Five extraordinary women will be honored for their outstanding achievements during the annual YWCA Wheeling Tribute to Women Awards ceremony to be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at River City Ale Works, 1400 Main St., Wheeling.
The 2019 honorees were chosen from a list of nominees by a YWCA Tribute to Women special selection committee for their outstanding contributions in executive, entrepreneurial, professional, educational, philanthropic and service-oriented roles, said Lori Jones, YWCA executive director.
“These are women who have made a significant impact on their community in their selected areas,” she said. “These women humbly fight for what they believe is right. They are the silent doers.”
The 2019 recipients of the YWCA Wheeling Tribute to Women Award are:
• Kathie Hays Brown
• Desiree Lyonette, Esq.
• Lorraine McCardle
• Ellen M. Saunders
• The Rev. Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Ph.D.
Kathie Hays Brown, BSN, MA, has been the executive director of Wheeling Health Right since 1992. She oversees the 29-strong professional and paraprofessional staffers, and more than 100 volunteer physicians, nurses, university interns and laypeople. Wheeling Health Right is nationally recognized as one of the best free clinics in the United States, serving more than 15,500 uninsured or under-insured people each year in Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel and Tyler counties in West Virginia, and Belmont County, Ohio.
Brown was previously the nursing coordinator and assistant director at Crittenton Home and Services for 12 years. The residential program serves girls and young women ages 12-21, with specialized services for pregnant/parenting adolescents and their babies.
For the past three decades, Brown has been a presenter for workshops and lectures regarding teen pregnancy issues, home health care, indigent health care and drug programs.
Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Alderson-Broaddus College, Philippi, West Virginia, and her master’s degree in administration from Nova University, Florida. She is a graduate of Leadership Wheeling, Class of 1990. Brown is past president of Soroptimist International of Wheeling and past charter president of Kiwanis Morning Club. She is a member of the human rights committee at St. John’s Home. She is past president and current treasurer of West Virginia Association of Free Clinics, and a member of the board of directors of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics.
She was chairman of the Region VI Task Force on Children, Youth, Families — 1992 Healthy Schools Taskforce. She was on the advisory committee for Performance Based Standards for Primary Care Centers in West Virginia and an advisory board member for the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management, the Health Advisory Council and the West Virginia Clinical & Transitional Science Institute Community. She is on the advisory committee for Wheeling Park High School and for the West Virginia State Task Force on Teenage Pregnancy & Parenting Citizen’s Committee for Ohio County Schools for 21st Century. In 1987, Brown chaired the Region VI Task Force on Adolescent Pregnancy & Parenting. She is a consultant to the West Virginia State Department of Health for the development of a program for high-risk pregnant women and their infants in West Virginia.
Brown is on the development committee of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. From 1994-96 she was on the board of directors for West Virginia Coalition on Food and Nutrition. She is a board member and secretary of the Ohio County Family Resource Network and is on the board of directors for Ohio Valley Interfaith Caregivers and the Belmont County Family Planning Commission and a member of the American Nurses Association.
Brown has been listed in both the Who’s Who Among American Women and Who’s Who in American Nursing. She is the author of “Implementation of a Learning Program to Train Adolescent Mothers to Live Independently” and co-authored “Maternity Home Standards in West Virginia.”
Brown and her husband, a retired community executive, live in Wheeling. They have two sons and four grandchildren. The family is very involved in civic, church, athletic and other community affairs.
Desiree Lyonette Esq. is a criminal justice program chair at Belmont College, and a full-time faculty lead professor of criminal justice. She is a licensed attorney in Ohio, skilled in mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
Lyonette is also a family courts-approved mediator in West Virginia who was regularly tasked as the “go-to” mediator to resolve very high conflict situations between unmarried/separate/divorcing or divorced parents.
Lyonette was awarded Ohio’s Outstanding Faculty for the Year 2018-19 and Outstanding Adjunct for the Year 2015-16 by the Ohio Association of Two-Year Colleges.
For the past 20 years, Lyonette has been a presenter, contributor and participant in more than 80 legal conferences and mediation training seminars in Ohio and West Virginia. She is a community advocate and volunteer for several local organizations.
Lyonette currently is the Belmont College faculty union president and its past vice-president. She is a 2018-20 member of the Belmont College faculty union executive committee and is on the 2018-20 Belmont College faculty performance evaluation committee. Since 2018, she has been on the Belmont College Governance Teams for Strategic Enrollment Management, and Curriculum and Academics.
She is a member of the Belmont College EMS/Paramedic Advisory Board and on the membership committee of the Ohio Mediation Association. She is vice president of the Rotary Club of Wheeling, a graduate of the Wheeling Citizen’s Police Academy, a volunteer member of the Thanksgiving Food Basket Giveaway and the Back-to-School Giveaway at Bethlehem Temple and a Belmont Education Scholarship donor.
Lyonette earned her law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Science with an emphasis on Criminal Justice from Youngstown State University. Lyonette says her favorite and most-valued position is custody of great-nieces Kaylena and Alanna.
Lorraine McCardle graduated from Wheeling Park High School. She was employed as an office manager with the Karr Supply Company for more than a decade, and then worked for Chris Miller Furniture for over 25 years until the store closed in 2018.
McCardle married her high school sweetheart, Brad McCardle. Together they have two children: Megan and Austin. Austin was born with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, or PMD, a rare disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord. One day while watching a football game on television, Austin saw a player make a penalty. He looked at his mom and said: “When I play football, I’ll never make that mistake.”
