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Meet the Women of Achievement Class of 2017

Meet the Women of Achievement Class of 2017

Clothing kids. Facilitating jobs. Preventing human trafficking.

Women of Achievement (WOA), St. Louis’ longest-running program awarding area women for their volunteerism, will once again honor 10 women who give back to the community in these ways and many more at the organization’s annual luncheon on May 16 at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis in downtown Clayton.

Like the women before them, the 2017 recipients not only are donating their time and funds to nonprofits but also are creating them, says WOA president Joni Karandjeff. “They see a need, have a vision and take it to the next level,” she notes.

Started in 1955 by the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, WOA honors women who go above and beyond in their volunteer efforts to improve the quality of life in the community. After that local newspaper shuttered, WOA continued this mission, becoming the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 1993 that it remains today.

In its 60-plus-year history, WOA honorees have helped hundreds of nonprofits in the community’s philanthropic, health, education, arts and social justice sectors, including The Greater St. Louis Book Fair, Crisis Nursery Saint Louis, Food Outreach, Regional Arts Commission, Teach for America and YWCA, just to name a few. “Everyone in the [WOA] volunteers in numerous organizations, supplying the community with manpower and funds for nonprofits,” Karandjeff says. “If you name an organization, a WOA member probably was instrumental in its inception and success. There are WOA members in their 90s who are still volunteering in the community.”

WOA’s annual selection process begins with a call for nominations each June through the following January. “Organizations, family members and friends will nominate women and tell us about how the person has inspired others and [how she] goes above and beyond to help the community,” Karandjeff says. The nonprofit annually receives approximately 100 nominations, and an initial selection committee narrows the field to 25 women. The final selection committee, composed of WOA members, along with community volunteers and sponsors, then selects the most deserving 10 women to be recipients of WOA awards that year.

This year’s competition was extraordinary, making it difficult for the judges to pick the finalists, Karandjeff says. The result is 10 outstanding honorees who run the full gamut of volunteerism and nonprofits.

WOA’s class of 2017 includes award-winning local mystery author Claire Applewhite, to be honored in the educational enrichment category for helping students through nonprofits including Voices of Excellence, a written and oral literacy program. Christine Buck will be recognized for youth dedication through her work with Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club, among others.

This year’s recipients also include Washington University School of Law professor Adrienne D. Davis, awarded in the arts advocacy category for her work with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Black Rep and more. “She has been instrumental in bringing arts to young people of color,” Karandjeff says. Marlene Hammerman will be honored for her social justice efforts, including work with the National Advisory Committee on the Sex Trafficking of Children and Youth in the U.S.

Honorees also include Little Bit Foundation co-founder Rosemary Hanley, to be lauded for her contributions to youth services. “She started in her home’s basement with just a few coats for kids, and now the [Little Bit Foundation] has 250 volunteers who help collect coats and give them to students at 25 schools,” Karandjeff says, adding that Hanley has grown the organization to aid 35,000 St. Louis-area students.

Additionally, Margaret Hopkins will be recognized for community-betterment work, including building conservation and community beautification. And Dress for Success Midwest chief executive officer and founder Kathy Lambert will be honored for her social enterprise efforts. “[Dress for Success] provides women with job-interview clothing and job-interview skills, helping them get a job,” Karandjeff says.

Elizabeth Mannen also will be lauded for volunteer leadership, through her work with Sing for Siteman, a cancer-research fundraiser; Lydia’s House, transitional housing for domestic violence victims; and many others. And Colleen Kelly Starkloff, founder and co-director of Starkloff Disability Institute, will be recognized for her human-welfare efforts through organizations including Paraquad, which helps people with disabilities.

Finally, Asha Zimmerman will be awarded in the caring and compassion category for her work with nonprofits such as Friends of Wings, an end-of-life care program for kids diagnosed with terminal illnesses.

These inspirational women will be celebrated during WOA’s annual spring luncheon, which will include videos highlighting the recipients’ volunteerism. Individuals and organizations can contribute to WOA by attending the luncheon in May, becoming a sponsor or donating through the organization’s website,

Karandjeff says this year’s honorees are local leaders who inspire others to follow them in helping those in need across the community. “They instill their passion into friends and family, bringing them into the organizations they help,” she notes. “They are very humble women who do it for the joy of giving and making a difference.”

Women of Achievement, 3418 Charlack Ave., No. 615, St. Louis, 314-896-4962,

2017 Women of Achievement Luncheon

When: May 16; doors open at 11:15 a.m.; luncheon runs from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, 100 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton

Cost: $60 per person

Information: 314-896-4962,

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Brittany Nay, a writer of 10 years, is an Indiana native who adores Australia, indie rock music, and reading and writing both fiction and non-fiction.

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