense of humanity and concern for others,” said Diane Glenwright, executive director. ” ‘Women of Excellence’ is such a fitting name for this celebration of women who have dedicated their lives to serving those around them.”

Each year, the YWCA invites businesses and organizations to recognize the women within their ranks who personify the determination of a strong leader, the selflessness of a community servant and the integrity of one committed to the mission of the YWCA – eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity to all.

“This celebration is our opportunity to let these women know they are appreciated and respected and that they have made a difference,” Glenwright said.

From young professionals to grandmothers enjoying retirement, Women of Excellence continue to impact and improve all aspects of our community through their careers, their volunteer work and their dedication to the greater good.

Only one Wise Woman of the Year is honored at the celebration and former Wise Women honorees select the winner from a pool of nominees. The award goes to one with compassion, commitment and perseverance to making a more peaceful, productive community and enhancing the quality of life in northcentral Pennsylvania.

For their overall compassion, dedication and selflessness, the YWCA congratulates each woman recognized this year.

Beth McMahon Ph.D., was named Wise Woman of The Year.

When Beth McMahon isn’t guiding and forming young adults as a health science professor at Lock Haven University, she is selflessly dedicating countless hours to community boards and organizations focused on improving others’ lives.

McMahon is founder and president of the Favors Forward Foundation, created in 2009 to create a social network of volunteers who have time, talents and gifts to share with those facing hard times. More than 300 families each year benefit from school supplies, food, basic necessities, cars and more, thanks to McMahon’s foundation.

“Dr. Beth McMahon has given her heart to Favors Forward Foundation,” her nominators wrote while describing her traits as a Wise Woman of the Year. “Her passion and commitment to make this organization a success with very little funding shows the power of commitment, and volunteers donating their time, talent and treasures.”

Professionally, McMahon is a widely publicized author and workshop leader as well as Chair of the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects. She teaches classes on a myriad of health issues, including community and women’s health, gender studies and sits on various teams and committees.

McMahon uses her expertise to benefit many community organizations, including the Lycoming-Clinton County Commission for community Access, the Penn State Cooperative Extension, the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition, CAPPA, STEP, Inc., and more.

McMahon received her Doctorate in Health Education from The Pennsylvania State University in 1993, graduating Magna Cum Laude and earned her Master’s Degree in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Primary Prevention from East Stroudsburg University.

Her generous spirit and dedication to education has earned McMahon many local and national awards. A small sample includes being named to many Who’s Who lists and receiving citations from the House of Representatives and State Senate.

A Eucharistic Minister, McMahon is married with three children – Michael, Mary and Christina – and considers herself to be a “very fortunate” foster mother. She takes personal time to enjoy skiing, horseback riding, hiking and gardening.

Women of Excellence

class of 2013

Radecka Appiah-Padi – Appiah-Padi has seen the world while pursuing her education and has used her skills obtained along the way to make sure others who want to further their education are given the best opportunities to do so. Currently, Appiah-Padi serves as the director of the Penn State Williamsport Center, leading the student-focused adult continuing education center while nurturing partnerships with employers and community agencies and organizations.

Previously, Appiah-Padi worked for Lansing Community College in Michigan as the Director of Training and Market Development and then the Director of Instruction. Prior to that, she taught English as a Second Language in Iowa and was involved with Project Adult Literacy Society in Edmonton, Canada.

While pursuing her education, Appiah-Padi travelled from Accra, Ghana – where she attended the University of Ghana and earned her Bachelor’s Degree – to Edmonton Canada, where she earned her Master of Science degree at the University of Alberta.

Appiah-Padi’s volunteer work also focuses on helping victims secure the best opportunities for safety and peace. As a member of the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence and YWCA Wise Options Advisory Committee, she is dedicated to supporting Domestic Violence victims and raising awareness to the crisis. Closer to her hom, in Lewisburg, Appiah-Padi is a children’s church leader at the Mifflinburg Assembly of God Church.

An intentional Fellow in the American Association of University Women, Appiah-Padi is a married mother of three who enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

Christina L. Herman – As the director of student services and career development at Loyalsock Township School District, Christina L. Herman is tirelessly dedicated to insuring students cared for and ready to tackle any challenges ahead of them. In 2002, she began servings as a consultant for the State Department of Education as a Statewide Career Development leadership Team Member.

Herman received her own education through Lock Haven University, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and her Master’s in Counseling and Secondary Education from the Pennsylvania State University. Continuing her education, Herman earned her K-12 Principal’s Certification from the California University of PA.

Herman devotes much of her time outside of work to local boards and organizations, where she has made a difference as serving of President of the Business Professional Women’s Organizations, Delta Kappa Gamma Women Educator’s Society, Jersey Shore Lioness Club and Valley Prevention Services Board. She has been honored as the Lycoming County United Way Valiant Volunteer and also received the Douglas J. Shangraw Memorial Volunteer award for all she has done.

