LEWISTON — The YWCA of Central Maine hosted the third annual Women of Achievement Gala at the Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center on Oct. 19.
The organization presented four awards to women from Lewiston-Auburn and was joined in a celebration by over 130 guests, including community members, friends and family of the honorees, and members, staff and board of the organization.
The award ceremony opened with a keynote address from Indigenous rights attorney and activist, Sherri L. Mitchell.
The YWCA presented the inaugural Marcia Baxter Social Justice Award to Fowsia Musse. Musse is a lead educator at Healthy Androscoggin, a board member at Maine Community Integration and a community organizer. As Erin Guay, executive director of Healthy Androscoggin, said in her award presentation, she has a “rare combination of work ethic, passion and intellect and has a special ability to effect change.”
The Lee Young Leadership Award was presented to Kirsten Walter, founding director of St. Mary’s Nutrition Center. Walter was introduced by her colleague at the center, Mia Poliquin Pross. Pross described how “every action Kirsten takes is aimed at ensuring social justice, racial equity, promoting better health, providing access to good food, increasing self-esteem and instilling community pride.”
Shukri Abasheikh, owner and founder of the Mogadishu Business Center on Lisbon Street, was honored with the Tonie Ramsey Service Award for her commitment to serving the community through her business and volunteer work. Abasheikh established her business after arriving in the United States, fleeing from civil war in Somalia.
Abasheikh’s friend and dean of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, Joyce Gibson, described her as having “a big heart and love for the people in Lewiston.” She said, “This is what ‘Mama Shukri’ is especially known for. If you are homeless, she feeds you; if you do not have money, she still allows you to shop; when community disasters occur, she can be counted on by the Red Cross and other nonprofits to donate whatever is needed to help others. She knows everyone, and no matter your background, she is there to help.”
As Abasheikh said in her acceptance speech, this was the first time her work had been recognized with an award.
Betty Robinson, Tree Street Youth Capital Campaign chairwoman and professor emeritus of leadership studies at the University of Southern Maine, was the recipient of the Priscilla Gendron Legacy Award for Philanthropy. Robinson’s colleague on the Tree Street Youth board of directors, Faye Luppi, said, “She is a mentor to the Tree leadership and board members, whether we are resolving growing pains or crafting a vision for the center with the help of pizza picked up on the way. She is always available to provide guidance to the board, and help for the Tree youth who are navigating the college application process, many of whom are the first in their families to embark on that path.”
The four award recipients were presented with congratulatory letters from the office of U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.
The Women of Achievement Gala concluded with a celebratory toast and dancing.
Nomination and sponsorship information for the 2018 Women of Achievement Gala will be available in June 2018.
YWCA of Central Maine presented its third annual Women of Achievement Gala at the Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center on Oct. 19. From left, seated, are award recipients Fowsia Musse, Kirsten Walter, Shukri Abasheikh and Betty Robinson; back row, YWCA directors Tonya Bailey-Curry, Susan Brown, Barbara Bixby, Amy Wagner, Andrea Breau and Kristine Kittridge, keynote speaker Sherri L. Mitchell, directors Reine Mynahan and Susan Baltrus, event sponsor Rose Sheline and YWCA Executive Director Kathy Durgin-Leighton. (Rick Berk photo)
Recipients of the YWCA of Central Maine Women of Achievement Awards are, from left, Fowsia Musse, Kirsten Walter, Shukri Abasheikh and Betty Robinson. (Rick Berk photo)
Joyce Gibson, dean of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College, introduces the recipient of the YWCA of Central Maine’s Tonie Ramsey Service Award, Shukri Abasheikh. The award was presented at The Dolard & Priscilla Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Oct. 19. (Rick Berk photo)