Mayor Spano Presents Yonkers “Women Of Distinction” Awards in Honor of Women’s History Month

n honor of Women’s History Month, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano presented “Women of Distinction” Awards to Yonkers women whose distinct achievements have improved the lives of others in the community and whose impact has changed Yonkers for better.

“Women’s History Month recognizes the historic accomplishments of women, and now it is Yonkers’ turn to pay tribute to the local leaders who either live or work among us each day,” added Mayor Spano.

This year’s honorees range in talent and service. They include:

Michelle Benson

Michelle Benson was born and raised in Yonkers, NY. She entered the world of construction at 13 years old, through her father, Michael Sawyer's company that worked throughout Westchester County. Michelle began her philanthropic efforts through the Ronald McDonald House Charities with the Yonkers Fire Department to inspire her children to appreciate what they have and how healthy they are. She followed up her volunteer work with PCNY during their backpack drives, turkey giveaways, feeding the less fortunate and assisting in securing nearly 300,000 pounds of when supply chains were impaired. Her commendable volunteer work is truly an asset and she’s grateful for the opportunity to help others. She was taught to give without complaining, while inspiring and teaching her children to give to others, choose kindness and always think of others. Even while battling many illnesses, she still remains involved. Michelle says, when you see her, you will experience her kind nature, her laughter, her smiling face and loud voice. After all, she is from Yonkers.

Marilyn Lopez

Marilyn Lopez is the co-owner of the newly opened Yonkers Knockouts Boxing Team. She has provided a sanctuary for Yonkers youth, helping to develop skills as she uplifts and empowers them. She teaches self-respect and respect for one another through focus groups, implementing healthy lifestyles through healthy eating habits and athletics. In addition, Marilyn has created an exercise program for the Yonkers youth, including calisthenics and various cardio exercises. Yonkers Knockouts is specifically targeting misled youth to assist them in controlling anger and respond to anger they face.

Sade Gilcrest

Sade Gilcrest has done great work with the YMCA, first as a youth leader for various programs and as a key player in the development of its Teen Center. She became a media trainer for their youth employment, assisting youth in learning video development, photography skills and early use of social media. Eventually, Sade, transitioned into the violence prevention program known as SNUG, helping the youth in Yonkers who had a history of violence. Her entrepreneurial spirit lead her to owning a photography business where she often brings the youth in to learn the trade. Sade has had an impact on many, however her passion is helping the youth in Yonkers, defending their rights and in supporting opportunities available to them, while putting herself aside for the sake of the youth.

Alonda Hassell

As a leader in the community, Alonda serves as co-pastor alongside her husband, Dr. James Hassell at the Kingdom Christian Cultural Center in Yonkers, NY. In addition to serving in these roles, Alonda Hassell is also an author and soon to be a certified life coach. With her sense of humor, down to earth personality, and her ability to share in a way that encourages self-reflection and change, women often leave her sessions revived and prepared to embrace their worth. Alonda provides inspirational, pragmatic and alluring talks on various subjects, with her focus on empowering women and helping them overcome various obstacles. She is a strong advocate for the empowerment of women, from various backgrounds learning and growing together. It’s clear that her passion for connecting and inspiring women sowed the seeds of the “Know Your Worth Movement” and “Tuesday Truth.” Through her workshops, brunches, and seminars she provides women with the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence necessary for boosting self-esteem, and social and economic development.

Celeste Hughes

Celeste is one of six children born and raised in the City of Yonkers. Celeste served as a Den Leader and has been the Packs Cubmaster since 2004. During this time the pack doubled its size. She has been Troop 1 Crestwood’s Committee Chair since 2007. Celeste, with the assistance of others, has grown an extensive and dynamic Scouting program in Northeast Yonkers and at Annunciation Our Lady of Fatima Parish. She also spends non-scouting Saturdays serving the community at a Yonkers Food pantry. Celeste goes above and beyond, is a good listener and makes sure to get everyone involved.

“These women have demonstrated excellence, leadership and integrity within their community, serving as role models for other successful women,” stated Mayor Spano. “We are truly inspired by these women who continuously strive to make a difference amongst our residents.”

Mayor Spano presented the “Women of Distinction” Awards at a ceremony held at Yonkers City Hall on March 22nd.

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