Women Involved in Scholarship and Empowerment (WISE) Women of Blair County will honor seven area residents for their involvement in area organizations that support WISE Women’s organizational mission to empower women and eliminate racism through collaboration, service and education.
This year’s Women’s Tribute Dinner honors the women selected in 2020 whose public tribute was postponed due to COVID-19. The winners are: Marie Little in the Arts & Letters category; Jen Burgmeier, Business and Professional; Donna L. Malone, community service volunteer; Dorey Marsh, Education; Pennsylvania Senator Judy Ward, nonprofit/government; Julia Cacciotti, Rising Star, and Reverend Evelyn Madison for Lifetime Achievement.
Reservations for the awards dinner are being accepted through April 8. Dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 20 at the Lakemont Casino. Reservations can be made by emailing email@example.com or through the wisewomenofblaircounty.org website
Donna Gority, former Blair County Commissioner, has been involved with WISE Women since its inception in 2008 as the successor organization to the YWCA of Altoona. Honorees in the arts and humanities, business and professional, community service, education, and nonprofit/government organizations are nominated by the public and selected by a committee, many of whom are former recipients. The WISE Women Board of Directors chooses the Lifetime Achievement Recipient.
“While many of these honorees are not household names, they were selected for their work to better their communities and are role models in their respected fields,” Gority said.
Funds raised through advertising in the Tribute to Women Awards program booklet serve as the primary fundraising vehicle for the organization. WISE works with the Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation and provides grants to conduct workshops, educational events, training sessions, and direct service projects aimed at empowering women and eliminating racism. The organization also offers scholarships to women who have overcome adversity.
The 2020 Tribute Recipients will be honored at the 2022 Tribute Dinner:
Business and Professional
As owner and lead instructor of Groove Fitness Studio, Jen Burgmeier, 54, of Altoona brings positive energy and light to her classes and is a leader in the fitness community. She was chosen because she empowers women by creating an encouraging atmosphere and celebrating success at all levels. She helps participants improve their physical health and is a source of motivation, support and a friend to everyone who walks through the doors of her studio.
Recently retired, Dorey Marsh, 71, of Altoona has spent her nearly 50-year career serving children and families in Blair County. Even in retirement, she mentors the early intervention staff at the Nursing Home Agency and conducts developmental screenings in the community. She has had a lasting impact on hundreds of children and families by bringing out the best in parent and child through her dedication and innovative teaching. Dorey was a Child Development Specialist in Early Intervention for the UPMC/Home Nursing Agency.
Donna Malone, 63, of Hollidaysburg has lived a life of dedication and service through her involvement with the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and the Hollidaysburg Area Women’s Club (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) of the GFWC . For more than 30 years and in multiple leadership roles, she led many successful community projects, including being instrumental in raising funds for a new library in Hollidaysburg. She encourages her colleagues and is passionate about helping them be the best version of themselves. Donna continues to serve her community and was named Hollidaysburg Citizen of the Year in 2019. In retirement, she continues to serve in her role as 2nd Vice President of GFWC Pennsylvania.
Julia Cacciotti, 21, of Altoona has a passion for community service. As a student at Bishop Guilfoyle, she excelled in the classroom as well as in her extracurricular activities. After undergoing life-enhancing surgery at the Shriner Hospital, she became a dedicated patient ambassador, sharing her story and encouraging others to follow a similar path. Julia has been a dedicated Girl Scout throughout her life, winning bronze, silver and most recently gold medals. This award was given after working tirelessly to complete a 3 year project to build a cave in Bishop Guilfoyle. Julia credits her success to her family, her faith, and her drive to keep leaving a better world than the one she found it. Now a sophomore at Notre Dame University, she works as a team manager for the women’s basketball team.
Reverend Evelyn Madison, 70, of Altoona served as a mentor, teacher, and source of support and comfort for women in their personal and professional lives. Throughout her vibrant career in the faith community, she has led the charge and advocated for change and betterment in the lives of women and their families in our region. His love of Blair County is evident through rich conversations about history, community, civic organizations and associations. She makes a conscious effort to be informed and aware of opportunities and events to share with those she serves. She is a tireless worker and a constant source of strength, energy and inspiration not only to her current congregation, but to all those she has served. Reverend Madison is pastor at Trinity UMC in Roaring Spring.
Arts and Letters
Marie R. Little, 77, of Hollidaysburg, is Chair of the Hollidaysburg Area Arts Council and continually strives to educate children, youth and adults in Blair County about art. She and her husband, John, established the Hollidaysburg Area Arts Council in 1998, which organizes and promotes adult classes, student summer art camps, summer concerts and community events. involving various art forms. In 1999, she initiated the “ART AT THE CRA” program to provide artistic experience to young adults in the ARC through lessons taught by local volunteer artists. Marie has been a constant innovator and passionate art educator.
Pennsylvania Senator Judy Ward, 63, of Hollidaysburg was elected a state senator in 2018 – becoming Blair County’s first female legislator – and is standing up for her constituents as she represents the 30th District. She is passionate about representing women in the community and is a role model. She is a board member of the PA Council of the Arts, the Blair Senior Services Board and the Hollidaysburg Veterans Advisory Council. She is active in the Food for Families soup kitchen.