Zoe R. Bellamy, originally from Alabama, put down roots in Altoona in 1965, and feels blessed to be part of a supportive community.
And she's supported that community through her work with the Altoona YWCA, Blair County Association for the Blind, Blair County Civic Music Association and many other nonprofit groups.
This year, she is the Lifetime Achievement Award winner of WISE Woman of Blair County, an organization which aims to empower women and eliminate racism through collaboration, service and education.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
From left are WISE?Women?Award winners Sarah Helen McClos-key, Commun-ity Service?Volunteer; Lindsay Wilson, Rising Star; and Zoe R. Bellamy, Lifetime Achieve-ment.
"This is very special ... to follow in the footsteps of Alice Goodfel-low and Teddi Leiden, who have both been honored by this award," she said.
Bellamy is joined by fellow award winners Joann M. Lang, Education; Sarah Helen McCloskey, Community Service Volunteer; Barbara J. Hollander, Arts and Letters; Dawn C. McClellan, Business and Professional; Judith A. Rosser, Nonprofit/Government; and Lindsay Wilson, Rising Star.
The women will be honored at the 19th annual Tribute Awards Dinner at 6:30 p.m. April 20 at The Casino at Lakemont Park.
If you go
What: WISE?Women of Blair County 19th annual Tribute Awards?Dinner
Where:?The Casino at Lakemont Park
When: 6 p.m. hors d'oeuvres, 6:30 p.m. dinner April 20
Tickets: $45 for adults, $15 for children 10 and younger
More information: Log onto wisewomenofblaircounty.org. Deadline for reservations is Wednesday. 944-6102
"I was very pleased with the number and the quality of nominations that we received this year, so all of our honorees should be especially honored because it was a highly competitive process. There was good representation in every field," said Donna Gority, the facilitator of the WISE Women Selection Committee.
She said the board chose Bellamy for the Lifetime Achievement Award for many reasons.
"With her years of service to the YWCA, in addition to many other community organizations, she really exemplifies what our mission statement is, especially the empowerment of women," Gority said.
"We're anticipating another very good crowd [at the dinner honoring the winners]. People are very excited about our honorees and we're looking forward to a wonderful evening," she added.
"I've enjoyed it," Bellamy of Altoona said of her community involvement. "It's been a wonderful life here because this community is so caring and supportive. Without opportunities and people who are mentors and friends, you can't make it to reach your potential."
She was a high school science teacher in Alabama and taught at the Congressional School of Northern Virginia.
"I came here in 1965 as a 32-year-old with a son, 3, and a daughter, almost 5, and knew no one," she said. "I became active in St. Luke Episcopal Church, started attending the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, the Altoona Community Theatre and just became involved immediately. I had the time because I was a stay-at-home mom," she said.
Her husband died in 1974 and she worked as a bookkeeper, at the YWCA and retired in 1996 from the Blair County Associ-ation for the Blind. She said her salary was less than a man's would have been, but she didn't look back. And she never stopped volunteering.
She was the first woman to serve on the Blair County Planning Commission, was president of Women's Club of Altoona, chaired Tom Martin's winning campaign for mayor of Altoona. She served as executive director of the Altoona YWCA from 1983 to 1988, started the TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) program through the YWCA and recognized the important role women play in all aspects of the community.
She now serves on the board of the Blair County Historical Society, Fort Roberdeau Association, is a member of the Altoona Symphony League and Friends of the Altoona Area Public Library.
She is a member of St. Luke's Episcopal church, the Delphi Chapter No. 65 of the Order of the Eastern Star and the Dorcas Temple No. 129, Daughters of the Nile.
She's received the Blair County Chamber of Commerce Athena Award and various other community awards.
She said the WISE awards "really show the stages of life - the rising stars are below 20 years old and the others have worked hard and been recognized in the community."
"Cordelia Smiley [the local YWCA president] was my mentor. ... She really taught me what older people can do and will do if you give them the opportunity," she said.
Bellamy has a daughter, Libby, a son, William Cary, and two grandchildren.
Community Service Volunteer
Sarah Helen McCloskey has spent more than 25 years helping people learn about and deal with HIV and AIDS through the AIDS Intervention Project.
A nurse, and a volunteer for Home Nursing Agency, in the 1980s McCloskey was the facilitator of the support group that helped those who tested positive with HIV and their caregivers with everything from information on medications to assistance needed with funeral arrangements. She is still facilitator of the group.
"I have never in my life met such wonderful people as I met through this," she said.
It wasn't easy.
"When you first heard about it, nobody wanted to talk about it. If you had anything to do with the people infected, you were ostracized," McCloskey said. "You had [people say] AIDS was God's punishment, but I thought it was Him calling out to His children, asking 'How are you going to take care of them?'"
