YWCA Tribute to Women of Excellence

Seated L-R: Soleil Carrion, Pamela Hill, Jennifer Scott Standing L-R: Jennifer Wintermyer, Amanda Murry, Lois Duquette

Honoring the top mentors, role models, and volunteers in Central PA

Over the past 35 years, the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg has honored more than 780 extraordinary women for their contributions to our region, both professionally and philanthropically. On March 19, 2024, this tribute will continue as 25 women who have dedicated their time and talent to making a difference in Central Pennsylvania will be honored by their induction into the Women of Excellence, Class of 2024.

“For 35 years, the YWCA Greater Harrisburg has been proud to honor the women of Central PA who make a positive impact on their communities through the work they do,” said Mary Quinn, CEO, YWCA Greater Harrisburg. “This year, we celebrate 25 women who are thought leaders in their professional and personal lives.  They have made an impact on the lives of others and deserve to be recognized. Each honoree embodies our mission in unique ways, and we consider it a privilege to celebrate them.”

To garner an understanding of the scope of this award, look at the eligibility criteria that each woman must be able to speak to and show excellence in, to be considered for this highly prestigious award.

All nominees must:

  • Participate actively in the community as mentors, role models, and volunteers.
  • Actively serve on the boards or committees of various non-profits and organizations.
  • Demonstrate integrity, strength of character, and leadership.
  • Raise and donate money to important causes.
  • Embrace and support the vision and mission of the YWCA.

Nominations begin in September of each year and a two-month vetting process takes place during which time the YWCA association board begins its screening process. A Google search is done of each nominee’s name, to ensure there is nothing controversial popping up in the cyber universe, after which a line-by-line review of each woman’s submitted materials takes place. Submitted materials consist of a 600 to 1000–word Narrative Biography and a 75 to 100–word Presentation Bio.
Once these two screening processes are completed, the board begins its daunting task of paring down this list of amazing women to end up with as close to 25 inductees as possible.

No recipient can be selected for more than one year’s class, although all women are eligible for two additional yearly awards: the Carolyn L. Smith Legacy Award, given to an exemplary woman whose efforts set a standard for a lifetime commitment to the welfare of women and children in the capital region; and the Karen F. Snider Emerging Leader Award, which recognizes the efforts of a woman under the age of 30 on behalf of the community, particularly with regard to mentoring younger girls.
This year’s special keynote speaker: Janine Latus, New York Times bestselling author (“If I’m Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation”). “Janine chronicles her own trauma with candor that is captivating,” said Quinn.  “Her speech will bring a new perspective to the greater purpose of the YWCA’s mission of transforming lives and creating a more just community for all.”
YWCA Greater Harrisburg’s mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen the community. YWCA Greater Harrisburg serves 35,000 individuals in the Capital Region, and the combined network of YWCA associations impact 25 million individuals worldwide. For comprehensive information about this important work, go to: www.ywcahbg.org and www.ywca.org.

The Tribute to Women of Excellence, the YWCA Greater Harrisburg’s largest fundraiser of the year, will take place on Tuesday, March 19th at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. Cost to attend is $125 per person. Tables of 10 can be purchased for $1250 and tables of 8 can be purchased for $1000. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://ywcatwe.givesmart.com/.

Seated L-R:
Jill Snyder, Tija Hilton-Phillips, Hagir Elsheikh
Standing L-R:
Lorena Rakowsky, Lori Felder, Beth Christian
Seated L-R:
Jade Honey, Maria Diaz Crispen, Emily Sullivan
Standing L-R:
Sara Elerman, Jennifer Gettle, Leigh-Ann Reitze
Seated L-R:
Elena Cross, Chelsea Besic, Debbie Houser
Standing L-R:
Tracy Varano-Garrson, Jordan Sallavanti, Brigid Grode
Seated L-R:
Soleil Carrion, Pamela Hill, Jennifer Scott
Standing L-R:
Jennifer Wintermyer, Amanda Murry, Lois Duquette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chelsea Besic
Chelsea Besic, PMP, CSM, has provided consultancy services for state government projects and programs dedicated to serving Pennsylvanians for the past nine years and has consistently served as a mentor to young professionals. Currently a Junior Project Manager for Info-Matrix Corporation, Besic devotes her spare time to volunteering as the secretary for the YWCA Junior Board and Secretary and Treasurer for the YWCA Pursuit of Justice Committee.

