The Fullerton Women’s Leadership forum held its 13th annual event at the Fullerton Community Center on Thursday, Nov. 9.
The group recognizes women who have worked in the community helping people by providing assistance and resources through organizations such as Fullerton Collaborative, OC United, and Pathways of Hope.
The first ever Warrior Award was given to Tamika Williams, Orange County Deputy District Attorney, who was also the evening’s keynote speaker.
Williams delivered a moving speech about losing her 10-year-old son four years ago and what he taught her. Her son had leukemia and went through the ordeal of treatments and relapses, Williams said her son taught her to have faith that everything was going to be ok, no matter how things turned out.
“When life is taking you down, believe, have faith even though you don’t know why,” Williams said.
Gigi Tsontos of Women’s Transitional Living Center, WTLC, received the award for leadership in philanthropy. WTLC is a non-profit organization helping those that need to escape domestic violence and exploitation. Tsontos explained the importance of perpetual change.
“If I don’t help us make changes, we can go nowhere,” said Tsontos during her speech.
Sally Newton received an award for leadership in education. She has been the director at Fullerton Community Nursery School for the past 32 years and works to also change parents’ lives by having them partake in their child’s education. The children learn through play, said Newton.
The award for leadership in business went to Leslie McCarthy of Fullerton Insurance. McCarthy spoke about how she learned to reach out to the community from her parents. Growing up in Florida, McCarthy said, she and her family would drive to Miami to visit elderly folks and shut-ins. The joy on peoples’ faces at the sight of their visitors, recalled McCarthy, remained with her.
“You don’t need money to give back to the community…give your time: the most valuable resource,” said McCarthy.
One more award was issued that evening. The Woman’s Club of Fullerton recognized Dawn Michelle Usher and Pamela Tonge for leadership. Usher and Tonge operate International Asylum Seekers, an organization that works with people that have been marginalized here in the states and abroad.
The two have sponsored girls to go to school in Nicaragua and are also now working with detained immigrants that have come to the U.S. seeking asylum from persecution in their own countries but wind up in jail. The newcomers don’t have anyone to help them here and they don’t get representation when it’s time to go to court either.
“I have never done anything in my life that was so meaningful,” said Tonge.
Gift baskets provided by local charities and non-profits were raffled off at evening’s end. The energy and excitement of the crowd was evident as they continued to engage in conversation a while longer after the presentations had concluded.
Fullerton councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald, Fullerton former mayor Jan Flory, and The Women’s Club of Fullerton hosted the popular event. Members of Fullerton city council, including the mayor and his wife, were present as well. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments were provided by local restaurants and establishment.
For more information and to read about past winners, visit their website.