"We had auctions, benefits to raise money for the project," she said, adding the support group also made a quilt to memorialize the first people in the area who died from the disease.
McCloskey appeared on special programs on WJAC-TV, spoke to community organizations and helped to staff a 24-hour hot line providing support and referral services.
She has seen changes in the HIV and AIDS patients, including more teens with the disease and people who acquired it from a blood transfusion.?People in the support group have changed too.
"They have so many needs, and dealing with AIDS is just one of them," she said.
McCloskey was born in Bellwood and has restored her home, which was built before the American Revolution. She collects antiques, loves canning and cooking and won eight first-place, one second-place and two third-place ribbons at last year's Bellwood Farm Show.
She graduated from Bellwood Antis High School, the Harrisburg Polyclinic School of Nursing and has a bachelor's degree in nursing from Penn State University. She is involved with Logan Valley Presbytery of Huntingdon and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau Honorary Nursing Society, the Lions Club of Bellwood and Excelsior Fire Company in Bellwood.
She has a sister, Hildy Young, and a brother, C.W. McCloskey Jr.
She was nominated by Elizabeth W. and Betty Jacobus, both of Bellwood.
Joann Marie Lang of Williamsburg may have retired from being the assistant superintendent of the Tyrone Area School District, but she is still involved in education, working as a consultant.
She served as assistant superintendent from 1993 to 2007 and is described by William Miller, Tyrone Area Superinten-dent, as a "practicing advocate of the life-long learning concept."
Miller nominated her for the award. Lang names Miller and her father, Louis P. Sottile, as being her biggest influences.
Lang said her legacy is an early childhood center in the school for 4- and 5-year-olds.
" It was a team effort and I had a chance to lead the team," she said. "My wish before I retired was to have that center in place."
From 1977 to 1990, Lang taught gifted classes for Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8 and Tyrone Area High School. She was a principal for Tyrone and Juniata Valley School Districts through 1992.
Lang said she "was given the opportunity and the autonomy to make a difference in the lives of so many children."
Michelle Dutrow, former Elementary Principal and present Assistant Superintendent at Chestnut Ridge School District, said, "Once in a lifetime, if you are very lucky, your life will be touched by a special person."
Lang earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Penn State and a master's in gifted and talented from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She also has a Supervisor Certificate in Curriculum and Instruction, a Principal Certificate and a Superintendent's Letter of Eligibility from Penn State.
Since her retirement, Lang serves as a trainer/facilitator in the PA Inspired Leadership Program and the National Institute for School Leadership. She interacts with professional men and women at all levels of education.
In 1985, Lang was named as Outstanding Employee for the Tyrone School District, and in 1995, she was named the St. Francis University Outstanding Educator of the Year. She is proud of both awards.
Lang was born in Williamsburg. She and her husband, William, have two grown children, Kelly and Louis, and five grandchildren.
She says women today tend to be persuasive, having learned from adversity. Lang believes most women are initiators, planners and organizers, knowing how to get the job done and sustain results.
"I always wanted to be a teacher, but you can go far taking advantages of opportunities," she said.
Judith A. Rosser understands addiction.
The executive director of the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Program Inc. is recovering from substance abuse and celebrated 23 years of recovery in January.
"My biggest thing is being a voice for the issue, the stigma around addiction and peoples' understanding of what addiction is," Rosser said. "It's a brain disorder, and it progresses ... and the best way to address the issue is prevention."
Rosser has served for 14 years as the Blair County Drug and Alcohol Administrator. She is a founding member of the county's Drug Court team and was involved in the creation of criminal justice programs, including specialized sentencing and first time offender programs.
"I see great value in being involved in the community. Everybody has a circle of influence and you just have to decide what to do with it," Rosser said.
Her circle is wide.
She serves as vice president of Blair Countians for Drug Free Communities, is a member of the Operation Our Town Steering Committee and is a member of the Blair County Health and Welfare Council.
She is an ex officio member of the AIDS Intervention Project Advisory Board and the Clubhouse of Altoona, an organization providing support to those recovering from substance abuse. And she served on the board for Blair HealthChoices, providing oversight management of medical assistance for behavioral health services.
She was nominated for the award by Jackie Bernard, assistant district attorney, and Maryanne Burger, executive director of Blair County Children, Youth and Families.
Faith also drives Rosser.
"I've done a lot of work with youth and my daughter started a young teen girls youth group. I'm very much involved with that. It's a church-related group," she said.
She is on the board of trustees at her church, the Hollidaysburg United Methodist Church.
Rosser is married to Lynn Rosser and they have two children, Sarah and Benjamin. She is a Hollidaysburg Area High School graduate, has two years of undergraduate studies, more than 300 hours of drug and alcohol specific studies and spent four years in the United States Air Force.
Some of her goals include improving care and help for those with addictions.
"We need to strengthen recovery systems, the support level in the community once someone has had acute-level care," she said.
