GUEST COMMENTARY: In March, we honor amazing Valparaiso women

2011-03-09T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: In March, we honor amazing Valparaiso womenBy Christine Hisick
March 09, 2011 12:00 am  • 

We look forward to March for the hints of spring it brings. We're reminded that there's still green grass under that snow, and we're reminded of how far we have come during Women's History Month.

This month, we honor great women of the past such as Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Harriet Tubman and Jane Addams who all contributed to the rights and freedoms that American women enjoy. While we esteem these women and what they accomplished for us, we also should celebrate the women in our own community who are leading and blazing new trails today.

Compassionate creators such as Valparaiso's Joanne Maynard, executive director of First Contact Inc., a nonprofit ministry she started 20 years ago to assist the needy. Her organization not only handles more than 100 cases per month, but she also leads a team of 18 volunteers and coordinates funding efforts with 43 churches.

Maynard thinks it's important for women to step up and take the lead. She said, "I see a lot of active women really wanting to serve God, and now they're stepping out. They fill a lot of needed spots in our society."

Blazing fighters such as Stephanie Hart, one of only two female firefighters on a line of 70 for the Valparaiso Fire Department. She's been fighting fires for 12 years after having started her career as a cadet at age 16.

On being a woman in firefighting, Hart said, "The biggest challenge is battling the misconception that this is a man's job, but women are very capable of doing this work. You have to overcome by learning the different techniques to accomplish your duties, and you have to do what you have to do."

Focused leaders such as Valparaiso's Barb Young, president of the Porter County Community Foundation, contribute to the progress of our area.

Though she is now at the helm of the organization, designed to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofits serving our community, she wasn't always. Young started out as a volunteer in 1996 and worked her way up.

Young said, "It's great to see that women are more visible in lots of different segments of our society, but there still aren't enough women heading Fortune 500 companies or political leaders. We still have a ways to go, and anything that helps promote women is a good thing."

These are only three of many amazing women that contribute to our city. Valparaiso is one lucky place to have women with such tremendous drive, desire, willingness to lead and a civic-minded fire burning in their gut. We've come a long way, baby.

Learn more about Women's History Month at

The opinions are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Times. Christine Hisick is a member of the Valparaiso Human Relations Council. She can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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