MANKATO — In the continuing battle for equality, it’s often the individual who makes the difference. And every year since 1973, the Mankato YWCA has recognized the women who are making that difference.
This year’s recipients of the Women of Distinction awards are Pam Determan, Julie Vetter and Anne Willaert. Wells Fargo earned the second-ever Distinctive Difference award and Terri Hanson received the Young Woman of Distinction award.
Though the YWCA has recognized about 120 women during the awards’ 40-year history, each group of winners feels as if it could be the most distinct yet. This year’s crop is no exception.
Two years ago, Determan had the opportunity to personally thank the woman who inspired her.
That woman was Verna Dargen, Determan’s fifth-grade teacher at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in her hometown of Hopkins. The year that Determan was in her class, Dargen’s husband died. And with her three children already grown, Dargen turned to her students for comfort.
Determan said she remembers going to her teacher’s house on the weekends to make crafts and volunteering at nursing homes together. They also taught an area Sunday school for disabled youth together for seven years until Determan graduated.
Determan has honored her mentor’s lessons in giving ever since.
She jumpstarted a Mankato branch of the Faith in Action network in 1995. For two years, she operated alone. In fact, Mankato’s first Rake the Town event amounted to Determan’s children raking about 50 yards by themselves.
Now, VINE Faith in Action boasts more than 500 volunteers and a variety of programs for senior citizens. Last year, VINE purchased the Nichols building from the Blue Earth County Board with the intent of constructing a $4 million adult center.
Just one more.
When the day has already been too long and exhaustion is setting in, Julie Vetter hears her grandfather’s admonishment. The sound begins somewhere in the distance, near her family’s Mapleton farm where she was expected to pull the same chore load as her three other siblings — especially during growing season when the beans needed walking and weeding.