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Watch now: Here's who was honored at Women of Distinction
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Watch now: Here's who was honored at Women of Distinction

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BLOOMINGTON — Women in McLean County have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and a virtual event on Thursday night honored them.

The 31st annual Women of Distinction Awards event was conducted virtually, rather than in person, for the first time because of COVID-19.

While the event celebrated the 26 women nominated for the award and the six women selected as Women of Distinction, they represent all women who have been navigating challenges amid COVID, said Liz German, president and CEO of YWCA McLean County, which presents the annual event.

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Bloomington-Normal NAACP Second Vice President Willie Holton Halbert makes a point while addressing a crowd of 1,000 people on May 31 during a rally outside the McLean County Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington to protest racism and the killing of George Floyd.

"We have amazing women in this community," German said. "We wanted to honor all women who are navigating through this pandemic." The women honored are examples of that, she said.

Liz German

German

In McLean County, 54% of COVID cases have been among women. In addition, women have experienced some of the impact on children because many women accept major responsibility for child rearing, she said.

"We have seen many people in this community do amazing things, in spite of the pandemic, and we wanted to acknowledge those women while doing so safely," she said.

That's why the YWCA decided in July to go ahead with this year's event but to do so virtually.

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Doris Houston, Illinois State University assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion, is interviewed July 29 in her office at ISU's Hovey Hall in Normal.

People who registered were emailed a link and watched winners being announced at 7 p.m. on YouTube. More than 350 people registered to watch the event but German said more people watched because some immediate families and small groups of friends gathered "in their bubbles" to view the announcements.

Women of Distinction remains relevant after 31 years because pay disparities still exist between women and men and women are in fewer leadership positions in business, government and technology fields, German said.

"What you see affects what you believe is possible," German said. By highlighting woman in certain fields, the YWCA hopes to empower others.

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In this July 12, 2019, photo, Bloomington Police Officer Ashley Stacey, third from left, investigates with fellow officers outside a home in the 400 block of North Lee Street after reports of a shooting.

Six women were honored from among 26 nominees. They were:

Business/Education: Christa Platt, director of the Multicultural Center at Illinois State University, where she works to promote antiracism, equity and justice, and founder of Saving Grace, which mentors and educates young women.

Willie Holton Halbert

Holton Halbert

Community Leadership: Willie Holton Halbert, second vice president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, who also has worked as a mentor, advisor and advocate through Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church, Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town and the Bloomington-Normal Black History Project.

Christy Kosharek

Kosharek

Human Services: Christy Kosharek, vice president of pediatric therapy services with Marcfirst, who has been an advocate for children and their families through her 26 years at Marcfirst and through other community projects.

Mission Impact: Doris Houston, faculty member and director in the School of Social Work and assistant to the president on diversity and inclusion at Illinois State University.

Rebecca Henderson

Henderson

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math): Rebecca Henderson, owner of SMARTpath Education Services LLC, who connects children with new skills.

Promise: Ashley Stacey, the first African-American policewoman with the Bloomington Police Department, who has encouraged a more diverse work force and works to strengthen relationships between police and the African-American community.

In addition, receiving WINGS awards were Aly Frantzen, Ashlee Sang, Authrine Singleton, Jewel Woodard and Nicki Petersen.

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.

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