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Cuesta College announced Women of Distinction honorees 

Cuesta College and the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County’s Women’s Legacy Fund are excited to announce the recipients of the 37th Women of Distinction awards. The awards honor four women from throughout the Central Coast for their professional and civic contributions. The honorees were nominated by their peers and chosen by a selection committee. The award ceremony to honor the recipients will be held March 20, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. at Cuesta College in Building 5400, Room 5401. Tickets to the event cost $25 and can be purchased by visiting or by calling the Community Foundation at (805) 543-2323. Parking will be free for attendants in lot 2. The ceremony will include appetizers, dessert, wine and other beverages.

Last held in 2010, the ceremony and awards have returned with their original purpose – to celebrate Women’s History Month (March) and recognize the contribution that women have made in the areas of volunteering in the community, their profession and in philanthropy.

Community and Public Service Award, Volunteer: Sandy Richardson


Sandy Richardson

In 2003, Sandy Richardson read an article about a pediatrician who had been helping local families with unmet financial needs. Richardson thought the process sounded doable and contacted five friends who invited their friends to a potluck, and Womenade was formed. Today, the non-profit serves San Luis Obispo County and donates items, time, and money to meet the essential needs of those in crisis. Since Womenade’s formation, more than $322,000 in funds have provided dental and medical care, diapers, furniture, rent, gas, groceries, and much more. In addition, hundreds of items, including furniture, formula, clothing, and more, have been donated. Richardson, who created Womenade after retiring from teaching at Laguna Middle School, coordinates need requests with potential donors and stores the donated items in her home until they are delivered. Womenade is run solely by hundreds of volunteers, donators and Richardson.

Community and Public Service Award, Professional: Jeanette Duncan

Jeanette Duncan

Jeanette Duncan

Jeanette Duncan has been serving as executive director of Peoples’ Self-Help Housing (PSHH) since 1977. She is responsible for the non-profit multi-county (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura) affordable housing agency and its 30 affiliated nonprofit corporations and limited partnerships, which provide a variety of housing and community development programs and residential construction services. Duncan also serves as president of The Duncan Group, a PSHH affiliate property management corporation. The Duncan Group’s mission is to raise the economic, educational and social levels of the beneficiaries of PSHH’s programs and services. Under Duncan’s visionary leadership, PSHH has grown to become a regional and national leader in affordable housing development, as well as one of the most respected and trusted names among non-profit organizations. Duncan graduated summa cum laude from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Her numerous awards include 2012 Isabel P. Ruiz Humanitarian Award from the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation; 2007 Pacific Coast Business Times “Top 50 Women in Business”; 2006 Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, Community Service Award; 2005 Women’s Economic Ventures, Trailblazer of the Year Award; 2003 Local Hero by the Santa Barbara Independent.

Progress for Women Award: Helene Finger

Helene Finger

Helene Finger

Helene Finger is the driving force behind the much-celebrated Society of Women Engineers of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, (CP-SWE), an arm of the College of Engineering that aims to support and promote females in science, technology, and mathematics. Finger is the faculty advisor for CP-SWE and has been the director of Cal Poly’s Women’s Engineering Program, which works with the university and industry to recruit and retain female engineering and computer science students by focusing on outreach, on-campus support, and professional preparation. Finger has inspired numerous innovative activities, including the CP-SWE’s Building an Engineer Day. The semiannual event’s objective is to introduce 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to the different types of engineering through fun, hands-on labs facilitated by Cal Poly professors and students. In addition to serving as WEP director, the Cal Poly alumna has taught in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department since 1997.

Grace N. Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award: Barbie Butz

Barbie Butz

Barbie Butz

As a founding member and chapter president of the Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County, Barbie Butz was instrumental in the formation of the league in the early 1990’s. The League is a non-profit dedicated to recognizing the potential of volunteers in helping those less fortunate to a better, more meaningful life in SLO County. Butz has also served as the Atascadero parks and recreation commissioner, on the boards of the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, the Atascadero Youth Task Force and the Colony Days committee. She helped develop the philanthropic program “Personal Grooming Totes” in 1993, a project to assist clients of the Women’s Shelter Program. In 1995, she helped create Operation School Bell (OSB), a program to provide school-appropriate clothing to children living in poverty. Since the inception of OSB, 18,000 children have been clothed. She was also the driving force behind Coats for Kids of SLO County, which is in its 26th year of distributing new and used coats and sweaters to those in need each year. Her numerous awards include the 1999 Cuesta College Women of Distinction’s Community and Public Service Award, the 2005-06 Atascadero Unified School District’s Lay Citizen of the Year and the 2013 Atascadero City Council 25th Anniversary Proclamation Award.



About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.