“A Tribute To Women” The YWCA of the Niagara Frontier 2016 Niagara Awards

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The fantastic women who nominated me – Representing The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, NY – Janice Lewis, Kyle Patterson and Bonnie Crogan-Mazur. I was surprised and extremely honored to win the “Entrepreneur” category.

Upon acceptance of the beautiful award I said: “Leaving Dorian had been out for about a year when I received an email from Bonnie Crogan-Mazur asking if I would like to come and speak to the ladies of The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls at one of their meetings. Now what I wanted to say was, ‘No! No I DO NOT want to come and stand in front of a group of strangers and talk about my book and my  own experience with domestic violence. I’m extremely shy by nature which is why I’m a writer; I sit in front of a computer all day by myself. That is my comfort level…!’ But instead I said ‘yes‘ and I’m so glad that I did. The ladies of The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls completely changed the trajectory of my career. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today with out them and I will be forever grateful.”

** cue ugly cry……. :/

2016 Woman of Distinction Award

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Program Chair Bonnie Crogan-Mazur read from the award: “The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, NY, member of Zonta International, Empowering Women Through Advocacy, Woman of Distinction Award in recognition of the 105th International Women’s Day is presented to Linda Dynel on March 9, 2016.”

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Niagara Falls Administrator Donna Owens after presenting me with the Proclamation from Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. After chatting over dinner and listening to her presentation, I can tell you that the people of the City of Niagara Falls are blessed to have her working on their behalf.

 

 

 

2016 Woman of Distinction Acceptance Speech

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award“In January I did a presentation for DV service providers in Niagara Falls. Family & Children’s Services of Niagara sponsored the event and several other agencies were invited to attend. We ended up having a pretty good sized group; maybe thirty in all, and agencies like Legal Aide, advocates from the Niagara County Sheriff’s office, a professor from Niagara University and interns from NU attended, as well.

It was the first time I’d ever spoken without a podium and the group was very close to where I was standing, so even with my contacts out I could see the front few rows very clearly. (My little cheat to calm my nerves; I can’t read facial expressions without my contacts/glasses. I don’t get distracted or emotional if I can’t read the emotion on my attendees faces!)

The hour long presentation went well; lots of good questions and comments and even some laughter and tears. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and get a lot out of the presentation except for one woman. She was sitting in the front row, directly to my right. I don’t want to say that she had no expression on her face; the best way to describe it was stone. She sat there the entire time looking like stone. There was clearly something wrong, but of course I didn’t have any idea what was going on. I thought that maybe she didn’t like the presentation; maybe she didn’t want to be there? I had no idea. But once I was through speaking and went to a side table to sign books, she was up and out of her seat and heading for the door.

When I got home later that night my husband asked how it went and I said great, except for that one woman. I just couldn’t figure it out; it bothered me that she looked so bothered. My husband assured me that it probably wasn’t the presentation; maybe she didn’t feel well or maybe something was going on at home or work. I agreed that he was probably right, but still… if you could have seen her face, I lamented.

“Well, maybe she didn’t like the presentation,” he reluctantly suggested. “You’re never gonna reach everyone.”

I agreed to focus on the positive and went to bed feeling satisfied that I’d given it my best effort. When I got up the next morning just before six, I noticed the Messenger light was already blinking on my phone. Assuming that it was one of my grown children that live out of town, I braced myself, prepared to handle whatever news was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until I’d had my coffee. But it wasn’t one of my kids; it was the woman from the night before.

She wondered if I remembered her (of course I did, I wanted to say; you made me nervous the entire time I was speaking, trying to figure out what was wrong!) and apologized for not coming over and saying hello after the presentation. She said that she was afraid that if she said anything, she would break down in tears in front of her co-workers. She went on to explain that her mother had been brutally murdered four years earlier by a long-time boyfriend.

We spoke at length; she said that she’d read Leaving Dorian and had recommended it to friends and family members alike, even posting about it on her Facebook page. She also had nothing but kind words about the presentation. Before we said goodbye she told me, “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing; WE need you.”

You know, even after all of the really wonderful things that she’d said about me and the book and the presentation, all I could think was – she wouldn’t have had any of that without you. She read one of the copies of the book that your Club donated to Family & Children’s Services! And there wouldn’t have been a presentation if I hadn’t met Karrie (Gebhardt, Director of Passage House) right here at the Hat Luncheon (fundraiser in October, 2015). This woman felt supported and understood and was able to take all of that positivity back to her friends and family members who also suffered after her mother’s death, because of your efforts.

