Assembly Member Ricardo Lara Celebrates Women of Distinction in the 50th Assembly District

March 23, 2012

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) celebrated the accomplishments of women leaders in the 50th Assembly District with the Women of Distinction Awards. The keynote Speaker for the event was author and radio personality, Josefa Salinas of 92.3fm. Nationally famed spoken word Artist Simply Kat emceed the event.

"The women receiving the awards this year exemplify true servant leadership. They are exemplary and deserve every accolade they receive. We are blessed to have leaders who fight to improve the quality of life for the people of the 50th Assembly District day in and day out," said Assembly Member Lara.

Every year the State Legislature recognizes and honors women who exemplify leadership in bringing awareness and solutions to issues that affect our local communities through the Woman of the Year Award. The 50th Assembly District has a rich history of strong female leadership. In the areas of business, government, education, and healthcare, women in our area have been instrumental in creating a community of which we are proud. Assembly Member Ricardo Lara celebrates their accomplishments through the Woman of Distinction Awards. A woman from every city and community the Assembly Member represents is chosen for the honor by a separate selection committee comprised of seven (7) community leaders. The woman of the year is chosen from among all the nominations submitted.

Carmen Bella received the award for the City of Bell.
A pillar of support and civic activism in her community and throughout the 50th Assembly District, Carmen has been an outspoken leader in her City where she has fought against corruption and has mobilized her community to bring transparency and accountability to her local government. She actively acknowledges the good deeds of her community members and often worked with parents to encourage them to be vigilant of their children's education.

Lucy Avalos received the award for the City of Lynwood.
Using her business acumen and skills from running her catering business, Lucy has supported and guided a number of charitable projects in her community and beyond. She consistently demonstrates by her actions her belief that one should give back to one's community. She has been a major contributor to the annual Lynwood Christmas parades and through the school district; she has provided assistance to youth groups, organizing food baskets for needy families in Lynwood. As part of the Lynwood Rotary Club, she has also supported an orphanage and community center in Tijuana.

Carol Sullivan Miller received the award for the City of Bellflower.
She is an active community member and through her role in creating the new Bellflower Family Lions Club for evening meetings she has been Secretary, Treasurer and President all at the same time, to get the club off the ground. Now the club is a thriving community program. She volunteers with the Soroptimist, the Bellflower Rotary Club, Bellflower Kiwannis and she volunteers with the Elks, the Lions and Rotary. She courageously fought and won the war against breast cancer and continues to fight it by raising record amounts for the Relay for Life. She is an inspiration to us all.

Sandra Cornejo received the award for the City of Commerce.
Even before there was a City of Commerce, Ms. Cornejo was instrumental in gathering support for its incorporation. She was instrumental in developing the first Boys and Girls Scout Troops in the City and is active in church and the PTA at Rosewood School. She also serves as president of the Woman's Club at Rosewood Park, the oldest community civic organization in the city.

Blanca Tapia received the award for the City of Cudahy.
She has been an avid volunteer in the city for more than ten years running. She has been instrumental in implementing an effective and replicable model of community volunteerism. She has been involved with the city's Town Hall Meetings, Take Back the Night, 4th of July Celebrations, among others. Her dedication is seen at her children's schools as well as several private educational institutions in and around the Southeast Los Angeles County.

Maria Navarro received the award for the City of South Gate.
Ms. Navarro recognized the needs in her community long ago, and sprung into action. She has led efforts to feed needy families during Thanksgiving and has been an instrumental community member of Padres Unidos and the Women's Multicultural Club in South Gate. She has been a strong voice of parents for more than 15 years, volunteering at the schools. She rallies the community behind important issues and helps transform her community by her constant involvement.

Kelley Gendreau received the award for the City of Downey.
Since she was 14 years old, Kelly has held weekly meetings at the library and raised funds for local animal shelters. At age of 16, she held garage and candy sales to found and become president of LEASH (Leading Every Animal Safely Home) Animal Rescue. She spends countless hours locating foster and permanent homes for dogs she rescues. Each dog is spayed or neutered; micro chipped and is brought up to date with its shots. Since she established the nonprofit, Kelly has rescued 77 dogs and keeps the business finances and communications going. Last year, the rescue purchased approximately 10 acres of land to build their rescue facility.

Gloria Medina received the award for the Communities of Florence/Firestone and Walnut Park.
Gloria has been a strong advocate for her local community, bringing free workshops for businesses and residents alike. She's worked closely with property and business owners with the Florence Avenue Property Association and through her work with security guards patrolling the area; she managed to build long-lasting relationships with the community. She has been the Event Chair for the American Cancer Society Southeast Relay for Life, Former President of the Florence Firestone Community Leaders; Chair for Economic Development Committee and is now the Executive Director of the Bell Chamber of Commerce.

Norma Velasco-Aceves received the award for the City of Bell Gardens.
She is a strong advocate for children and families in her native city of Bell Gardens. As a graduate of Bell Gardens Intermediate, she dreamed of coming back to her community and making a difference. She has realized that dream by becoming the Vice Principal at BGI. She is a tireless advocate who has worked with programs to improve the educational attainment of her students and increase parent participation. Through the Kaiser Permanente Hippocrates Circle Program, her students learned about Childhood Obesity and were encouraged to pursue careers in the medical field. Through the Café con Leche Series, she worked with AARP to bring awareness and parent involvement in the classroom.

The Community Leader Award was bestowed on Lesley Heredia and Paulina Sanchez students at Jaime Escalante Elementary School in the City of Cudahy.
These young ladies noticed that too much food was being wasted at their school and they set-up a "Common Table" so students who were still hungry could have seconds. When they noticed plenty of food was left over, they asked LAUSD to pass a resolution that would allow unopened food to be donated to a local food bank. Consequently, the school now is teamed up with the Southeast Churches Service Center, a local food bank that provides food and services to people in need. The food bank now picks up the unused food on a daily basis, ensuring that food is not going to waste and those in need receive assistance.

The Woman of the year for the 50th Assembly District is Ms. Norma Lopez, who has dedicated her life to the working families of the 50th Assembly District.
She commits countless hours with community groups to fight for social service, civil rights, human rights and the Labor Movement. For more than ten years she served the children of the Florence-Firestone and Walnut Park communities as a teacher's assistant and helped organize school improvement programs as well as serve as a union steward. Her service to the district continues as she serves with the Teamsters of Local 911 in the city of Bellflower where she partners with local nonprofit organizations, including Bellflower's Battered Women's Shelter.