The Summit County Historical Society will present nine Woman of the Year awards

Nine local women will receive the 2022 Woman of the Year award from the Women’s History Project of the Akron Area, a program of the Summit County Historical Society.

Recipients will be honored June 15 at the John Brown House, 514 Diagonal Road, Akron. The door opens at 4 p.m., with prize giving at 4:30 p.m. Heather Pollock from the University of Akron will be the emcee.

The nine honored are:

• Darlene Anderson-Katz of Dare to Love More Food and Resources receives the Faith Award. She has worked with the Shelter Care Residential Program, American Greetings Christmas Family Program and One Piece Ministries. Dare to Love More is a collaboration between Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Project Rise and One Piece Ministries.

“Darlene relied on her faith to help families in crisis,” the company said. “Darlene has gone from volunteer to program director, guiding the group through the pandemic, providing help and hope to over 100 families.”

• Regina King and Denise Brandon, co-founders and trainers of the West Akron Track Club, receive the Perseverance Award. Both are graduates of Buchtel High School.

The club was established in 2000 to teach the basics of athletics while encouraging sportsmanship and has trained hundreds of young Akron athletes, some of whom have gone on to become national champions and medalists. In 2018 and 2019, the club was named one of the top 100 teams in the country.

“It’s only fitting that Denise Brandon and Regina Rae King share the price of perseverance. The two have shared so much,” the company said. “The two may have followed different career paths – Denise in nursing and Regina in hairdressing – but the two shared a vision, which became the West Akron Track Club.”

• Virginia Wojno-Forney, a preservation activist working with many different organizations, receives the Imagination Award.

“For decades, Virginia has been a force behind some of the city’s key institutions, including the Summit County Historical Society, Progress Through Preservation, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and the Akron Museum of Art. But it’s at Cascade Locks Park that Virginia’s imagination is most evident,” the company said. “In the 1980s, it saw the potential for a canal-era supply store, the ruins of a series of step locks and the overgrown urban jungle and saw a park where Akron could rediscover its canal history. Today, Cascade Locks Park, “a heritage park for Akron’s future,” is a testament to Virginia’s vision of what could be.”

• Kathleen Meyer, palliative care nurse and founder and president of Peace Together Choir (, receives the creativity award.

“Kathleen Meyer’s work with the Peace Together Choir is an extension of her work as a palliative care nurse,” the company said. “In 2000, unable to find the right collection of hymns and songs to bring the healing power of music to her patients and their families, Kathy “reconstituted” the Peace Together Choir. She recruited friends, hospice workers and local musicians to record music. that would be comforting and peaceful. Since then the group has recorded six CDs, with proceeds going to the hospice, visiting nurses and other charities .

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• Julia Perry, a composer and conductor described by the society as a “great yet forgotten composer of classical music,” will receive the posthumous award. She was born in Lexington, Kentucky, but has lived in Akron most of her life. A graduate of Spicer School, Central High School (1942) and Westminster Choir College (BA and MA, Princeton, New Jersey), she died in Akron in 1979 at the age of 55.

“Julia Perry is one of the greatest classical music composer/conductors the city has ever produced,” the company said. “Julia enjoyed initial success in vocal works and later in orchestral works. She has also conducted a number of major symphony orchestras, including the BBC Orchestra in England.”

The Akron Symphony Orchestra will perform many of Perry’s works this season.

• Lisa Mansfield, Community Outreach Specialist with Summit County Probate Court, will receive the Courage Award.

A longtime resident of Akron and a graduate of North High School and the University of Akron, Mansfield formed an online support group for military spouses during the Iraq War, led a support group for LaLeche League for New Mothers, helped at-risk students stay in school, and helped nonprofits connect with seniors in Summit County. She also served as a member of the Akron Public Schools Board of Education for three terms, her last ending in 2021.

“Courage comes in many different forms,” ​​the company said. “Lisa Mansfield has shown courage in many different ways.”

• Ellen McWilliams-Woods, Academic Director of Akron Public Schools, will receive the Innovation Award.

McWilliams-Woods joined Akron Public Schools in 1989 as a teacher of Deaf Education and will retire as Director of Studies/Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. She designed a new school-based Medicaid program for students with disabilities, launched the first Ford Next Generation Learning community in Ohio, and set up and helped staff an after-hours support center during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For 33 years, public schools in Akron have benefited from Ellen K. McWilliams-Woods innovation in the classroom and academic offices,” the company said.

• Janis Worley, community volunteer and documentary filmmaker, will receive the Integrity Award.

The director of finance and operations for the First Congregational Church of Akron, Worley also works with the Akron Children’s Hospital Women’s Council, the Junior League of Akron, the Old Trail School, the Ronald McDonald House of Akron and the Summit County Historical Society. She won the National Gracie Allen Award for Best Documentary for “Heart of a Nation” from the Alliance for Women in Media.

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Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased online at or by calling the Summit County Historical Society office at 330-535-1120.

This will be a lawn event with limited tent seating available, but attendees should dress for the weather. Light refreshments will be served by A Taste of Fine Dining.

“The Women’s History Project is honored to recognize these women who, through their selfless, paid and volunteer work, fulfill a basic need: hope,” said Leianne Neff Heppner, president and CEO of the Summit County Historical Society. “In the words of Mother Theresa, ‘Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.'”

The Women’s History Project selection committee included co-chairs Kitty Endres and Theresa Beyerle; Judy James; and Willette Riley.

Contact Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills at [email protected] and on Twitter @EmilyMills818.

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