A new reign: 2017 Pennsylvania International Pageant will be held at Jaffa Shrine Center, Altoona

Erin Landis, Mrs. Pennsylvania International 2016, did not participate in pageants until her senior year in high school. She went to her first one on a whim, and traveled with her mother.

Landis ended up winning. She put more thought into the 2016 Mrs. Pennsylvania nternational contest, hoping to raise awareness and money for a cause dear to her.

“My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease four years ago. After talking with my mom, we really wanted to make a difference and do something about the disease; having the platform of the pageant made sense,” said Landis.

A Boyertown mother of of two young children, Landis used her position this past year to increase awareness of the disease and also raise funds for patients and their families. A golf event netted more than $240,000 to enhance the quality of life for families impacted by the disease.

Landis was involved in charity events this past year and also spent her time taking care of her mother who had brain surgery.

She said it is going to be bittersweet to hand off the crown after such a productive year.

“I’m very excited for the new girl to see what exciting things she’ll do with crown and banner, and sad to say goodbye to the wonderful year I had,” Landis said.

That changeover will take place at this year’s pageant at 7:30 p.m. March 18 at the Jaffa Shrine Center in Altoona. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door.

Three titles, Mrs. Pennsylvania International, Miss Pennsylvania International and Miss Teen Pennsylvania International will all be up for grabs that evening.

Jodi Cessna, state director for the these pageants, will direct the pageant for her 14th year. She won Mrs. Pennsylvania International in 2003, and like Landis, was prompted to compete because of her love for service in the community.

“A friend of mine was a pageant titleholder in a different system. I was very involved in community service and she told me her title gave her more publicity for her causes, so I gave it a try,” Cessna said.

Sherri Homanko, Miss Pennsylvania International 2016, has competed in pageants since 2004. The Hazelton native enjoys pageantry and used this last year to raise awareness for her cause, Mentoring Matters.

“I help mostly adolescents and teens figure out career paths toward college, and help them receive aid and gain scholarships toward making education a reality,” she said.

Homanko, a pharmacist, is passionate about Mentoring Matters because she knows the importance of financial planning for college. “I know what it’s like to go through school and have a pile of student loans to pay back. I want to help students as best as I can. I know how every little bit you earn in aid adds up in the long run,” she said.

Homanko has also used her time to make appearances and help with events that have a positive impact in her community. She made 55 appearances so far this year, more than the required one per month.

“Since I was little I always looked up to the winner and how she has such a positive impact on younger kids. As you get older you want to make it about more than the crown and banner. You want to make a positive impact in (the) community by being a role model and touching the lives of others around you,” said Homanko.

Madison Kunst, Miss Teen Pennsylvania International 2016, chose to focus her platform on anti-bullying. The Kittaning native and Indiana University of Pennsylvania freshmen spent 2016 visiting schools and speaking to students about anti-bullying.

She also spent the year appearing at events and volunteering for charities, including the American Heart Association.

“It has definitely been an amazing year. I’m excited to see what the future holds for me and want to continue to compete. I still want to keep volunteering in organizations. There are so many places to work with that need assistance,” said Kunst.

The 2016 title winners are sentimental about the good they were able to do in 2016, but are also looking forward to see how the new winners will spend their upcoming reigns helping others.

Homanko said, “It’s definitely about more than a crown. It’s about bringing awareness.”