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‘Women in Philanthropy’ honored

More than 600 people filled the Caesars Indiana Colosseum at Bridgeport Saturday morning to honor six Southern Indiana women who have dedicated much of their lives to improving those of others.
The event, the third annual Southern Indiana Women in Philanthropy ‘Giving from the Heart’ celebration, hosted by the community foundations in Crawford, Harrison, Orange and Washington counties and the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, began with a catered brunch. A photographic slideshow of each of the honorees appeared on two large screens.
Women honored this year were: Elizabeth Cato of Harrison County, Joan Ritchie of Crawford County, Colleen Endres of Floyd County, Marilyn Fenton of Orange County, Diana Armstrong Apple of Washington County, and Margaret Read of Clark County.
WHAS-TV news anchor Melissa Swan, a Leavenworth native, was to emcee the event, as she had the previous two years, but ‘unavoidable circumstances’ prevented her from attending, said Bonita Embree Coots, executive director of the Community Foundation of Crawford County and chairperson of the WIP Steering Committee. Coots and Pam Bennett Martin, who also serves on the steering committee, filled in for Swan.
‘This morning we will recognize and celebrate six dynamic women and their philanthropic accomplishments of ‘Giving from the Heart,’ ‘ Martin said.
As in past years, each woman received a Swarovski-designed crystal brooch donated by Bob and Jean Caesar, owners of J.O. Endris Jewelers in New Albany, but unlike in past years, the event didn’t include a keynote speaker. This time each honoree could address the crowd.
Harrison County’s honoree, Elizabeth Cato, is humble about her efforts in the community, Coots said.
Cato’s efforts include serving as a volunteer for the PTO for Corydon schools, Daughters of American Revolution, Tri Kappa, Corydon United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern Indiana, Joe Rhoads Senior Citizens Board, Community Unity, Habitat for Humanity, and the YMCA of Harrison County.
‘In 1988, Elizabeth began a major commitment of her time and talents to the charitable work of the local Salvation Army as the ongoing coordinator of the annual bell ringing,’ Coots said. ‘In 2006, she solicited and scheduled 31 churches and civic organizations, as well as many individuals, to ring bells in Corydon during the holiday season.’
Fifteen years ago, Cato, after realizing that many people in Harrison County did not have a hot Thanksgiving meal, initiated a free Thanksgiving dinner through the Salvation Army.
‘Starting out with 25 people being served on Thanksgiving Day, more than 260 people joined in the meal this past year,’ Coots said. ‘She continues to solicit food donations and prepares much of the food herself, though she now has recruited 28 volunteers who help with serving and delivering meals throughout the county.’
Cato also helped initiate the organizational meeting of the Harrison County Habitat for Humanity in 2000, and still serves as a board member.
Cato briefly addressed the audience.
‘I feel humbled, honored and challenged hearing what these other women have done,’ she said.
Crawford County’s honoree, Joan Ritchie, born in Pennsylvania, met her husband, Gene, in 1948 while studying with a group of Mennonite students at the state hospital in Richmond, Ind. The couple married in 1948 and settled in Gene’s native Crawford County, where he inherited 82 acres with an old house and farm.
A farmer’s wife, Ritchie became a creative entrepreneur, raising chickens and selling eggs. She and her husband had five children.
‘Joan started her leadership roles as an active member of her church,’ Martin said. ‘Initially, Joan was active in the Leavenworth Parent Teachers Association and eventually expanded her leadership into many Crawford County boards. Joan served on the Crawford County welfare board for 12 years.’
She also served on the Southern Hills Counseling Center Board for five years and, having attended a Disciple of Christ College in Bethany, W.Va., prior to getting married, became certified lay speaker under appointment of the United Methodist Church.
‘Joan saw a need to provide a mechanism for women to be of support to one another in a variety of ways,’ Martin said. ‘Joan started the Crawford County Women Quilters Society. Joan and her friends quilt every Tuesday. Some of the quilts are donated as lap blankets to the elderly.’
She has been a long-time volunteer with Lincoln Hills Development Corp., serving her 20th year as board chairperson this year, and recently began delivering food to the elderly.
Ritchie, saying she was ‘humbled by this honor,’ told the audience that both she and Crawford County are truly blessed.
Colleen Endres, Floyd County’s honoree, has spent years sharing her ‘gift of sensitivity and ability to identify needs and meet them,’ Martin said.
‘Her love of people and desire to make a difference have placed her among numerous civic and church groups, as well as professional associates,’ she said. ‘She has nurtured these valuable connections for the benefit of others.’
Endres has spent nine years as a volunteer with Baseball Chapel, an international non-profit organization for the wives and significant others of minor league players. Besides serving as the women’s chapel leader for the Louisville Bats, Endres coordinates the minor league program.
After her children graduated from college, Washington County’s honoree, Diana Armstrong, realized the need for scholarships to assist middle class students. So she helped establish the Salem Education Foundation.
Marilyn Fenton, Orange County’s honoree, has served as a volunteer for eight years with Hoosier Uplands, which serves five counties. She is a four-year Orange County 4-H Board member; a member of Orange County Extension Homemakers Club, serving as a two-year county president; and helped found the Red Hats Society in French Lick.
Clark County’s honoree, Margaret Read, has been a volunteer for most of her life. She is admired throughout the community for her tireless efforts for the many organizations she is and has been involved with.
Read has volunteered for the St. Augustine Catholic Church for more than 50 years, working on many different committees. Other areas of her volunteerism include: Clark County United Way, the Clark County Leadership Program, Clark Memorial Hospital Foundation, and LifeSpring Mental Health Services.