PIQUA — The Piqua YWCA honored those women in the community with an “inner fire” Thursday at their 21st annual Women of Excellence awards luncheon.
Ruth Jenkins was honored with the 2017 Woman of Excellence award as she is “a woman who has truly made service to others a way of life,” Donna F. DeBrosse, president of the YWCA board of directors, said.
A Troy native and mother of three, Jenkins dedicated more than 50 years to nursing and spent decades serving the community through organizations such as the Troy United Way, the Family Abuse Shelter, and the Festival of Nations, among many others, DeBrosse said.
Jenkins’ healthcare career began in 1956 at Stouder Hospital, where she later was a co-founder of the cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation program in 1985. After retiring, she worked as a part-time clinical instructor for the Upper Valley Career Center’s nursing program.
Jenkins, upon receiving her award, joked about whether her wrinkles could have been removed from her professional portrait taken for the event, before adding, “That’s okay, because I’ve decided that with every wrinkle comes wisdom and reflection and gratitude.”
Jenkins attributed the wisdom to lifelong learning experiences, entering every experience with an open mind, learning to fail, and respecting differences in others.
“Reflection brings memories and satisfaction,” Jenkins said. For her, she said that included being a mother, having a rewarding career in nursing, and being involved in the community.
“The gratitude I have for the life I’m lucky enough to lead is due to the love and influence of my husband, Pete,” Jenkins said. Jenkins’ husband of 59 years, Pete, was mayor of the city of Troy for 12 years. Jenkins noted that her husband was always by her side, “inspiring me to be myself.”
Jenkins ended on a note of encouragement for women with careers and families, saying, “Balanced can be achieved.” She encouraged women “to be true to yourself and recognize your potential, your strengths, and your weaknesses.” Jenkins added, “I think women now have every opportunity to do that.”
Piqua High School graduate Ashley Ho, who is currently a student at North Carolina State University, was honored as the 2017 YWCA Young Woman of Tomorrow.
Among top honors was Ho’s selection earlier this year as a U.S. Army Pro Football Hall of Fame Award of Excellence winner, one of 25 selected from across the country. In high school, she was involved in Key Club, an organization sponsored by the local Kiwanis Club, and selected as the state’s Distinguished Club Member award recipient. Ho participated in track and volleyball, in the Model United Nations program, in Piqua Teen Leaders and was a class salutatorian.
Among other activities was being a Big Sister, spearheading efforts for a local dog park, collecting toys for Toys for Tots and baking cookies at Christmas for local first responders.
“Being recognized as a Woman of Tomorrow is an honor,” Ho said, adding that she was still “in shock” then about receiving the award as she was when YWCA Executive Director Leesa Baker first told her that she was going to be the 2017 recipient.
“I realize that I was nominated for this award due to my involvement in our community, but I honestly think that the community that exists deserves all the recognition,” Ho said.
Ho recognized her advisors at the Key Club, her coaches, her family, the YWCA, and a “plethora of other people and organizations” for supporting her and providing her with the opportunities to be involved with and give back to her community.
“Now, as a freshman in college, in a completely different state, and away from all of these exceptional people, I’ve only grown more grateful for the community that exists here,” she said.
Supreme Court of Ohio Justice Sharon L. Kennedy, who was elected in 2012, was the featured speaker at the luncheon.
“Twenty-one years ago, this organization began honoring women,” Kennedy said, noting that honoring women acknowledges the influence women have, provides insight, and inspires others “so that they forge their own path.”
Kennedy mentioned notable women from history, adding that the U.S. has a tradition of women of excellence. She began with Deborah Sampson who, in 1791, “disguised herself as a young man and took to the battlefield” in order to fight with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Sampson went undiscovered for two years before she was wounded. Kennedy also mentioned Lucretia Coffin Mott, a leading abolitionist during the Civil War.
No one is more inspiring, Kennedy said, than those who “choose to live a life of achieving for the betterment of others.”
With stories about women of excellence, Kennedy said, “We learn how best to help every person achieve their own rights, talents, and futures.” Kennedy added, “These stories should never be forgotten. That is what you’re doing today … We honor women of excellence in order to inspire leaders of tomorrow.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336