A married mother of one and step-mother to four, Herman relaxes by walking for exercise, scrabooking, cooking and spending time with family and friends.

Gail A. Leidhecker – From a career in nursing to volunteering in her retirement, Gail A. Leidhecker has found great joy in caring for others throughout her entire life. Leidhecker became a Register Nurse upon graduating from the Williamsport Hospital School of nursing in 1965 and began caring for others in hospitals, nursing homes, critical care and cardiac rehab before serving has the Hospice Volunteer Liaison with the Susquehanna Health System, where she retired in 2009.

But retirement hasn’t stopped Leidhecker’s deep sense of compassion. She continues to provide cheer and comfort as a hospice volunteer and is a Gatehouse Singer, singing as part of a group upon request for hospice patients. Other volunteer involvement includes leading multiple sclerosis self-help groups, teaching Bible school and serving an elder and choir member at Bethel-Linden Presbyterian Church, where she also serves as a certified parish nurse. She earned that distinction upon completion of a nine-month program in 2011.

For Leidhecker, much of life’s joys come from her role as mother, wife, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She has two daughters, two stepsons, two stepdaughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and enjoys traveling, singing and continuing to be a caregiver for all those throughout her neighborhood and community.

Dawn M. Linn- Linn has dedicated her career to working hard for the benefit of area nonprofit organizations. She is well-known throughout the Greater Williamsport Community for her dedication as Vice President of Planned Philanthropy for the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania. In that role, she is responsible for strategic planning and management of the Foundation’s program for planned giving and over all development efforts. Prior to becoming part of the FCFP family, Linn worked with various financial institutions.

Outside of work, Linn is an active community member who has served as an officer of the Board of Managers at The Williamsport Home, the Planned Giving Council of Central Pennsylvania, Rotary club of Williamsport, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Estate Planners Council and has been a Youth Leader at Messiah Lutheran Church in Clarkstown. She has been honored for her dedication and her work achievements by many organizations.

A breast cancer survivor since 2008, Linn and her husband of 27 years have three children, whose hobbies and actives keep Linn very busy. She spends her free time reading, skiing, gardening, cooking and baking.

Linn is a native of Wyalusing PA, where she graduated from high school and attended the Pennsylvania College of Technology and the PBA Trust School and Cannon Trust Sales School.

Frances Mileto Pfaff

From hosting Williamsport Crosscutters in her home to spearheading church dinners, Frances Mileto Pfaff’s selflessness has played a major role in making many exciting things happen in the community

In 1980, Pfaff was influential in creating the original “Fanny in the Susquehanny” Inner tube float. And for more than a decade, she showed her support and gave countless hours to the Lycoming College football team’s concession stand. Her connections to the community extend through her membership in Alpha Rho Master chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority.

For 18 years, Pfaff provided cheer to hospital patients by sewing heart pillows as an AT&T Telephone Pioneer. She’s impacted many lives by driving for the Little League World Series, volunteering at the Community Arts Center, hosting high school and international students in her home, co-chairing turkey dinners at First United Methodist Church and heading the Wednesday First Night dinners at First Church.

Throughout the area, Pfaff is knownf for owning Frannie’s Ice Cream Parlor for more than a decade and her current position as a part-time clerk and Tipstaff to Judge Nancy Butts.

Even with all she has given to others, Pfaff considers her roles as wife, mother, grandmother and friend her best achievement and most rewarding accomplishment.

Rosann Pelleschi

Nearly every nonprofit organization in Lycoming County has had the pleasure to work with Rosann Pelleschi who, even in retirement, is working hard to promote nonprofit organizations to benefit those in need.

Prior to retiring from the Lycoming County United Way in 2012, Pelleschi served as the Director of Funds Distribution and Community Building, where she gained knowledge about the many organizations in Lycoming County dedicated to serving others. Previously, she worked in Community Relations for SUN Home Health and Hospice.

Over the years, Pelleschi has actively served countless alliances and boards and thousands of individuals have undoubtedly benefitted from her involvement in groups dedicated to solving homelessness, hunger and more.

Currently, she chairs the Leadership Lycoming Advisory Group, the Coordinated Services Task Force, Lycoming County Housing Coalition and the Housing Alliance. She is a member of the state housing coalition and the Sun Home Health, Nurse Family Partnership and the Life Center of Clinton County advisory boards. She also devotes her time to Public ARTWORKS, where she is acting secretary.

While Pelleschi has received many awards and citations over the years, the most recent award of note was receiving the Salvation Army’s 2007 Community Service Award for selflessly seeking opportunities to serve the greater good.