The next day, she started to research ways to get her special needs son involved in sports. McCardle saw that the closest opportunity was at a baseball field located more than 80 miles away in Morgantown. Undeterred, McCardle reached out to Ohio County and Marshall County schools to get contact information for any special needs child who wanted to play baseball. Through her tireless energy and effort, she was able to recruit around 30 special needs athletes. These athletes spent two summers traveling to Mylan Park in Morgantown to play games against the Miracle League of Morgantown. Easter Seals of Wheeling became the Wheeling team’s first sponsor.
After two successful seasons of traveling to Mylan park for games, the local community began to take notice. McCardle made up her mind to create a Miracle League Field in Wheeling. With the help of Lori Untch, the former CEO of Easter Seals, they launched a $1.2 million fundraising project.
After several years of fundraising and receiving large gifts, small gifts, grants, and corporate donations, The Miracle League of the Ohio Valley now has its own field at the JB Chambers Sports Complex.
After a few successful seasons, McCardle decided that the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley should be much more than just baseball. When Untch retired from Easter Seals, Lorraine partnered with the Wheeling YMCA.
Today, the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley and YMCA Wheeling have over 120 special needs athletes ranging in age from 4 to 80. They provide year-round programs including: baseball, basketball, soccer, 5k family races, volleyball, hockey, fitness programs, swimming, cheering and yes, Austin’s football!
McCardle’s children are now both adults. Megan is 24 years old and works for Allegheny Children’s Initiative and has followed in her mother’s footsteps of being an advocate for the special needs community. Austin is 18 years old and a student at Wheeling Park High School. He is an avid sports fan and a diehard Denver Broncos, Penn State, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Penguins fan.
McCardle is the president of the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley/YMCA. She is also employed at the YMCA and works with youth programs, childcare and fundraising. She is currently helping to design a state-of-the-art, all-inclusive playground that will be part of the Wheeling YMCA expansion project.
Ellen M. Saunders has been the administrative assistant to the director of Laughlin Memorial Chapel in downtown Wheeling for the past 20 years.
Laughlin Memorial Chapel in East Wheeling has been serving neighborhood children and their families for nearly 100 years as a mission of the Presbyterian Church. The chapel offers a safe and nurturing environment to care for and empower families by working with existing community groups to improve quality of life. Saunders is a mentor for middle school-aged children at the chapel.
“It is a safe place,” Saunders said. “Even when the students require discipline, they know that we care about them. We live out our motto: ‘We care about you, we want you to act better, and we want you to do better.’ That’s part of being in a family. When you’re in a family, you have to have discipline, but still, you have to have love, too.”
She is also the chairperson for the Zoning Board of Appeals in the City of Moundsville and was an advocate for the Sexual Assault Help Center. Saunders is a graduate of Moundsville High School and Wheeling Jesuit University’s paralegal program.
She is a member of the board of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), and has long been active in local schools, church and charitable organizations in Wheeling and her hometown of Moundsville.
Saunders is president of the Women’s Missionary Society at the Wayman AME Church, where she also acts as an exhorter/steward. She is a member of the Moundsville Lions Club, a former Pack 78 Cub Scout leader, past president and secretary of the McNinch Elementary School PTA, and a John Marshall High School band parent.
Saunders has been married for 52 years to Eugene L. Saunders, Sr., councilman and former mayor of the city of Moundsville. They have three children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Saunders’ hobbies include reading the works of African American writers and self-help manuals. Her favorite words of encouragement are: “God got this” and “This, too, shall pass.”
The Rev. Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Ph.D., lives quietly near Wheeling, having resigned the William F. Orr Professorship in New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 2002.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bethany College, and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Virginia. She has done post-doctoral work in New Testament at Harvard Divinity School; Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen, Germany; and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem.
Thurston has written or edited 22 theological books and many articles, has contributed to reference works in New Testament and taught at the university level for 30 years.
Her church affiliations include the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. She was ordained in 1984 and has served as co-pastor, pastor or interim of five churches and twice in overseas ministries. She is an experienced spiritual director and retreat leader. Her poetry frequently appears in religious periodicals, and she has authored six volumes of verse.
Thurston wrote her doctoral dissertation on Thomas Merton and is particularly interested in his poetry and his inter-religious thought. She was a founding member of the International Thomas Merton Society, served as its third president and received a “Louie” award for service to the society. She has written many articles on Merton and given retreats and lectured on Merton widely in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Europe. She edited Thomas Merton and Buddhism (Fons Vitae Press, 2007), Hidden in the Same Mystery: Thomas Merton & Loretto (Fons Vitae, 2010) and Thomas Merton on Eastern Meditation (New Directions, 2012). Her work on Merton has been translated into Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish.
An award-winning poet, she was a runner-up in America magazine’s 2007 Foley Poetry Contest, and recently won third prize in the long poem category of the West Virginia Writers Inc. contest. She has given readings at Bethany College, Cathedral College of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Society of the Sacred Cross, Tymawr Convent (Wales), the Arts Centre at the University of Aberystwyth (Wales), and public libraries in West Virginia and Ohio.
Thurston is a widow, an avid walker, reader, gardener and cook, enjoys classical music (especially the opera and liturgical music) and loves the West Virginia hills.