Assemblymember Kelles Announces the 2024 Women of Distinction Award Recipients

In honor of Women’s History Month, Assemblymember Kelles sought nominations of outstanding women from the district who deserved recognition for their contributions to the community, either through their community leadership, civic participation, service, volunteerism, or other noteworthy accomplishments.

Award recipients were honored at an in-person reception at the Ithaca District Office, received an official Assembly Certificate of Merit, and were highlighted on the Assemblymember’s social media throughout Women’s History Month.

Award recipients included:

  • Amanda David, of Rootwork Herbals, for her efforts to develop a free community garden for BIPOC folks to connect with the land and to facilitate mutually beneficial healing relationships between people and plants. 
  • Ana Ortiz, of No Mas Lagrimas, for her efforts in creating an all-volunteer organization that helps to bridge the gap by fostering partnerships with local farmers and organizations to serve Ithaca's most disenfranchised residents with food insecurities.
  • Apryl Beatty, of Cortland Community Matters, for her efforts to create an engaged Cortland community by hosting events and giveaways with local donations or through her own efforts. 
  • Brigid Hubberman, of Children’s Reading Connections and Community Quiltmaking Center, for her efforts to emphasize children’s literacy most recently with the Children’s Reading Connections and helping to create the Community Quiltmaking Center at Finger Lakes ReUse to provides access, resources and space for aspiring quilt makers.
  • Cate Thompson, of Cornell University’s Pre-Collegiate Summer Scholars Program, for her vision, commitment, mentorship, and project planning at Cornell and in the greater Ithaca area.
  • Christine Gregory, of Cortland Enlarged City School District, for her efforts to serve the Cortland community by mentoring student teachers, tutoring at SUNY Cortland, serving as the Board of Education President, and providing a scholarship for a graduating high school senior.
  • Cindy Wilcox, of Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, for her efforts in fostering a work environment that helps to address the needs of staff, community partners and the greater Ithaca community, exemplifying what true leadership is.
  • Dalya Tamir for her efforts to provide the community with a space for meditation and contemplation to experience and share their feelings especially in this time of war and conflict. 
  • Davi Mozie, of The Learning Farm, for her efforts to connect children and families with their cultural roots, work with formerly incarcerated individuals, and be an advocate for the voiceless. 
  • Diana Riesman, for her efforts to create connections and community by revitalizing Stewart Park and developing a museum inside the Wharton Studio building to celebrate and highlight Ithaca’s history.
  • Dianea Kohl, of Make True Love and Healthy Relationships, for her efforts to provide mental health counseling to the Ithaca area and mental health education to schools. 
  • Dr. Melissa Dhundale for her extraordinary service to students and families during COVID and continual community work related to behavioral, mental and physical health priorities.
  • Irene Weiser, of Fossil Free Tompkins, for her efforts to research, analyze, and address New York State’s progress with the climate crisis, and to encourage the public to become informed citizens.
  • Jane George, of Trumansburg Central School District and Trumansburg Stay Wild, for her efforts to engage young minds by providing them with opportunities to grow and for establishing an animal rescue.
  • Jen Graney, of Cortland Free Library, for her efforts in creating thoughtful, positive programs and services with compassion for all.
  • Kate Downes, of Seven Valley Health Coalition, for her efforts to develop the Cortland County Local Food Map, a BuyLocal database, and the Cortland Harvest and connect the community with locally grown and produced food.
  • Linda Schutt for her efforts to combat the shortage of certified midwives in New York State by coming out of retirement and providing many mothers with the care they needed. 
  • Liz Walker for co-founding Ithaca's Eco Village and helping facilitate the international spread of co-housing as a way for people to live more sustainably, in close-knit, supportive communities.
  • Margo Polikoff for her diligence and dedication working as a nurse for the Tompkins County Health Department for over 20 years, and for the countless patients and co-workers she has touched with her compassion, spirit, and kindness.
  • Mary Chapman for her decades of serving and preparing food at Loaves and Fishes, for her participation in and advocacy for the Ithaca Community Gardens, and for her ongoing contributions at the McGraw house to organize events and build community for those around her.
  • Nancy K. Bereano for her long-time activism and instrumental participation in securing the passage of LGBTQ anti-discrimination legislation for Tompkins County, as well as the founding of Firebrand Books to publish works of marginalized authors, particularly providing the space for the voices of queer women and women of color.
  • Sandy True for her passion in helping others and the energy and hard work she puts into organizations focused on family and health in the Ithaca area, including Cayuga at Twilight and Loaves and Fishes.
  • Sarah Brainard for her long-time dedication to education through the Trumansburg Community Nursery School and Trumansburg Education Foundation, as well as her participation in various nonprofit entities and charitable organizations in the Trumansburg area.
  • Sue Perlgut for her decades of work as an artist, educator and filmmaker, using her talents to showcase women’s lives in projects such as “Connie Cook: A Documentary,” chronicling Ithaca Assemblywoman Connie Cook’s fight for safe reproductive rights and “The Women’s Wisdom Project,” an interactive video presentation sharing more than 40 women’s insights on life.
    • Sue Perlgut was also the Assembly district nominee for the Legislative Women’s Caucus Women’s History Month recognition and was recognized in Albany. 
  • Susan Cosentini for designing and building 30 modular-constructed sustainable homes in Ithaca and fostering supportive and caring interactions between residents to create an environmentally friendly and socially beneficial neighborhood in Ithaca.
  • Tammy Sickmon for her extraordinary service and dedication to children and families in her role as youth librarian, engaging children in creative, interactive, and educational story times and programming, creating happy, welcoming environments.
  • Tess MacQueen for her commitment and tenacity to independently run the only primary care office in the Lansing/Groton/Moravia area, and her initiative in starting a Girl Scout Troop to create a community for young girls in the area. 
  • Tina Nilsen-Hodges for her integral role in the establishment, growth, and development of New Roots Charter School and its unique curriculum that integrates sustainability and social justice.