By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Eleven of Tonawanda’s most generous women were honored at Tuesday evening’s fifth-annual Women of Distinction banquet organized by the Tonawanda News.
The event, held at the Knights of Columbus in North Tonawanda, offered the distinguished women a chance to celebrate, mingle and network with their fellow honorees.
More than a dozen past recipients attended the banquet to take part in the celebration and mayoral proclamations honoring the women were presented from both Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.
This year’s recipients were called up to receive their award, which included a copy of the proclamation, a plaque, and an elegant candle. Tonawanda News Publisher Peter Mio, who came up with the idea for the event five years ago, presented the awards.
First up was Evelyn Zupo, who set a tone for the night with her speech — thanking her supporters and adding some humor in, as well. Zupo, who doesn’t drive after only ever having a permit at the age of 16, started out by saying, “Everyone was wondering why I had to bring four tables of people — well, I had to bring all my drivers!”
Despite her kidding, Zupo does manage to get around pretty well — she’s a Key Bank Relationship Manager and in her spare time, she serves on the Riviera Theatre board of directors and volunteers for the YWCA and North Tonawanda Meals on Wheels.
Next was Rebecca Hooper-Yeoh, the photographer and member of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society. Despite her near-death experience and her medical struggle, she is one of the society’s many key members and supports children’s concerts, decorates the village’s downtown area and adds to the community atmosphere in Kenmore.
Karen Baryza, who was elected as the Tonawanda Junior Bowling Association’s first president, and remains an active member on the board of directors took to the podium next.
“I accept this award not only for myself, but for all of those who stand behind me,” she said.
In addition to her career as a senior clinical technologist and a winning bowler herself, she’s helped the association raise money for cancer at their annual fundraiser.
Next came Jennifer Berryman. As an animal lover, she’s on the board of directors for GRROWLS, a golden retriever rescue operation, and she raised the highest amount for the SPCA’s Paws in the Park Event. And with a goal of $3,000 for the 2013 event, it doesn’t look like she will be stopping any time soon.
Susan Gregg then accepted her award. For the past two years, Gregg has been the force behind the Tonawanda Garden Walk and is also the chairwoman of the Tonawandas Board of Visual & Performing Arts.
The next honoree to be highlighted was Debbie Jaeger, who has advocated for stricter domestic violence laws after her brother-in-law killed her sister in 1998. Jaeger’s loss inspired her to advocate for a law in her sister’s name that would allow a judge to consider the violence of an action when setting bail.
Beverly Loxterman has a similar passions to Jaeger, and as a member of the YWCA of the Tonawandas’ Board of Directors, she supports their many domestic violence programs. More than 30 years ago, she created the Niagara County Rape Task force to help victims.
Donna Zeller Neal was next to receive her award. Neal is the North Tonawanda History Museum executive director and has helped grow the organization immensely — adding 6,900 members to the mailing list since her start in 2003, and helping expand the museum to a larger building on Webster Street.
Following Neal, Terri Parks was honored. After retiring from a long and successful career as a teacher, she now serves as the president of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo-Niagara. Despite her large leadership role, she also makes time for Camp Fire and 10,000 Villages as a volunteer.
Monica Saltarelli’s career passions also lie in teaching and helping the area’s youth. As a campus minister and professor of theology at Niagara University, she is in charge of organizing community service for students facing disciplinary consequences.
Kelly Stich was next to receive her award at Tuesday’s event. Stich is the president of Tonawanda High School Football Booster Club. and has also served key roles in the school’s basketball and baseball booster clubs.
News Advertising Director John Brundo closed the evening by thanking the women for their service as well as the event’s sponsors, which included Dr. Robert E. Warner, Praxair and DeGraff Memorial Hospital.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.