MIDDLETOWN- The month of March not only signifies a renewal with the onset of the beautiful spring season, but also pays tribute to the contibutions of women everywhere.
Recently, at Middletown’s Mulberry Senior Center, five of those local women were recognized for their selfless efforts aimed at improving their communities at the First Annual Outstanding Women of Middletown Luncheon.
Women’s History Month can be traced back to March 8, 1980 when President Jimmy Carter declared that week in honor of women. In time, that week celebration evolved into its present, official month-long status. In Middletown Saturday, five of its own; Wyletta Barbee, Claudette Fisher, Barbara Bonham, Margaret "Peg" Kimble and Julisa Sierra, were honored for their talents, dedication and impact on not only Middletown, but the entire region.
Prior to the recipients being recognized, the audience was treated to the words of guest speaker, Honorable Lurlyn Winchester-Youngblood, the first African-american to be elected Town Justice in Orange County. An attorney with offices in four counties, Winchester-Youngblood has also been a teacher, member of several committees and programs, as well as recipient of an assortment of notable honors, including Whose Who in American Society and Business. Cherishing her time with family above all else, she was humbled by the opportunity to speak at the Middletown affair, celebrating women.
"It means a great deal to be here and have the chance to give back to my community, while inspiring others to reach their goals," said Winchester-Youngblood. "I also want to remind women that as tough as it might be, not to give up and hide behind obstacles; we can do it and achieve."
Fisher is one of those females who is achieving, despite any obstacles put in her path. Recently retired from RECAP (Regional Economic Community Action Program, Inc.), she is one of the founding members of the Middletown Chapter of the NAACP, serving the group in many capacities. Leading several workshop at the House of Faith in Beacon, a domestic violence shelter, Fisher helps pave the way for a better life for all women.
"I was really shocked to get this award; you don’t do it for the award, but to just help others," said Fisher. "Today means a great deal- where we have come from, where we are today and how far we have to go as women and as African-american women, many different levels."
Another honoree, Kimble, continues to educate and inspire women in her community to succeed. A member of the Middletown Cares Coalition for the past five years, Kimble works on the topics of; substance abuse prevention, domestic violence, reproductive health, pregnancy prevention and childbirth preparation for teen moms.
"This is quite an honor to be honored in Middletown and as a woman," said Kimble. "My main goal has always been to empower people, while helping them to work together as a coalition, so they can recognize their own skills and help move things forward; its something that’s constantly evolving."
Sierra too views her role as the Director of the Mulberry House Senior Center as one that is continually changing and progressing. Born to native Puerto Rican parents and the first female in her family to graduate from high school, Sierra aspires to bring life to her senior citizen population by involving them directly with the Middletown community. She further hopes to involve the Latin community in her work and the difference she seeks to make in people’s lives each day.
"I’m working to translate all the material at the Center to Spanish," said Sierra. "As a Hispanic woman, getting this award today makes me very proud and pushes me to progress with my education as one of the first Hispanic women to have a major role in the City of Middletown."