The 2021 ATHENA Award was presented to Sara Hemingway, executive director of the Marilyn and William Young Charitable Foundation, during Wednesday’s virtual celebration hosted by Girls Inc. and the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.
The ATHENA Award is presented annually to someone who empowers women, strives to better the community and has achieved excellence in their profession.
Hemingway, who has been in her position for 18 years, voiced her appreciation for the seven other nominees, saying “Your work is just as valuable and noteworthy as anything I’ve accomplished.”
A graduate of both Leadership Owensboro and Leadership Kentucky, Hemingway has also played a large hand in various organizations, including in the Women’s Guild of Owensboro, the Philanthropy Roundtable of Owensboro, and the 2020 Green River Area COVID-19 Response Fund.
Event emcee Kirk Kirkpatrick described Hemingway as someone who “strives to get young girls and women to a place where they can see over the walls in the path between them and where they want to be.”
During her acceptance speech, Hemingway used most of her time to recognize the other female leaders who’d been nominated alongside her (Joy Carroll, Rosemary Conder, Tammy Maglinger, Amanda Owen, Cheri Searcy, Angela Woosley and Paula Yevincy).
“It’s my honor to be in your presence, and I share this award with each and every one of you,” she said.
According to Hemingway, assisting others in reaching their potential was more of a joy than a job for her.
“I’m so blessed to be able to work in that capacity,” she said.
Girls Inc. CEO Tish Correa Osborne called this year’s lineup of nominees a group of “phenomenal women” who had become heroes and role models to many of the staff at Girls Inc.
The engraving on the ATHENA sculpture bears the phrase, “What is honored in a country will be cultivated there.” Correa Osborne said those words had been brought to life many times across the Owensboro area.
“With or without an actual award or sculpture being given out, we know that we are succeeding and doing good in the world, and we’re honored to be a part of it,” she said. “Every single one of you deserves applause, and finger snaps and standing ovations … you are unbelievable women and have all made major contributions. Our community has benefitted just because you are here.”
The annual Legacy Award — which honors a woman posthumously and the contributions she made to society — was awarded to the late Clemmie Wolf.
Wolf was recognized for her selflessness in helping feed, clothe and care for the sick during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Wolf, who would eventually succumb to the flu herself at 41 years old, was described by presenter Lexi Newcom as a woman who “sacrificed her own life so that others might live.”