Five local women will receive the 2019 Iris Awards honoring women of achievement in concert with International Women’s Day, Clark College announced Thursday. The awards ceremony will be March 7, the eve of International Women’s Day, at the college’s Gaiser Student Center.
The program began in 1985 as the Southwest Washington Women of Achievement Awards and was reintroduced as the Iris Awards in 2012.
• Ann Fischer founded Healthy Equitable Living Project, a pantry at First Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, in 2013 when the local health department asked the church if it could help schools with families experiencing food insecurity. Fischer solicited donations from grocery stores and assisted five families. The pantry has since grown and now serves between 50 and 60 families from 14 different schools.
“Fischer hand-selects many of the products that the pantry offers, with a focus on high-quality, nutritious and organic foods. It is not unusual for Fischer to remember individual patrons’ specific dietary needs, from vegan to gluten-free,” according to a news release from Clark College.
She also created a breakfast club where families are served hot breakfast while they wait to shop at the pantry.
• Stacey Graham has been president of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington since 2013 when she was tasked with increasing the nonprofit agency’s profile and animal save rate, as well as making the organization more financially sustainable. Under her leadership, the local Humane Society launched a five-year, $6 million capital campaign. Last year, it was named the best nonprofit in Clark County.
Previously, Graham worked in the Oregon Legislature and Oregon Governor’s Office, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, and the former First Independent Bank.
Her community service includes serving on the city council in her hometown of Stayton, Ore., being part of the giving circle Empower Women + Girls and serving on several nonprofit boards.
• Maureen Montague began her career working for Janus Youth Programs, serving at-risk youth. After becoming a stay-at-home mother, Montague remained involved in her community by volunteering at local arts nonprofit groups and helping start North Bank Artists. These activities gave her experience with grant writing and building partnerships. Her writing skills led her to be recruited for former President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Montague was hired in 2013 as executive director of North Bank where she helped organize the Vancouver Arts District. Three years later, she became executive director of Columbia Springs, an environmental education nonprofit and natural area in Vancouver.
• Rekah Strong is the executive director for Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, the largest early-learning organization in Southwest Washington. Previously, she was CEO and equity officer for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Clark County’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and she spent more than a decade working to improve outcomes for children and families in Oregon’s child welfare system.
“Strong has a long record of public service and community involvement in Southwest Washington,” Clark College’s news release said.
She pushed for the Clark County freeholder process and expanding the Clark County Council. Gov. Jay Inslee recently reappointed her to serve as a Clark College trustee, and she serves on the county’s Developmental Disability Advisory Board and boards for We Reign Youth Foundation and Southwest Washington Chapter Red Cross.
She’s pursuing her doctorate in social work research.
• Lynn Valenter began her career at Washington State University Vancouver more than 20 years ago before becoming vice chancellor for finance and operations in 2015. She leads functions such as dining services, human resources and public safety.
“Valenter has been instrumental in increasing WSU Vancouver’s public engagement and service during an important period in the campus’s growth,” the news release said.
The Portland Business Journal named her a woman of influence in the nonprofit sector in 2016.
She volunteers with the Winter Hospitality Overflow shelter, is part of Empower Women + Girls and serves on several boards.