Making a Beautiful Difference in Iowa – Women of Worth Print
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Written by Amanda Gluck   
Monday, 12 November 2012 09:25

I would like to introduce you to two women who are making a beautiful difference in Iowa…

Dr. Ida Johnson of Davenport, IA is the Founder of United Neighbors, Inc., an organization that helps others help themselves while building self-worth, and includes youth, education, housing, financial literacy and multicultural healthcare programs.  Sarah Cronk of Bettendorf, IA is the Founder of The Sparkle Effect, a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

Ida and Sarah are two of ten women chosen out of thousands of nominations to become Women of Worth honorees. The amazing Women of Worth program, which honors women making a difference in their communities, is launching their voting phase today to gain recognition for their incredibly inspiring honorees. This is the program’s 7th year, with each of the below 10 women being chosen out of thousands of nominations – they each get $10K for their organizations and whoever gets the most votes (starting today through the 21st) from the public gets an additional $25K and is named the Women of Worth National Honoree.

When Dr. Ida Johnson moved to Iowa 38 years ago as a newly divorced mother, leaving behind an abusive ex-husband in search of a better life for her five children, she found a home in a low-income, inner city neighborhood and employment in a kitchen at St. Ambrose University. Fighting to keep her family safe, intact and fed, Ida began bringing neighborhood children into her home for games and learning activities.

Now, nearly 40 years later, with the mission of helping others help themselves while building self-worth, United Neighbors has helped to take children off the streets and into a safe place, with an after-school program bringing in tutors to assist with homework and teach computer skills. Kids in the program receive a home-cooked meal and participate in creative activities, then are safely driven home each evening. Additional programs include first-time homebuyer education, down payment assistance, a minimum code home repair program in partnership with the City of Davenport and a multicultural health initiative to provide health education seminars to nearly 400 underserved people in the area each year.

Sarah Cronk grew up watching her older brother, Charlie, struggle to make friends due to his disability and noticed that it wasn't until the popular swim team captain invited Charlie to sit at his lunch table that things began to turn around. He encouraged Charlie to join the team and Sarah watched her brother's confidence soar.

In 2008, Sarah created and coached the nation's first inclusive cheerleading squad at her high school. A year later, she established her nonprofit, The Sparkle Effect (TSE), a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

More than five million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States, yet most school sports and activities are not designed to accommodate these students. As a result, students with disabilities are left sidelined – excluded from high school sports and the social opportunities they offer. Students participating on TSE teams are breaking down social barriers, replacing insecurity with confidence and joy, and demonstrating that when we open our minds and our hearts to people of all abilities, everyone benefits. Within the past year, TSE has grown from 25 to over 70 teams nationwide, directly including more than 1,200 students.

 

WOMEN OF WORTH PROGRAM

The Women of Worth initiative, now in its seventh year, is inspired by L’Oréal Paris’ iconic brand philosophy, “Because You're Worth It.” Since its inception, the program has recognized 70 women for their outstanding devotion to their causes, with honorees embodying the spirit of the L’Oréal Paris brand through their commitment to their communities, their selflessness and their drive to make a difference in the world.

 

Now in its seventh year, the Women of Worth program has recognized 70 incredible women to date for their amazing accomplishments, and this year’s ten honorees continue to inspire through their dedication to philanthropy and their passion for improving the world. From young women who pioneered programs while still in high school to women who have been changing lives for decades, 2012’s Women of Worth honorees are making an extraordinary difference in their communities.

RECOGNITION

Each of the incredible honorees has received $10,000 for her charitable cause and will be recognized at an awards ceremony and dinner hosted by L'Oréal Paris and Hearst Magazines on December 6th in New York City. At the event, one National Honoree, chosen via a public online vote, will be announced, and she will receive an additional $25,000 for her charity.

 

VOTING

Public online voting for the Women of Worth National Honoree is open from today through November 21st on WomenofWorth.com. Visitors to the site can vote once per day for their favorite Woman of Worth, and the honoree with the most votes will be named National Honoree.

 

HONOREES

Setting the bar for extraordinary philanthropic efforts, this year’s honorees support a wealth of important causes, from healthcare to education and everything in between.

 

·         Amy Paterson – Portland, OR; Co-founder of My Little Waiting Room, an organization that promotes the health and well-being of families by bringing drop-in child care to hospitals so that children can thrive as families heal.

·         Catherine Meek – Los Angeles, CA; Executive Director of School on Wheels, an organization that enhances educational opportunities for homeless children by providing homeless students with one-on-one volunteer tutors.

·         Dr. Ida Johnson – Davenport, IA; Founder of United Neighbors, Inc., an organization that helps others help themselves while building self-worth, and includes youth, education, housing, financial literacy and multicultural healthcare programs.

·         Kate Bialo – Larchmont, NY; Founder and Executive Director of Furniture Sharehouse, an organization that empowers underprivileged families by providing basic furniture to turn their house into a home.

·         Lorraine Kerwood – Eugene, OR; Founder of NextStep, an organization that focuses on people, the planet and education by providing community members with disabilities the tools they need to succeed academically and in the workplace.

·         Olivia Stinson – Charlotte, NC; Founder of Pen Pals Book Club and Support Group, an organization that strives to promote literacy and provide cultural and social activities for children with incarcerated parents.

·         Risa Vetri Ferman – Abington, PA; Co-founder of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center, a non-profit that gives child abuse victims a voice and helps them heal.

·         Sandy Puc’ – Littleton, CO; Co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, an organization that provides the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby. 

·         Sarah Cronk – Bettendorf, IA; Founder of The Sparkle Effect, a student-run program that empowers teens nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based cheerleading and dance programs.

·         Sue Runsvold – San Jose, CA; Founder of TurningWheels for Kids, an organization that provides a brand new bike to every low-income, at-risk child who needs or wants one.