To relax, Pelleschi enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling.

Ann F. Plankenhorn

For more than 45 years, Ann F. Plankenhorn has been putting others before self. From her first volunteer position in 1968 as Treasurer for the Pine Street United Methodist Church through today, where she sits as House Chairman of the Woman’s Club, Plankenhorn has given many selfless hours to a great number of causes.

Her talents as a treasurer lead her to serve in that capacity for many organizations throughout the c community, including the Junior League of Williamsport, the American Red Cross, Taylor J. Ertel Foster Children Foundation, the Clio Club and The Woman’s Club which awarded Plankenhorn its first Woman of the Year Community Service Award

Plankenhorn’s high level of skill and attention to detail lead her to serve as the campaign treasurer for three U.S. Congressional races and three state-wide political races.

Professionally, Plankenhorn served as a nurse after earning her degree with honors from The Williamsport Hospital School of Nursing. She became an office and surgical nurse with Dr. William Todhunter and later Dr. Lynwood Walmer and shared her nursing skills with the less fortunate on three occasions when she traveled the world to assist with cataract surgery in third-world countries. Closer to home, she volunteered as a nurse for the Little League World Series, Camp Cadet and at Central Oak Heights church camp.

Plankenhorn and her husband, Frederic, have one son and two grandchildren.

Jennifer L Rhea

As a senior manager with ParenteBeard LLC, Jennifer L. Rhea, Certified Public Accountant, is as involved with mentoring her peers and encouraging those around her, as she is with coordinating the audit and tax engagements. For 13 years Rhea has honed her expertise in auditing, accounting and tax services while dealing with nonprofits, employee benefit plans and commercial accounts while emphasizing quality standards and timely completion.

Recently in her career, Rhea has come more focused on the firm’s employee benefit plan practice in her role as an employee Benefit Plan Regional Practice Manager. In this role, she assists the development of the firm’s annual training and best practices for employee benefit plans and serves as a technical resource for other members of the group. Also within the group, Rhea is a 2008 graduate of the three-year ParenteBeard leadership development program.

Rhea’s commitment to excellence is apparent in her involvement in the PA Institute of Certified Public Accountants, who named her one of the “40 under 40” in 2009. She sits on the Professional Ethic chairs the relation with school and college committee. She has served on the Valley Prevention Services Board of Directors, has participated in the Relay For Life and is involved in the Jersey Shore Area School District Curriculum Advisory Committee and the Salladsasburg Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.

A married mother of two young sons, Rhea enjoys boating, swimming, water skiing and spending time with her family.

Carolyn R. Strickland

Carolyn R. Strickland stretches her gifts and talents to touch the lives of many while sharing the roles of professional, scholar, mother, wife and volunteer. Her dedication to enhancing her own career and the lives of those around her is evident in her career in academia.

Strickland is the Assistant Vice President for Academic Services at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, where her duties include guiding the development of and compliance with academic policies, managing the academic affairs budget and much more. Previously, she held the the positions of Director of Student Activities and Director of Student Life at Penn College and roles at Bucknell, Susquehanna and Lehigh Universities.

Strickland is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from The Pennsylvania State University, to build upon her education which already includes a Master of education Degree in Student Personnel Services and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Recently, she attended the Haravrd University Graduate School of Education and participated in the Institute for Educational Management.

Outside of her busy career and education, Strickland gives her time to the National Association of Campus Activities, Junior League of Williamsport, Loyalsock AYSO, YWCA and as a Schick Elementary Parent Volunteer.

A married mother of one, Strickland enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and reading

Melanie Taormina

For Melanie Taormina, family, faith and career are all of utmost importance. She currently serves as Lycoming College’s Foundation Relations Officer where she is involved in grant writing and relationship management. She also devotes her time to serving as a practicing spiritual director, leading workshops and retreats on Christian spirituality and contemplative practices.

Prior to her current role, Taormina was Lycoming College’s Director of Alumni Relations and previously taught English as a Second Language and German in the Pittsburgh area. Pursuing her education lead Taormina from Montoursville Area High School, to Lycoming College where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree later to the University of Pittsburgh for her Master of Fine Arts degree.

Throughout the community, you can find Taormina actively at St. Luke Lutheran Church where she is president of church council, the chair of Ministry for Administration; sits on the Call Committee and Pastoral Transition team and acts as a worship assistant. She is also on the YWCA Board of Directors as well as the strategic planning team and communications committee. Further from home, she lends her abilities to Oasis Ministries for Spiritual Development in Camp Hill as a Workshop leader.

When Taormina isn’t spending time with her husband and their three-year-old son, she relaxes by reading, writing, walking, biking, travelling and taking photographs.