L’Oréal Paris has received over 6,000 submissions for Women of Worth awards this year. Those submissions were reviewed and the list was cut to only ten worthy candidates all worthy of their recognition for their selfless acts.
aL’Oréal Paris has been holding these events to show appreciation for women who go the extra miles for others. And for its tenth anniversary, Women of Worth chose these ladies who carved a significant contribution in the growth of their respective communities.
1. Maria Rose Belding (Washington, DC)
Most 19-year-olds probably think they’re too young to “change the world,” but not Maria Rose Belding from Washington, DC. This young woman gets her energy making food more accessible for the underprivileged.
She was also the one who developed the Web site that serves as a medium for a convenient food exchange between the donors and local soup kitchens and food pantries. She named the site MEANS or Matching Excess and Needs for Stability. Amazingly enough, in just two years, MEANS has already reached 50 more cities in 12 different states and has built partnership with more than 1,600 agencies.
2. Teri Kelsall (Laguna Woods, California)
Teri Kelsall, with the help of her husband, has been aiding veterans create their own startup. They dreamed of organizing such a program when they realized how hard it is for returning soldiers to get back on their feet after their service.
The project extends help to veterans by giving them ideas on what kind of businesses they could open, connecting them to investors who will be willing to lend money as a start-up capital, and setting up workshops where business strategies are taught. Kelsall has already helped a total of 18 veterans start their own small companies, four of which are currently operational.
The organization, called The Jonas Project, was especially created to pay tribute to Teri’s deceased son, Jonas, a U.S. Navy who passed away during his service in Afghanistan.
3. Kathy Koenigsdorf (East Islip, New York)
Like Teri Kelsall, whose project was created after the death of her son, Kathy Koenigsdorf‘s program is tragedy-driven too. Two years ago, she lost her son to heroin overdose.
Having experienced the struggle of recovering from such loss, Kathy started the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation, which aims to provide support for families who have a family member suffering from addiction. The foundation also organizes fundraising for patients who want to get away with their addiction but don’t have enough money for treatment.
It’s now 2015, just two years after JKF was opened, but the foundation has already helped 105 addicts find treatment.
4. SuEllen Fried (Prairie Village, Kansas)
SuEllen Fried from Prairie Village has been helping prisoners in Kansas walk the good path for more than 30 years. Through GED classes and weekly group discussions, SuEllen talks to the inmates and helps them realize that they have the chance to turn over a new leaf.
Called Reaching Out from Within, SuEllen’s program offers help to over 500 prisoners in North Carolina and Kansan each year.
5. Alison O’Neil (Atlanta, Georgia)
Allison O’ Neil‘s Beauty Becomes You has an inspiring story behind. Shortly before Allison’s father took his last breath, she remembers him saying, “Beauty becomes you.” The simple three-word advice, Allison used it for a good cause.
The organization is centered on helping the elderly find their self-worth and be more confident with how they look. So they give them free hair, skin, nail care, and massage therapy. Beauty Becomes You has already given 15,000 free services to over 5,000 seniors.
The elderly often feel overlooked, but Allison wants them to know that they are more than just someone sitting on park benches.
6. Schinnell Leake (College Park, Maryland)
Schinnell Leake is a Maryland native living in College Park. When she learned that in her area alone, there are nearly 2,000 kids who have to spend their childhood in homeless shelters. The one thing that most children in shelters don’t get to experience—birthday parties.
Birthday parties, Schinnell believes, make children feel that they are important and loved, so she launched the program Extra-Ordinary Birthdays, whose goal is to organize parties for the homeless kids.
Since the EOB started, Schinnell’s team has already thrown 200 birthdays in six shelters in DC and, of course, Maryland.
7. Elissa Davey (Vista, California)
One day, Elissa Davey read an article that drove her to start an inspiring project. It was a report about a toddler whose dead body was thrown in a garbage can. She asked the coroner about how the boy would be buried, and he told her the child would end up in an unmarked grave. That is, if no one would ever claim him. Davey was disheartened upon hearing it and realized how sad reality is for these innocent babies.
This realization made her organize Garden of Innocence. Davey and her team make sure that young orphans who are up to eight years old would be given a dignified burial. So far, the group has provided 288 children for the past 17 years.
8. Jaha Dukureh (Atlanta, Georgia)
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a serious issue, but people fail to discuss more about the topic. Even with a rising number of 504,000 of girls from around the world who are at risk of having their genitals mutilated, we forget to address this problem.
But here’s Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old who was about to experience FGM herself, stood up and sought ways to start more discussions about FGM. To do this, she founded Safe Hands for Girls, an organization that aims to educate girls and the communities they belong in about what FGM is and the tradition’s effects on a young woman.
The Safe Hands for Girls successfully freed more than 100 girls from the dangers of FGM. Dukureh’s advocacy gave way to the implementation of Girls’ Protection Act of 2010, which declares the transportation of American girls abroad for FGM a criminal act.
In 2014, Dukureh also started a petition through Change.org, a popular petition Web site. Her advocacy amassed more than 220,000 signatures. As a result, the Obama administration ordered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct investigation on the frequency of FGM cases in the United States.
9. Melaney Smith (Athens, Georgia)
Many kids love to read, but only a few of them have access to books. Melaney Smith knew about this when she met a girl who loved books but didn’t have any at home.
Smith then started Books for Keeps, which provides books for kids to read while they’re on their summer vacation. They’ve given out around 45,000 books annually.
10. Catherine Curry-Williams (Valley Village, California)
While Shinnell Leake decided to throw parties, Catherine Curry-Williams chose to build something kids love too—playground.
When Williams’s son Shane was born, doctors told her that he had spinal muscular atrophy. Just two weeks after his birth, Shane eventually died. Normally, a mom would spend the next few months of her life crying over her son’s death, but Catherine chose a different means of recovery: she introduced an initiative she dubbed as Shane’s Inspiration.
The project builds playgrounds that are accessible to all kids, including the physically impaired. These playgrounds not only have sound walls for the blind and special swings where wheelchair-bound children can play, they also have activities aimed at improving balance and muscle tone for those who have Down syndrome and other similar disorders.
As of this writing, Shane’s Inspiration, with the help of other organizations, has already created 57 playgrounds that can be found in different places around the world. Ninety-six more playgrounds, located in the United States, Russia, Israel, Mexico, and Ecuador, are under construction.
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