Scores of women—and more than a few men—gathered at the Country Club of Darien Thursday afternoon to honor the recipients of the YWCA Darien/Norwalk's "Women of Distinction" award.
The recognition, new this year, celebrates "just a fraction of the many hard working women who make our community such an incredibly special place," according to Kristin Calve, President of YWCA Darien/Norwalk's board of directors.
Guests were treated over lunch to a keynote speech by Ashleigh Banfield, a Darien resident and longtime television news correspondent known for her reporting in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Reading from a chain email that she had received, Banfield reeled off hallmarks of life from 40-plus years ago that have largely disappeared, including riding bikes without helmets, leaving front doors unlocked, and smoking or drinking during pregnancy.
But, Banfield said, "We know better now, so we don't do it. ... The work of women of distinction—and men of distinction—has been what has led us to know more about our lives and make our lives better."
By the same token, Banfield argued that the "culture of incivility" reflected in the behavior of many men towards women should be made obsolete.
"I want 'boys will be boys' to not be an acceptable term anymore. I want that on that email with drinking mothers and smoking mothers and riding your bike without a helmet," Banfield said.
Following Banfield's speech, Women of Distinction Committee member Jeanne Yurman read a summary of each woman's achievements and contributions to the community, while State Rep. Terrie Wood presented each with a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly.
(The presentations were not without a hitch: Wood noticed mid-ceremony that several citations referred to the "YMCA," eliciting a muted chorus of boos from the crowd.)
Below is a brief summary of each winner's accomplishments and areas of involvement, followed by an excerpt from Yurman's introduction for each:
Rachel Hathaway: A Darien High School senior, Hathaway is the co-founder of the Teen PeaceWorks project at DHS, a volunteer for the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, and the author of an award-winning essay on teen dating violence, which she presented recently at the State Capitol. "If all the young people are like Rachel, coming up the ranks, then our country has a very, very bright future," Yurman said.
Maureen Bloom: Bloom is the founder of Maureen Bloom's Playdates, a "unique at-home playschool program" for Darien two-year-olds. She is also a volunteer for the Children's Aid Society, Joshua House, the Center for Hope, and St. John's church. "When I asked her, 'How do you approach all of what you do?' she says, 'With honesty and open mind and flexibility ... always have a plan B,'" Yurman said.
Penny Glassmeyer: A longtime developer, Glassmeyer has built or refurbished numerous buildings around Darien over the past decade. Her projects include Grove Street Plaza, considered a key component of the revitalization of downtown. "While she's been very successful, Penny—a resident of Darien for 42 years—is renowned for her love and devotion to improving Darien," Yurman said.
Marcia Meinerth: Meinerth is active in the town Beautification Commission, the Darien Arts Center, the Darien Democratic Town Committee, and the Darien chapter of A Better Chance, a scholarship program for female minority students from inner city areas. "Marcia educates herself on every project or cause she champions, brings an energy and openness to many new endeavors," Yurman read from a statement by Selectwoman Callie Sullivan.
Meghan Moore: Moore co-founded the Playground by the Sound project, which provided $250,000 for the construction of a playground at Weed Beach. She has been active in the YWCA Darien/Norwalk Parent Awareness Network, the Human Services Planning Council, and the Darien Youth Commission. "A lot of people will describe young people as 'detatched,' or that they lack initiative. But Meghan Moore has a very different take: she says, actually, kids are quite reachable and impressionable," Yurman said.
Charlotte Suhler: A former Darien selectwoman, Suhler helped found the Fund for Women and Girls—"the largest women's charitable fund in New England," Yurman said—under the umbrella of the Fairfield County Community Fund. She also serves on the advisory board of E$P at Norwalk Community College. "[Suhler]'s motto is to aim high, which is exactly was Charlotte Suhler has been doing for over two decades," Yurman said.