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‘Women of Distinction’ honorees announced 

Community foundation

Honorees will be awarded on Thursday, March 17

–Cuesta College and the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County’s Women’s Legacy Fund have announced the recipients of the 39th Women of Distinction awards. This year, the awards honor six Central Coast women for their professional and civic contributions, including two awards that are not given annually but only when a nominee inspires the distinctive recognition. The honorees were nominated by their peers and chosen by a selection committee.

The ceremony and awards 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.

The award ceremony will be held on Thursday, March 17, from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Cuesta College’s San Luis Obispo Campus in Building 5400, Room 5401. Tickets to the event cost $25 and can be purchased by visiting www.wlfslo.org 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, along with a commemorative cup for all attendees.

Community and Public Service Award, Volunteer: Cherie K. Michaelson
According to her nominator Pearl Munak, “Cherie works to eliminate the unmet needs for food and shelter in Paso Robles, working through all-volunteer organizations and performing the work at the absolute minimum of cost.” Paso Cares began in 2012 as an all-volunteer group with a mission of starting a warming shelter in Paso Robles for homeless people. Michaelson was elected president of Paso Cares in July 2015 and, since that time, secured four churches to donate space for warming center usage, necessary supplies and transportation services for the homeless, while also generating publicity, grants and donations. Today, the warming centers are frequently at capacity and additional churches may join the effort soon. Michaelson also conducted a mobile fair for the homeless that included many local agencies, like the Community Health Centers and Veterans Affairs, and operates “Sandwiches on Sundays,” where she feeds the hungry in Pioneer Park in Paso Robles every Sunday. “I have never seen a volunteer so efficient and effective as Cherie,” said Munak. “She gets the job done.”

Community and Public Service Award, Professional: Lisa Fraser
Lisa Fraser has been the executive director of the Center for Family Strengthening since 2001, where she has created and grown nine major programs, each designed to strengthen families and stop the cycle of child abuse. Fraser is also the board president of Alpha Pregnancy and Parenting Support and a board member of Central Coast LINK, which provides services to children, youth and families. The Cal Poly graduate also established the Regional Child Death Review Team for Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties and served on the California State Child Death Review Council. According to her nominator Ann Berry-Gallegos, “When the phrase ‘advocate for women, children and families’ comes to mind, nobody fits the bill more than Lisa Fraser. She is someone who grasps the big picture while making systematic change.”

Progress for Women Award: Anita Robinson
“She exemplifies the best of civic leadership,” said Anita Robinson’s nominator, Maggie Cox. Currently the CEO of Coast National Bank, Robinson has more than three decades of experience in the banking industry. She founded Mission Community Bank in 1996 with a stated focus on underserved groups: women, minorities, and difficult-to-fund small businesses. Robinson helped start the Housing Trust Fund of San Luis Obispo County (which she chaired from 2001-2008) and served 15 years on the board of the CAPSLO, the community agency focused on serving people living in poverty. She is also a CASA fundraiser and Legacy Leader with the Women’s Legacy Fund of the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County. In addition, she has served numerous times on the board of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, including as chair in 1998. Robinson has earned many awards including the 2006 Influential Latino by Latino Today and 2004 Trailblazer of the Year by Women’s Economic Ventures. “Anita devotes herself to good works so that others can do well and provide for their families,” said Cox. “She has lived a life of service supported by business savvy. She is truly a woman of distinction.”

Grace N. Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award: Ann Robinson
Ann Robinson volunteers throughout San Luis Obispo County in a variety of ways. Within the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County, she has served on the Program and Grants Committee, the Scholarship Committee, has been on the Board of Directors since 2008 and is a past-president. Robinson is also a founding member and Legacy Leader of the Women’s Legacy Fund of the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County. She is also a member of The Monday Club of San Luis Obispo, promoting educational, civic, social and cultural quality of the San Luis Obispo County. In addition, she has served on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Repertory Opera, volunteered with CASA, worked with the Land Conservancy and more. “Ann’s tremendous commitment and contribution of time, effort and heart to the San Luis Obispo community is the embodiment of the qualities of a Woman of Distinction,” said Robinson’s nominators.

Women in Education: Anna Bates
Since 2002, Anna Bates has served as a teacher in the Agriculture Education and FFA Department of San Luis Obispo High School, where 75 percent of her students are female. She teaches a full load of classes in the agricultural department, ranging from leadership to veterinary science to integrated science, and also advises the FFA Chapter officers. In addition, she is known for going on home visits to meet the families of her freshman students in order to involve them in the activities of the agriculture department. She has conducted more than 900 home visits in the past 10 years. Bates has coached and mentored many individuals and teams in FFA competitions, some at the state and national level. In addition, the Cal Poly graduate is currently obtaining a PhD in Agriculture Education through Texas A & M and Texas Tech and in 2015, was awarded the Outstanding Distance Doctoral Student in her program. “She is an ideal role model for all women lucky enough to know her,” said her nominator Marissa Greenberg. This special award has not been given since 2010.

Barbara George Women in Philanthropy: Libbie Agran
Libbie Agran, retired president of Libbie Agran Financial Services, strongly supports women, the arts and people in the community. In 1978, Agran developed the Economics of Being a Woman, an educational series that demystified the world of finance for women. She offered the series for more than 30 years. Additionally, she has been a strong contributor to the Women’s Legacy Fund and the Fund for Global Women, spearheaded the creation of a new fund to grant additional resources for the Cal Poly PAC, developed a business and fundraising plan for the Botanical Gardens, and volunteers with Festival Mosaic, The Natural History Center and the Audubon Society. “She uses her warmth, sense of humor and ability to connect to people to inspire organizational change and achievement,” said Executive Director of Festival Mozaic Bettina Swigger. This special award has not been given since 2010.

For more information on the event or about the Community Foundation, please visit www.cfsloco.org or call (805) 543-2323. For more information about Cuesta College, please visit www.cuesta.edu or call (805) 546-3100.

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.

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