Business and Professional
Dawn McClellan's positive outlook has helped her succeed in life.
Nominated by Debra Dellaposta of Altoona, McClellan became pregnant while a high school student and chose to raise her child while continuing her education. And she did, even while raising a family of three boys.
"I always felt like some people say, 'I don't think I can do that.' ... I always thought if you attempt it and it just works out, it was meant to be," McClellan of Tyrone said.
A dedicated mother, she taught aerobics for many years, earned an associate degree in physical therapy and while working full time as a physical therapist assistant, earned a master's degree in physical therapy by attending Neumann College in Philadelphia on the weekends for eight years.
In 2006, she opened Evolution Physical Therapy and Wellness Studio in Altoona where she teaches patients to improve their physical function and their quality of life.
"I always felt there was more to do," she said.
She has plans to grow the wellness aspect of her business, including Pilates classes and personal training.
She said she wants to offer things "to keep people moving and healthy - whatever their goal is."
Her business won an emerging business award from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce.
McClellan said Karen Jasper, who owns physical therapy clinics in Bedford, is her mentor. And she said her mother is a huge influence in her life.
Community involvement also is important to McClellan.
"Deb Dellaposta is very involved and just always said it's important to be involved in the community," she said about her friend.
And McClellan is involved.
"I pick the ones I feel the most passionate about," she said. "That's why I'm on the WE-LeAD [Blair County Chamber of Commerce program for women]. It's a huge influence."
She also has served on the boards of Blair County Arts Foundation, WE-LeAD, Allegheny Ballet Company, Blair County Hall of Fame Committee, Home Nursing Agency and Altoona Regional Partnership for a Healthy Community.
She has three sons, Chris, Dennis and Ryan, two granddaughters and one grandson.
"I was totally honored, surprise and humbled by it," she said about receiving the WISE Women award."I just have to give big thank yous to my family for all their support and my friends."
Arts and Letters
Barbara Jo Hollander, originally from Wilkes-Barre, moved to Altoona when she got married.
An artist and a teacher, she became involved with the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in 1998 and has helped educate hundreds of children, curated exhibits and organized cultural events.
G. Gary Moyer, executive director of SAMA, who nominated Hollander for the award, said "her competency, commitment and passion for the arts are remarkable."
"I was very flattered to have my boss nominate me," Hollander said. "Personally, it's hard to feel deserving. I've attended this event every year. It's very humbling. We have a wonderful group of women."
Mildred Miller of Altoona also nominated Hollander.
Hollander ran the Artists in Education program for SAMA and took art into schools in six counties before becoming the site coordinator for the SAMA Altoona site. She has worked with promoting the museum and Altoona through SAMA's Blue Mondays, Lunch a l'Art, Art Camps and annual Fashion Show.
She also has worked with the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp., Altoona Symphony, Altoona Community Theatre, Allegheny Ridge Corporation and Allegheny Ballet Company.
A member of Art in Common, a local artist group, her passion for art and sharing that passion drives her.
Her work with students has been recognized by the Pennsylvania State Depart-ment of Education and the state Council for the Arts.
Barbara and her husband, Joel, are the parents of Nanci, Nicole and Rachel. She earned a bachelor's of art degree in art education from Monmouth University. She is a board member of the Jewish Memorial Center and the Agudith Achim Synagogue and Sisterhood and participated in Blair County Chamber Women's WE-LEaD and the Penn State Women's Leadership Institute: Women of the 21st Century.
Hollander's hobbies include painting - right now she is painting on steel - bicycling and walking her dog.
The most influential person in her life is her mother, Mimi Sirkin, she said.
Lindsay M. Wilson of Altoona never stops. Involved in many organizations in school and active in her church, she said she was shocked when she won the Rising Star award.
"I do a lot of community service, but I was surprised," she said.
The 18-year-old senior at Altoona Area High School is the president of Student Council and a member of the National Honor Society - two of her proudest accomplishments, she said - is on the girls swim team, manages the girls volleyball team and is in the marching and concert bands. She was nominated by AAHS teacher David Aboud.
She has organized blood drives, helped with two senior citizen dances, helped clean up Highland Park and raised money for Operation Our Town through the AAHS Goes Global Team.
She credits her parents for setting an example of being involved.
"My mom is in charge of a club at the high school that has donated to the women's shelter. My parents push me to be involved, so I don't have much free time," she said.
But she enjoys it.
"The senior citizens' dance gets people out, and it's fun to learn to dance from them and have fun," she said.
Wilson was born in Altoona to Kitty and Herbert Wilson. She has three brothers - Brian, Matthew and David.
She likes to swim, play volleyball, run track and read.
Ranked 26th in a class of more than 500, she plans on attending college and studying chemical engineering.
Life Editor Barbara Cowan is at 946-7454.