5 women to be lauded with award

Posted Oct. 27, 2010, at 12:26 a.m.
Maryann Hartman award winner, Shenna Bellows. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Shenna Bellows. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Heather Sawyer. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Heather Sawyer. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Candace Austin. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Candace Austin. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Francine Garland Stark. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Francine Garland Stark. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Daniella Runyambo. w/Harrison story
Maryann Hartman award winner, Daniella Runyambo. w/Harrison story

ORONO, Maine — Five Maine women will be honored at 5 p.m. today at the 25th presentation of the Maryann Hartman Awards at the Buchanan Alumni House at University of Maine.

Candace Austin, 61, of Old Town, Shenna Bellows, 35, of Portland and Francine Garland Stark, 51, of Bucksport and Presque Isle will be honored for their contributions toward improving the quality of life in Maine, according to Mazie Hough, chairwoman of the awards committee.

Daniella Runyambo, a first-year student at the University of Maine where she is in the Honors College, and Heather Sawyer, a graduate of Mount Ararat High School in Topsham, will share the 10th Young Women’s Social Justice Award.

Named for the late Maryann Hartman, who was a teacher and scholar in speech communication at the University of Maine, the award recognizes distinguished Maine women and their accomplishments in the arts, politics, business, education and community service.

Both awards are sponsored by UM’s Women in the Curriculum and women’s studies program. The awards are determined by committee after the public submits nominations.

“Receiving the Maryann Hartman Award allows me to highlight the work we are doing through Old Town Adult Education and Literacy Volunteers of Bangor to support adult learners as they help themselves break cycles of generational poverty and low literacy,” Austin said Tuesday in an e-mail. “The relationships that we are building with adult learners, their families and with each other form the foundation upon which success is built, lives are improved and communities are changed.”

Bellows, a native of Hancock, is executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union in Portland.

“Maine has been a great place to find my voice,” she said Tuesday. “You really can change the world with the power of words. We all can make a difference by speaking out on issues of justice and equality.”

Francine Stark, formerly of Spruce Run in Bangor and now director of Hope & Justice Project in Aroostook County, will be honored for her work to end domestic abuse in Maine and for her peace and justice activities.

“It’s a lovely honor,” Stark said Tuesday, “but I feel that in honoring myself, the committee is honoring all of the women who over the years have worked so hard to represent women and children.”

Runyambo was born in Rwanda. She and her family moved to Uganda and then to Portland.

“One of the first impacts Daniella made on her community shortly after she arrived in this country in 2007 was to organize a youth group at her church,” Hough said Tuesday, quoting from the young woman’s nomination papers. “She was determined to help the younger ones from the Congo, Rwanda and Biyani remember their culture in a positive way, so she taught them native steps and songs.”

Runyambo named the youth group “Omucjo,” which means “keeper of culture” and “light” in her native language, according to Hough.

Heather Sawyer graduated from high school last year and now attends college in New Hampshire.

In addition to working on the unsuccessful campaign to keep same-sex marriage from being repealed, Sawyer also worked to promote change and social justice at her school. She created a bulletin board that highlighted legal discrimination facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Sawyer actively participated in a successful campaign against a local Hallmark store that was selling a “joke” product called “Gay Away.” Hallmark no longer carries that card.

For additional information about the ceremony, call 581-1228.

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