Women of Excellence

YWCA?to honor 8th class of Women of Excellence Kirsten Burkhart named Wise Woman of the Year

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The 2016 class of Women of Excellence can be described as selfless, dedicated, strong, passionate and a gift to our entire community. These remarkable women will be honored at the YWCA Northcentral PA’s eighth annual Women of Excellence Celebration at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Williamsport Country Club.

Tickets for the event can be bought online at www.ywcawilliamsport.org.

Nominated by colleagues, coworkers and friends, Women of Excellence are honored for their integrity, character and leadership skills. Each woman selflessly gives of herself as a volunteer, mentor, role model and board or committee member. These pillars in our community also exemplify the mission of the YWCA: eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

“Our community is fueled by selfless women who give of themselves, day after day, for the causes they are passionate about,” said Diane Glenwright, YWCA chief executive officer. “The YWCA is honored to offer a platform for these incredible women to receive the recognition they so greatly deserve.”

While there are many Women of Excellence, there is only one Wise Woman of the Year; nominated by peers and voted upon by all previous YWCA Wise Women. A Wise Woman is one whose lifetime of compassion and perseverance has made our community a more peaceful, productive place to live by enhancing the quality of life in Lycoming County.

The YWCA has announced Kirsten Burkhart, executive director of AIDS Resource and founder and co-administrator of West House Personal Care Home, as the 2016 Wise Woman of the Year.

Kirsten Burkhart,

Wise Woman of the Year

Nominated by AIDS Resource board of

directors and Donna Kenamond

Burkhart is a pioneer in preventing and eliminating discrimination against marginalized people in Lycoming County and beyond. For 15 years, she has tirelessly dedicated herself to the clients of AIDS Resource, and more recently West House Personal Care Home. Through her tenacity, she has made sure each client in these programs is given dignity and respect as well as comprehensive and compassionate services.

As one of Burkhart’s nominators wrote, “She has made her life’s mission to fight for the underdog and to meet their needs whether it’s emotional or physical.”

Within her tenure at AIDS Resource, Burkhart has implemented countless positive changes that have solidified the organization’s sustainability and ability to provide services to those living with HIV/AIDS in Lycoming County.  She has lead the expansion of these services for those in Clinton, Centre, Snyder, Union and Potter counties as well.

One role of AIDS Resource is to help clients find appropriate medical care, but in 2007 one personal care home specifically refused to accept a client based on his HIV status. Burkhart showed her true dedication when she led the efforts to sue the personal care home and subsequently won the case. When that facility went on the market years later, Burkhart aggressively lead the charge to buy the home and name it West House in honor of the client who inspired her efforts.

West House is a nonprofit personal care home for low-income residents who often have no family or support system in the community. Burkhart makes sure that those residents have access to appropriate medical care and insures that each one feels cherished.

Burkhart’s was featured in the documentary “Heroes in the Fight” by Academy Award-winning director Cynthia Wade and was awarded the 5 Years, 5 Heroes Award for her significant contributions to the fight against HIV.

In addition to her professional achievements, Burkhart has given her time as a board member at the Center for Independent Living and to the Human Services Advisory Committee at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. A Lycoming County native, Burkhart shares her life with her supportive husband Gary and enjoys spending time with her siblings, nieces, nephews and her pet cat, Thomas.

The Rev. Gwen N. Bernstine

Anonymous nomination

The Rev. Bernstine is well-known throughout Lycoming County as the executive Director of United Churches of Lycoming County (UCLC). In this role, she finds daily inspiration in the quiet courage and loving action of those she interacts with. Professionally, she oversees the outreach ministries of UCLC, including Shepherd of the Streets and a food pantry. She also ministers through a weekly newspaper editorial, daily devotion line, weekly public luncheons, community worship services, interfaith discussions, newsletters and countless other interactions with the community.

Kimberly R. Cassel

Nominated by Pennsylvania College

of Technology

In both her volunteer and professional life, Cassel is heavily involved with projects to better the world around her. While she is the director of alumni relations at Pennsylvania College of Technology, she also is an adjunct professor of the First Year Experience where she helps first-year students have the most successful year possible by connecting them to supportive resources. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Williamsport, an assistant AYSO soccer coach, class parent and PTO volunteer at Schick Elementary.

