Sixteen local women will be honored with one chosen to be the Senate Woman of Distinction

CANANDAIGUA — Sixteen women from the 54th state Senate District will be honored April 20 during a ceremony at the New York Wine and Culinary Center. One of the 16 will be dubbed 2018 Woman of Distinction for the Wayne-Finger Lakes region.

“Though I can select just one woman to represent the Wayne-Finger Lakes region as this year’s Woman of Distinction honoree at the Albany ceremony, all 16 of these nominees truly deserve to be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions to their communities,” stated state Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua. Helming added the ceremony is to “salute all of the nominees” to recognize “that we value their commitment to their communities, workplaces, and families and that we appreciate their service.”

The nominees come from the 54th State Senate District, which covers all of Seneca and Wayne counties, parts of Cayuga and Ontario counties and towns of Lansing in Tompkins County and Webster in Monroe County.

Featured speaker at the April 20 ceremony will be Donna Schaertl of Shortsville, last year’s Woman of Distinction from the 54th district. Schaertl works with a variety of causes including with local Blue Star Mothers, the Canandaigua VA Medical Center, the Red Jacket Fire Department, the Ontario County Safety Council, and the Ontario County Police Benevolent Association. She supports deployed service members and their families, organizes Autism Awareness Month events, and teaches fire prevention and personal protection programs at the Manchester-Shortsville Central School District, among contributions to other causes and organizations.

This year’s nominees and other guests will attend the April 20 event when the 2018 honoree will be announced. She will join others chosen from each state Senate district for a ceremony in May at the state Capitol. Each honoree will have her photo and biography become part of a special exhibit celebrating the contributions of outstanding New York women. The exhibit will be on display in Albany at the Legislative Office Building. Helming will also offer an online Woman of Distinction exhibit through her website.

Helming stated she received “many fantastic nominations of worthy women” from across the six-county district.

“Our community is fortunate to have so many remarkable women whose lives, career work, and volunteer service have contributed to making our state and country better, making our families stronger, and serving as examples to others,” she stated. “The Woman of Distinction program provides a terrific opportunity to recognize women from our area who make a difference and to thank them for the pride they bring to our communities.”

The 16 nominees are:

• Cathleen Bement, of Canandaigua, an IT specialist at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center and former police officer who volunteers with the Canandaigua Emergency Squad and the Canandaigua Fire Department and is the only woman to attain the rank of assistant fire chief in the department;

• Cheri Roloson, of Williamson, an animal advocate who started Cracker Jack Palace Farm to rescue abused, neglected, and unwanted horses and farm animals and provide at-risk teenagers with work experience on the farm;

• Connie Patti, of Union Springs, a registered nurse who volunteers with Perform4Purpose and Guiding Eyes for the Blind;

• Donna Besler Tatem, of Canandaigua, the CareNet Pregnancy Center executive director and community volunteer who facilitates the Survivors of Suicide Group and Talk Saves Lives to counsel adolescents who are struggling and help people learn about the risks and warning signs of suicide;

•  Ellen Hughes, of Waterloo, a career educator and community volunteer who works with the Seneca County Action Agency, the United Way of Seneca County’s Women’s Leadership Council, and Literacy Volunteers of Seneca County;

• Julie Bellone, of Waterloo, a physical therapist and business owner who serves as a Seneca-Yates Red Cross board member, a member of the trauma response assistance for children group, and who deployed after Sept. 11 and after Hurricane Katrina to provide disaster assistance to first responders and victims;

• Lauren Moore, of Canandaigua, the Pioneer Library System executive director who dedicates her time to Rochester Refugee Relocation Services Inc. and supports a family who arrived in the community after their home in Aleppo, Syria was bombed;

• Laurie Crane, of Huron, the Huron town supervisor who has represented her town and surrounding towns well on issues related to the Lake Ontario flooding disaster and serves as a community volunteer and advocate with several local organizations;

• Michelle Fridley, of Canandaigua, a disability rights advocate and the reigning Miss Wheelchair New York who has helped to influence disability rights legislation and is a role model for other people with disabilities;

• Neetu Chandak, of Seneca Falls, a Cornell University senior who serves as treasurer of the Network of Enlightened Women and uses her platform to raise awareness of ideological discrimination against conservative and moderate students on college campuses;

• Oksana Fuller, of Canandaigua, a longtime resident and community participant who has served on multiple committees and boards, including the Canandaigua Watershed Association, and been involved in numerous town projects and issues;

• Sarah Lynn Grossman, of Palmyra, an educator and accomplished athlete who volunteers at Advent Comfort Care, as an Eye to Eye mentor, and as a caring clown at Rochester General Hospital, as well as on several Habitat for Humanity builds and on the Buddy Cruise each fall with individuals with disabilities and their families;

• Valerie Aarne Grossman, of Palmyra, a nurse who has worked in emergency nursing, pediatric telephone triage, critical care and radiology, as well as a gifted writer who has been published in numerous books, articles, and online courses;

• Tricia Kuntz, of Palmyra, the creator and owner of the regionally and nationally known business The Purple Painted Lady, who hosts a festival each year that draws thousands of artists and guests and raises tens of thousands of dollars for local charities;

• Marie Milligan, of Geneva, the business manager of Our Lady of Peace Parish, who works tirelessly to support the Catholic church and the Geneva community as a whole, serving as the farmer’s market nutrition program administrator for 25 years and volunteering with numerous community groups;

• Patricia White, of Scipio Center, a former music educator in the Southern Cayuga School District and music technology chair for the New York State School Music Association, who serves as the organist and choir director of the Scipioville Presbyterian Church and vice president of the Howland Stone Store Museum.