Rosie Awards honor leading women
After a year off, the Rosie Awards have returned to honor and recognize women who make a difference in their communities.
DULUTH — The Woman Today's Rosie Awards returned Thursday evening to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center in full force after taking a year off due to pandemic and organizing concerns.
For five years, the awards have recognized the many contributions of exceptional women in the community. The Rosie award is named after the cultural icon Rosie the Riveter and presented to a woman who gets stuff done.
This year's Rosie Award was presented to Jane Levenson. Nominated by Betsy Snow, Levenson is known for being an active mother devoted to mentoring, encouraging and raising a multitude of children and young adults.
"While raising her own three boys as a young, single mother, Jane supported herself and her children by operating a daycare in their home. She also began offering foster care for countless youngsters, from babies to teens, many of whom came from extremely challenging backgrounds," Snow said in her nomination of Levenson. "As of writing this, Jane is fostering a 14-year-old mother and her newborn as well as the six children of a young woman previously in her care."
Levenson also has a degree in early childhood education from St. Scholastica and finds time to play the violin, tap dance, run full and half-marathons, sew, knit and support her children in their study and practice of Judaism.
"She's been a tireless advocate and creative and inspiring caregiver and so deserves the respect and gratitude of our community," Snow wrote.
A new award this year, the Trailblazer Award, honors women who blaze a path for other women to follow. This first award was given to Abigail Boone, a trailblazing flatbed truck driver with Kivi Brothers Trucking.
She was nominated by Erin Wakefield for her "amazing leadership and dedication to safety and helping others." She started working for the company in 2019, and in two years, worked her way up to the company's most elite division as a heavy haul driver — the first woman in the company's history to do so.
"She also never stops encouraging other women in trucking to push harder for their goals," Wakefield wrote. "She never fails to have another woman's name to drop and say how hard they work and how good they are at what they do. She is a constant source of encouragement and 'go get it girl' attitude. She has forever changed my perception of women in this industry and what we are able to achieve. For that, I cannot thank her enough!"
The Mentor Award is given to a woman who has acted as an experienced and trusted adviser to those around her. This year's recipient, Jolene Sajec-Timmers, is a lifelong Superior resident who runs her own business, Serenity Spa and Salon.
She's also known for her work as an ambassador with the Superior Chamber of Commerce; serving on the Northwood Technical College advisory board for the school of cosmetology; and for using her business as a platform to raise awareness for issues impacting the Twin Ports. She's been involved with Harbor House Shelter, Children With Hair Loss, CASDA, the local food shelf, March of Dimes and other ventures.
Sajec-Timmers was nominated by three women who have worked with her over the years.
"Jolene made me feel not only welcome and at home — she planted a new seed of excitement and possibility in my mindset," said nominator Heather Kolodzeske. "Once again, I had the passion and drive to be bigger and better than I had been in my career. She instilled a newfound possibility to grow and be better than I ever was."
The Spirit Award is presented to a young woman who has shown exceptional courage and determination. Anndrea Ploeger was nominated by her husband Mark Johnson. Johnson and Ploeger lost their son River during childbirth in 2019 and this loss prompted Ploeger to find ways to honor her son and spread awareness. She connected with other parents who experienced this loss and organized a fundraiser for the St. Louis River Alliance called the "ForRiver" project. She also worked to spread awareness of the dangers and potentially dangerous consequences of choosing a home birth. She's given talks on her experiences to various audiences. She gave birth to her second son August in December 2020.
"I'm nominating my wife, Anndrea Ploeger because she deserves to be recognized for the work she has done. She is a role model to others. She is a human that has experienced the greatest loss anyone can imagine," Johnson wrote.
The leadership award is given to women who represent achievement in their field of endeavor. This year's recipient was Amber Burns, artistic director of the Duluth Playhouse Family Theater. She's been a choreographer, cast member and director in her time with the Playhouse. She is constantly on the go, doing uplifiting workout videos on Facebook, running youth camps at the theater, choreographing dances and directing plays.
"Excellence in leadership is ultimately defined by the ways in which your leadership influences others, how well you demonstrate inclusion for all, and how well you have cultivated the relationships around you. This is Amber," wrote Ann Primozich, Burns's nominator. "Whether seeking the best in her students, organizing families to volunteer for a thousand production tasks, or working tirelessly to promote The Duluth Playhouse in the community, Amber achieves all of these goals and more."
The Silent Advocate award goes to women who silently help their communities and neighbors. This year's award went to Deb Holman for her work with people experiencing homelessness. She works with the staff at all levels, from police to county social workers and advocates to ensure that people who are displaced receive help and dignity.
"She answers the calls of the homeless 24 hours a day and seven days a week. When there is nobody else, she is the one they can count on," wrote her nominator Roberta A. Pirkola. "Deb Holman's compassion for the homeless is palpable. Every day she is out on the street helping tirelessly, asking folks how they are, what they need, not only giving time and kind energy, but actually closing loops and helping people connect with the services they need despite their barriers to care. The hopeless, the throwaways, the deeply affected and damaged are Deb's people. She does not shy away, but meets people where they are at. She finds a way to help them."
Most Engaged Volunteer
This award was given to Kathy Leonard for going above and beyond and working tirelessly in the region for the good of us all. Leonard has volunteered for over 60 years. She started volunteering at the triage desk at St. Luke's Hospital in 1995 while working full time as an educator in the dental hygiene program. She served with the American Dental Association as a curriculum consultant and worked at Lake Superior College as the dental hygiene program director for 21 years. After retirement she continued to volunteer at St. Luke's.
"When the COVID pandemic started, the St. Luke's volunteer program was halted for a few months. As soon as the vaccine became available, Kathy got vaccinated at the St. Luke’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic, and returned to volunteer at the clinic, and now volunteers three days a week at the COVID vaccine clinic, along with other areas at St. Luke's," said nominator Liz Patronas-Abrahamson. "Kathy is a dedicated volunteer and has been a huge part of the volunteer department and most recently the COVID vaccine clinic."