Soleil Carrion
Soleil Carrion, an incredible leader, advocate, and role model for women, currently serves as the Vice President of Finance and Shared Services at Milton Hershey School. Beyond that, her greatest accomplishment has been her commitment to families affected by autism. In 2020, in honor of their daughter, Carrion and her husband started the G & G Foundation, which fosters awareness of the disability and offers support to families who need it.

Beth Christian
Dedicated to improving the employee experience, Beth Christian serves as Deputy Executive Director for the State Employees’ Retirement System, directing all activities of SERS. She shares her passion for public service serving on the Advisory Board of the STEM-UP Network, as director for Capital Area Public Human Resource Association (CAPHRA), and as a HealPA Executive Steering Council member. She also volunteers as a NICU cuddler and for Find Toby in PA.

Maria Diaz Crispen
Crispen’s 25-year teaching career has been dedicated to empowering students. For the past five years, Crispen has served as Key Club Advisor at Harrisburg High’s SciTech. Under her leadership, students have completed over a thousand community service hours. Crispen recently concluded a five-year term on the Executive Board of the Latino Hispanic American Community Center, dedicating her efforts to the organization’s LISTO youth leadership development program.

Elena Cross
Elena Cross is a Senior Advisor at GSL Public Strategies Group, where she advises clients on accomplishing governmental priorities and growing business. During her tenure as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff for former Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania passed its first childcare tax credit. She volunteered for several years as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, and currently serves on the board of Planned Parenthood Keystone.

Lois Duquette
Lois Duquette has over 30 years of experience as a trademark and contracts law attorney, protecting businesses’ intellectual property as a member of McNees Wallace & Nurick. Combining her commitment to providing pro bono legal services, and her dedication to early career attorneys and community service, she works with families as a volunteer with MidPenn Legal Services and provides estate planning services to first responders and their families.

Sara Elerman
Karen F. Snider Emerging Leader Award Winner
During her 11 years at Members 1st Federal Credit Union, currently as its Regional Vice President, Elerman has continually encouraged her team to achieve their goals and has mentored several associates. In the community, she’s demonstrated an unwavering commitment to making a positive impact, mentoring young immigrants and helping them continue their education, and has worked with New Hope Ministries to teach soft skill classes.

Hagir Elsheikh
Carolyn L. Smith Legacy Award Winner
Hagir Elsheikh is an entrepreneur, electrical engineer, registered nurse, community activist, and the owner/CEO of HSE Staffing Agency and Tomorrow’s Smile Inc. Born in Sudan, she started community activism at an early age, standing against the Sudanese corrupt government while in high school. After gaining asylum in the US, Elsheikh continued her activism in Central PA, and was recognized in 2017 by the Central Penn Business Journal as a “Woman of Influence.”

Lori Felder
Felder has distinguished herself through a lifetime of community service. After joining Penn National Insurance in 2016 as Chief Audit Executive, she became an inaugural member of the company’s Workplace Inclusion Group. Outside the workplace, Felder has served a variety of organizations, including the PA Association for the Education of Young Children, the Central PA Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors, United Way’s Women’s Leadership Network, and Caitlin’s Smiles.

Jennifer Gettle
With the Dauphin County DA’s Office since July of 2006, Gettle currently serves as Chief Deputy District Attorney and head of the Child and Sexual Abuse Unit, where she has brought justice to countless victims. Additionally, as the District Attorney’s Office liaison for the Dauphin County Crisis Response Team, she continues to provide legal guidance regarding search warrants, use of force, and hostage scenarios.

Brigid Grode
Over the past 40 years, Grode’s commitment and dedication to women, children, and the underserved in Central PA has been an inspiration. Professionally, Brigid commenced her medical career at the Hershey Medical Center, assuming the role of Childbirth Educator, assisting pregnant women and their partners in preparedness for the birth experience and parenting. After retirement in 2013, she assumed the role of Birth Doula, further empowering the journey to parenthood.

Pamela Hill
“A job can change your life.” Pamela Hill, Founder and Owner of Signature Staffing Inc., is a testament to her own words. Since 1998, her company has served as a bridge to the perfect job for thousands. Following Governor Shapiro’s first executive order, eliminating the college degree requirement for 92% of Commonwealth positions, Hill championed that new hiring philosophy to assist local women. She is also a 2023 Central Penn Business Journal “Women of Influence” honoree.

Tija Hilton-Phillips
Tija Hilton-Phillips has been with Highmark Blue Shield since 1992. Currently the Director of Regulatory Affairs, she has served as Highmark’s internal United Way Campaign Co-Chair, a member of the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Network, and a Dreamer with The Foundation for Enhancing Communities. Her past volunteerism includes the Lancaster Marionette Theatre, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and Junior Achievement.