I’m sure there are times that you wonder if what your Club is doing is actually making a difference. The world is a vast and complicated place, and the problems and heartaches of women all over the world can seem far too complex to ever make a dent in. Your efforts may seem small, but they’re like a tiny pebble dropped into a pond. The ripples that come off of that one tiny pebble reach every corner of that pond, no matter how large the pond is. Your fight for social justice, gender equality and the safety and education of women all over the world is unique. It’s a battle too few choose to fight. The world is a better place because of The Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, New York.

It is with the utmost gratitude that I humbly accept this award. Thank you.”

“16 Days of Activism”

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Zontians from the Niagara Falls, NY club gifted copies of Leaving Dorian to select help centers, schools and libraries in Niagara County as a part of Zonta’s 2015 Domestic Violence Initiative “Zonta Says NO! to Violence Against Women – 16 Days of Activism”.

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Zontian Angie Henderson delivers a copy of Leaving Dorian 

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Chapter President Gretchen Leffler and member Dr. Lindsay Edwards presented multiple copies to member Karrie Gebhardt, Director of Passage House, an emergency shelter for battered women and their children sponsored by Child & Family Services of Niagara. The books will be used for staff development as well as for residents of the shelter to read.

 

 

 

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Cathy is a volunteer with The Magdalene Project, an outreach to women mired in sex trafficking in the City of Niagara Falls. Volunteers from The Project go out at a night a couple of times a month and give these women Ziploc bags full of personal care items like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. as well as information on how to escape the grip of prostitution. The Magdalene Project is located on Falls Street in Niagara Falls.

 

 

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Zontian Daisy Waters with Jennifer Potter, Acting Director of the Niagara Falls Public Library. Ms. Potter explained that the library has become a “safe space” of sorts; there have been times that women have stayed inside the building until the person they were afraid of had left the premises, and library staff has been asked on more than one occasion to call the police on behalf of a woman who felt threatened.

 

 

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J. Susan Ben, Director of Carolyn’s House (transitional housing for homeless women and their children) receives books from Zontian Maggie Pollock.

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Andrea Fortin-Nossavage, Niagara Falls High School history teacher and Ebone Rose Bradberry, Coordinator of the Niagara Falls Community Schools Initiative Program, receive books for their staff and students.

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Dr. Kyle Patterson, Zonta Club of Niagara Falls VP; Lisa Lidamer, Niagara Wheatfield High School Guidance Counselor; Paul Gaigavich, NWHS Assistant Principal; Timothy Carter, NWHS Principal and Zonta Club President Gretchen Leffler.

 

 

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Donation to Lew-Port High School! This wonderful, caring staff was full of great ideas on addressing DV and Teen Dating Violence with students and staff for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year! From left to right: Trina DiVincenzo, Guidance Counselor; Gretchen Leffler, President Zonta Club of Niagara Falls; Terri Faut, Librarian; Kelly Ulrich, Health Teacher; Andrew Auer, Principal.

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Signing a copy of Leaving Dorian for Zonta’s District 4 Governor Joanne Raymond. Joanne will be traveling to Nice, France, in July for Zonta International’s 63rd Convention and will be taking a copy of the Niagara Falls, NY 2015-16 Service and Advocacy Report with her. She told members at the May meeting that, “…no other club has done what you’re doing..”. I’m over the moon that Leaving Dorian was able to play such a large part in that advocacy effort.I’m tremendously excited that Joanne will be sharing her thoughts on Leaving Dorian with other Zonta members, Presidents and Governors from all over the world. I’m truly blessed to have so many amazing women supporting my work and advocacy efforts. God Bless the women of Zonta, here in the US and all over the world.

 

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I’m not sure how I thought I was going to feel when I finally saw this in writing, but what I do feel is humbled, honored, and a little bit relieved. I wrote Leaving Dorian because I wanted to make sure that my own awful experience wasn’t all for nothing. My hope was that someone, somewhere, might read it and think, “Oh, I’m not all alone? I’m not to blame for this awful thing that’s happening to me? Maybe I can get help, leave and start my life over again. Maybe there is hope, after all.”

My goal was one woman. Just one. I thought that if just one woman was to be able to see beyond the hell that she was living in – believe that she could save herself – well, then, I’d have achieved my goal.

 

Zonta Club of Niagara Falls, New York, October 14, 2015

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was honored that the ladies of Zonta asked me to come and speak about writing Leaving Dorian as well as my own experience with domestic violence.