On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, Congressman John Garamendi and his Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) held its second annual Women of the Year Awards ceremony. At the event, held at Woodland Community College, 35 incredible 3rd District women were honored for their contributions to their communities. Among those women were Colusa County residents, Alma Hickel, Andi Armstrong and Marie Azevedo Spooner.
“Today, we’re identifying and celebrating women who are outstanding leaders, women who have contributed to the betterment of their communities,” Garamendi said. “The women we honor today come from many backgrounds. Some are mentors in their profession. Others are tireless volunteers for charity. Every single one has made a real difference and transformed lives.”
Nominated for her commitment and guidance towards the activities and well-being Williams youth, Andi Armstrong is recognized as being an inspiration to many and for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that a call for help is answered.
“Andi has been a key organizer and speaker for the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ program in schools,” said Pat Ash who nominated Amstrong for the recognition, “She has shared her story across the North State encouraging students to consider the consequences of drinking and driving.”
As a teenager, Armstrong was involved in a serious vehicle collision involving a drunken driver.
In addition to her work as an advocate for ending alcohol-impaired driving, Armstrong has taken her leadership in developing the Citizens for a Better Williams, local improvement organization, which hosts several community events a year.
Additionally, Armstrong was instrumental in local efforts to welcoming home returning veterans and honoring fallen and injured veterans.
When Alma Hickel won the Grand Prize at the Colusa County Fair Cook-off last year for her famous Walnut pie, it was no surprise to hear her confess, “I love to bake.”
Alma Hickel is nominated for her self-reliance, hard work and for her unyielding efforts in giving back to her community.
“For many years, Alma has donated baked items to be sold or auctioned in support of local fundraising efforts,” said Pat Kittle, who nominated Hickel.
Alma has also provided inspirational leadership to the 4-H, the Catholic Ladies Relief Society, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, and the Colusa Regional Medical Center.
“Alma is amazingly kind,” said Daughter, and Colusa City Councilwoman Marilyn Acree, “She operated a daycare for over 35 years and cared for so many children – she has watched them all grow up and has never forgotten them.”
Acree also commented that her mother is known for taking baked goods to grieving families.
A Mister of Music at the historic Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Marysville, Zenobia ‘Zee’ Brokenbrough is nominated for being an upstanding and inspiring educator.
“Zee and her Choir spread joy throughout the community bringing hope to patients in senior home and hospitals,” said Chuck and Linda Plummer Smith, who nominated Brokenbrough, “they also perform during the holidays, community events, street fairs, weddings, funerals, and a myriad of other events.”
Zee is known for helping charter school students fundraise for field trips and to perform at Chico State and Disneyland.
For the past 10-years, Zee has been the Choir, Musical Theater and Piano teacher at the Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts, one of the highest performing schools in the Yuba-Sutter region. Previously and for many years, Zee taught 3rd grade and music at St. Isidore’s Catholic Church in Yuba City.
Through music and Zee’s educational programs, she is beloved by her students and peers. Zee broadens the minds of her students while challenging them to think critically, value diversity, and function competently, to become effective and confident leaders.
Marie Azevedo Spooner
Having lived through the Great Depression and World War II, Marie Spooner was taught to take care of and do with what you have and to share with others.
Spooner is nominated for lending a helping hand and providing what she can.
“Whenever Marie has come across anyone in trouble, she has done what she could,” said Sandy Denn who nominated Spooner, “She has fed countless of children over the years and has offered shelter to those who needed it.”
Spooner is also known for her home-baked pies that have generated thousands of dollars for local charities in both Glenn and Colusa Counties.
“Maries most famous pie sold at auction for over $4,000,” said Denn, “the buyer then sold the slices and collected an additional $1,000 for a local family who desperately needed assistance with medical bills.”
Denn added that when Spooner discovered that the buyer had not kept a slice for himself, she baked him another.
At the age of 94, Spooner has yet to decline a baking request for a worthy cause.
Following the award presentation, Congressman Garamendi facilitated a discussion with the 170 people in attendance on issues important to women. Women in attendance identified several areas of concern.
“We’re here to focus on the policies of this nation that provide support and opportunity for women and families,” Garamendi added. “I want to make sure that women are encouraged from an early age to reach their true potential. I think Congress can help more young girls stick with their dreams and pursue a rewarding career in whatever field inspires them.”
Every year, the Office of Congressman Garamendi solicits nominations from the community for women who deserve to be acknowledged for their selfless work. WIN is Congressman Garamendi’s standing Advisory Committee focused on identifying issues important to women and families in the 3rd District and on solutions that Congressman Garamendi can take back to Washington.
The 2015 Women of the Year Awardees include: Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Yolo County; Constance Boulware, Solano County; Becky Brummet, Glenn County; Barbara Christwitz, Lake County; Preet Didbal, Sutter County; Dawn Dowdy, Glenn County; Joanne Ellis, Sutter County; Paula Emigh, Yolo County; Graciela Espindola, Sutter County; Margaret Fernandez, Sutter County; Gloria Flaherty, Lake County; Elvia Garcia, Yolo County; Angie Gates, Yuba County; Mary Jane Griego, Yuba County; Sandy Holman, Yolo County; Jane Johnson, Solano County; Amandeep Kaur, Yolo County; Barbara LeVake, Sutter County; Dionne McCullar, Solano County; Jan E. Meyer, Sutter County; Norma Montna, Sutter County; Cathleen Olsen, Yolo County; Dorothy Pooley, Glenn County; Ramona Prieto, Yolo County; Deidre Robinson, Solano County; Evelyne Rominger, Yolo County; Liesl Schmidt, Lake County; Cherie Stephens, Sutter County; Jennifer Terra, Yolo County; and Susan Young, Sutter County. ■