Jade Honey
Jade Honey, Executive Director at Penn State Health & Penn State College of Medicine, is an experienced business development and healthcare fundraising professional with a background in economic development, corporate engagement, sponsored research, and grants management. As the Immediate Past President of Harrisburg Young Professionals, she personally contributed to the growth of numerous young women.

Debbie Houser
Debbie Houser, Digital Banking Program Manager for PSECU, embodies the credit union motto of “people helping people,” playing a key role in assisting with the creation and implementation of RISE, PSECU’s first Employee Resource Group. Though her work keeps her busy, she still makes time to give back to the community, volunteering with the Central PA Food Bank.

Amanda Murry
As current Assistant Director, HR Support, at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R), Amanda Murry oversees operations for staff support centers, helps manage the employee journey process, and supervises 18 team members who serve as the first point of contact for all HE&R applicants. In 2022, Murry was nominated for the Legacy of Excellence Award, HE&R’s highest level of peer-to-peer recognition.

Lorena Rakowsky
Lorena Rakowsky is a Vice President and Business Banking Relationship Manager for M&T Bank, representing the greater Harrisburg region, and is a steering committee member of M&T’s Women’s Leadership Network Resource group. Passionate about education & community outreach, Rakowsky volunteers at numerous nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity, various United Way campaigns, The Salvation Army, and The YWCA.

Leigh-Ann Reitze
As a Manager, Events and Community Relations, with UPMC in Central Pa., Leigh-Ann Reitze oversees community relations, supports strategic relationships, and coordinates and contributes to numerous events, yet still finds time to work with many local charities, including Wildheart Ministries’ “Love the Hill” initiative, Keystone Business Alliance’s Annual Awards Gala, and the LGBT Center’s FAB Gala.

Jordan Sallavanti
In her seven years with Boyer and Ritter, Jordan Sallavanti has risen rapidly to manager and is a highly regarded member of the Auto Dealer and School District practice groups. Whether it be fundraising for Connecticut Children’s Genna Fund, focused on raising monies for early detection of pediatric brain cancer or speaking to youths about career opportunities and financial literacy through Junior Achievement, Sallavanti’s dedication to children is inspiring.

Jennifer Scott
Jennifer Scott is Director of Merchandising Acceleration and Chief of Staff at The GIANT Company, where she embraces the company’s purpose of connecting families for a better future and in giving back to the communities. A volunteer-elected school board member in the Middletown Area School District, she also serves as vice president on the joint operating committee for Dauphin County Technical School.

Amey Sgrignoli
Amey R. Sgrignoli is President & CEO of Belco Community Credit Union, which has grown to include 15 branches in 7 counties under her leadership. Named by American Banker as one of the Most Powerful Women in Credit Unions, she is also co-founder of the Global Women’s Leadership Network Pa Sister Society. Devoted to animal rescue, you will find Sgrignoli fostering Labrador Retrievers and spending time volunteering with the Lab rescue.

Jill Snyder
As Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility for Capital Blue Cross, Jill Snyder is responsible for managing the company’s employee volunteer engagement platform. A decades-long volunteer for the United Way of the Capital Region, including serving as a member of the United Way’s Campaign Coordinator Council, Snyder also serves as Vice Chair of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, and as Chair of the Salvation Army Public Relations and Special Events Committee.

Emily Sullivan
Emily Sullivan’s integrity, leadership, and community devotion extend beyond her role as Director of Strategic Engagement at UPMC Pinnacle Foundation, spearheading the Foundation’s Grateful Patient Program, which touches the lives of countless patients and caregivers. Serving on the Board of Trustees for her alma mater, the Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School, Emily aims to use her fundraising expertise to shape educational landscapes.

Tracy Varano-Garrison
For the past 22 years, Tracy Varano-Garrison has worked as a Central PA Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley, elevating other women in both the financial industry and the community. She founded and still serves as the chair for the local Women in Wealth Chapter in CEPAM; and chairs the bi-annual A.W.E. Day that focuses on empowering other women in the industry and community.

Jennifer Wintermyer
Jennifer Wintermyer, Chief Executive Officer of Tri County Community Action, has dedicated over 25 years of service to addressing social determinants of health and poverty. She is active in anti-poverty, equity, belonging, and justice work groups, and serves on many boards and coalitions, including PA211, the Local Housing Investment Fund & Trust Loan Committee, and the Community Action Association of PA.