By Christina Whiting
Every year, Haven House honors women who demonstrate outstanding leadership and who are generous and compassionate in their efforts to make the community better. These are the Haven House Women of Distinction.
Nominated by fellow community members and chosen by Haven House board members, this year’s Women of Distinction winners are Martie Krohn – Woman of Distinction, Mary Lou Kelsey – Woman of Wisdom and Zoe Story – Young Woman of Distinction.
In addition, Haven House staff selects one individual as a Hero of the Heart. This year’s hero is Doug Koester.
The Woman of Distinction award honors women who go above and beyond in their endeavors, inspire others to be their best, volunteer in the community and have a passion for life.
Martie Krohn has been an active member of the community for more than 30 years.
She created and ran Smoky Bay School for 20 years. She has also been: a 4-H leader and a bookkeeper for Alaska Ferry Adventures, worked behind the scenes for Pier One Theater, plays bassoon in the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra, teaches karate to all ages and is the treasurer of the Kenai Peninsula Fair Association. Krohn has taught a Workforce Development Construction Academy at the fairgrounds, is the administrative assistant at the Homer Senior Center’s assisted living facility, and last year, started Alaska Our Way LLC, an Alaska tour company.
“I believe life should be about being involved in things you enjoy that also are helpful to others,” Krohn said. “All my life, I’ve watched people do things and I’ve always thought that if they can do that, I can too.”
The Woman of Wisdom award recognizes women who are compassionate and who have chosen to share their life experiences, gifts and wisdom to enrich the lives of others.
Mary Lou Kelsey is a Certified Nurse Midwife with Homer Medical Center. She has lived in Homer since 1981 and began working with family physicians, Drs. Eneboe and Bell to provide a full-scope midwifery service. Today, the Homer Medical Center midwifery service is thriving with more than 100 births a year at the South Peninsula Hospital Family Birthing Center.
“I am proud to represent and promote nurse midwifery as a standard of care for normal birth in our community,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey also volunteers teaching EMTs and nurses, and is on the Board of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic.
The Young Woman of Distinction award honors young women who are energetic, passionate and bold and actively involved in the community.
Zoe Story was born and raised in Homer. For the past two years, she’s worked as a peer educator in the area of reproductive health at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic’s Youth Enrichment Coop (R.E.C.) Room.
“I love this work because it allows me and other youth to grow our natural skills as leaders, develop new skills and truly become professionals,” Story said. “I believe this work is important because peers want correct information and they want to hear it from their peers. Watching what can happen from a peer-to-peer conversation is absolutely outstanding.”
Story and a friend are currently preparing for a five-month long backpacking trip through Southern Asia. Eventually, she would like to receive her degree in women and gender equality, master in communication and advocate and speak for women all over the world.
Haven House’s Hero of the Heart award recognizes individuals in the community who are directly connected to the work Haven House does and who show exceptional devotion in the services they provide.
Doug Koester is a peer educator at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic’s R.E.C. Room.
“Doug is compassionate, kind and demonstrates respectful relationships in all aspects of his life,” Lawmaster said. “He connects in a very meaningful way with youth and is a tremendous leader who recognizes the power that young people have when trusted with leadership and given opportunities. He leads by example in his friendships, marriage and in being a safe, loving, and active father.”
Koester strives to live in joy and appreciation for everything.
“I am constantly working to uplift the collective consciousness of humanity,” he said. “I believe it’s important to help those around us who need it.”
This is not the first time Haven House has recognized men for their efforts.
“Though Haven House is staffed predominantly by women and the majority of adults we serve are women, there is a very important place in the work we do for men,” Lawmaster said. “We are honored when we get to celebrate men who are contributing to making our community safer and healthier for all people.”
In addition to being an opportunity to recognize individuals for their contributions, the Women of Distinction awards ceremony is an opportunity for Haven House to share their successes over the past year. It also serves as the organization’s largest annual fundraiser. This year’s event has sold out.
“The work that each of our honorees does matters,” Lawmaster said. “With each gift they share, each hour of time they give, and each soul they touch, our community becomes a safer place where opportunities are created and voices are empowered.”
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