The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 4, 2013

YWCA award recognizes everyday heros

Anyone can be nominated for SHERO award

By Robb Murray
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — The YWCA in Mankato for years has been very good at recognizing the most accomplished women in the area.

Now they’re hoping they’ve figured out a way to get some recognition for some of the area’s unsung heroes.

The SHERO Awards (She Helps Everyone Realize Opportunities) debuted last year and the YWCA recognized nine women in the Mankato area who, as the YWCA says, “make significant, positive impact on this community every day. They contribute to their family, their workplace through volunteer commitments and in endless other ways.”

Any woman can get SHERO Award. They just need to be nominated. Nomination forms are available at the YWCA’s website. (A $40 fee accompanies all nominations.)

The SHERO Awards were first bestowed last year. The idea came out of the retreat attended by the organization’s staff and board of directors.

“We were really just looking for additional ways to highlight the efforts of women,” said Sheri Sander-Silva of the YWCA.

Unlike other awards, there is no selection process per se. In general, all nominations will be honored with a visit from the YWCA’s Persimmon Women Committee. The YWCA also puts the nomination on its website and mentions the awards at two YWCA events. Winners also get a commemorative embroidered scarf.

Maureen Nowak was one of the original recipients. She said she returned to her desk at work one day to find a surprise.

“Everybody was standing around and I couldn’t figure out why they were there,” Nowak said.

The awards are a good idea, Nowak said, because people sometimes need to hear the good in a culture that so often points out the bad.

“A lot of people just go through life thinking we’re just very average,” Nowak said. “You’re always going to run into someone where you might think they look nice but you say nothing. I think there should be more of that. We certainly have enough of the opposite. And it’s not just women. A lot of times it’s young people. Maybe they have too many negative strokes in their life.”

The deadline for the 2013 SHERO Awards is Oct. 18. A representative from the Persimmon Women Committee will work with nominators about arranging a time to visit the nominee at work or home.

Sander-Silva said the visits from the Persimmon Women Committee have often been emotional.

“For the most part, it’s been a surprise,” she said. “There’s been joy, a lot of tears, and they’re just touched that someone would go out of their way to honor them. It’s amazing to see how touched they can be.”