Doreen Decker

Anonymous nomination

Decker retired from a long career at Springs Window Fashions with a proven track record of achievement, including increased productivity and staff retention. She is a grandmother of three and a dedicated community volunteer. She gives of her time to the First United Methodist Church, Little Mountaineer Little League Softball, YWCA Northcentral PA and enjoys volunteering as much as possible. A native to Lycoming County, Decker enjoys biking, traveling and watching her family blossom.

Gerry Fausnaught

Nominated by Kiwanis Club of Williamsport

Fausnaught, a life-long resident of Williamsport, lives a life dedicated to improving our community, especially the lives of children, by being a powerful example of a strong, driven woman. She spent 10 years as a music teacher and 16 more years as principal — both locally and in Lewisburg. An active community member, Fausnaught has affected change in many organizations including the Williamsport Kiwanis Club, of which she served as president. She is a proud mother of three, foster mother and a grandmother of 11.

Jan E. Fisher

Nominated by Susquehanna Health

A coach, empathizer and leader, Fisher serves as the chief operating officer and executive vice president of Susquehanna Health and the chief administrative officer of Williamsport Regional Medical Center. Because of her sound judgment and interpersonal skills, Fisher has taken a leadership role with many community organizations and is a mentor and role model for the predominately female workforce she supervises. Fisher has lived in Florida as well as central PA and enjoys traveling and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Tammy L. Gunsallus

Nominated by Jersey Shore State Bank

For more than 30 years, Gunsallus has risen through the ranks of Jersey Shore State Bank. She began as a part-time teller, but through her professionalism and skill, is now the senior vice president and director of retail for Penns Woods Bancorp Inc. She demonstrates her concern for her community though volunteering with many groups, both in Williamsport and her hometown of Jersey Shore. A dedicated mother and grandmother, Gunsallus, who enjoys remodeling her home and spending time with her grandchildren, is working toward her associate degree in business management.

Jacky Holloway

Nominated by Beloved Community Council and

Baker Tilly

Holloway’s love for people is apparent in her dual roles as an ordained minister and as Lycoming County Housing Authority procurement contracting officer and family self-sufficiency coordinator. While she uses her work time to assist those with low-incomes to find affordable housing, Holloway’s volunteer work focuses on lifting up those around her. She is a current board member of Transitional Living Centers, counsels young women who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, performs worship services at local nursing facilities and facilitates youth groups.

Cookie Secules-Mutchler

Nominated by Woodlands Bank

Mutchler’s heart for her community is evident in her extensive volunteer work and infectious spirit which she shares with customers as a drive-up teller at the downtown office of Woodlands Bank. She gives countless volunteer hours through Lycoming Centre Presbyterian Church, Relay For Life, the March of Dimes walk, the YWCA and Habitat for Humanity. She was instrumental in fundraising for “Paws for a Cause” to support the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and has a heart for the Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots program. A dog-lover, Mutchler finds peace outdoors and with her family.

Jeanette L. Kitchen

Nominated by FNB Wealth Management

For Kitchen, working as assistant vice president and client advisor means helping people by providing sound guidance, those facing difficult circumstances, like settling a parent’s estate or managing the financial affairs of a family member with special needs. Her concern for others is evident as a volunteer coach and judge with Odyssey of the Mind and other nonprofit groups. A breast cancer survivor, Kitchen counts her proudest achievement as earning her bachelor’s degree and certified financial planner designation while working full-time and taking care of her family.

Sherry Watts

Nominated by

Keith Kuzio and

Brenda Nichols

Ambition and vision have lead Watts to success as the vice president of development for Susquehanna Health Foundation. Watts has lead many major fundraising efforts which have resulted in the Williamsport Regional Medical Center being the state-of-the-art facility it is today. She is continuing to build her skills by  studying to take her certified fundraisers executive exam and shares her expertise as with the Chamber of Commerce and the Leadership Lycoming operating committee. Watts, an avid horseback rider, is the mother of two who are nationally ranked for their rodeo skills.

Joani Girven Yagel

Nominate­d by Family Practice Center, Hughesville

Compassion and kindness for others is evident in Yagel’s work as the office manager of Hughesville Family Practice Center and her countless hours of community service. She is a certified EMT and acts as a missionary both close to home and abroad. Yagel speaks to others about surviving domestic violence and the impacts of drugs and alcohol. She spends countless hours serving the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Co. and the Hughesville Friends Church as a lay minister. A proud mother and grandmother, Yagel enjoys photography and working on her father’s 1964 Cub Cadet tractor.