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Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active would like to congratulate our Joolwe Selfless Woman Jewelry Award winners Juanita Butler, Dr. Rachel Ruotolo, Lana Noone, Whitney Johnson and Roberta Hershon. We received so many emails from the public telling us the heartwarming stories of women who dedicate their lives to helping others.

Our company was only able to choose five winners; but there were a myriad of letters about heroic women that we felt deserved to be shared with the public. During our search, we discovered that there are women all over the country who are making a difference in the lives of complete strangers. Helen Keller said “I am only one; but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.” These women are proof that the actions of one can make a difference to many. 

 Dawn Renee is the owner of the Dawn Renee Salon and Spa in Concord, California. She opened the salon two years ago but the downturn of the national economy made it difficult for the then-fledgling business to succeed. She and her family made sacrifices such as getting rid of all extra-curricular activities and shutting off their cell phones. Even though she was in the midst of a difficult situation, Dawn kept thinking about how much other people were probably suffering. She wanted to make a difference in her community and realized that her salon was the perfect place to do it. She created an event called “Hair for Hope” and opened her salon for free haircuts for the unemployed. Dawn even organized child care for recipients who had no choice but to bring their kids along, persuaded local dentists to donate dental supplies and teamed up with the Contra Costa County’s SHELTER Inc. to help people find housing. Dawn Renee says her talent is making people feel beautiful and that “the outpouring of support has been inspiring; I want people who have been affected by the horrible circumstances of this economy to know that the community is there for them.”

 Jill Gurr is the founder of an organization called Create Now. A Hollywood screenwriter and script supervisor by day, Jill realized she wanted to do something more with her life. After the L.A riots in 1992, Jill joined a local volunteer group that mentored teenage boys that were incarcerated. Over the course of several months, Jill developed a script with about 30 teenagers and even optioned the completed work to several producers. Many members of the program learned to read and write, others wanted to go back to school or attend college and one gang leader had his tattoos removed. After the success of this program, Jill started a second screenwriting workshop at a co-ed detention facility. She realized that she was on to something and founded Create Now, original called Write Now as a non-profit organization in 1996. Create Now has a database of over 1200 youth facilities in Southern California that allows the organization to pair volunteers with high-risk teens in their own neighborhoods. The organization’s manifesto says “Through music, art, writing and performing arts, youth learn to express themselves in a positive manner versus the destructive ways that they have in the past.” Create Now also takes these troubled teens to free concerts and plays believing that exposing them to culture will bring relief and joy to the children.

Mindy Fliegelman Jacobson is one of the creators of the Mary Anne Parks Performing Arts Scholarship. A singer and vocal coach, she is on the Board of Directors of the volunteer-run Performing Arts division of the National Federation of the Blind. Her leadership with the organization was the driving force in launching the “Sound in Sight” CD, a multi-genre compilation of eighteen original tracks and covers donated by blind recording artists. Early on, Mindy realized that computers with screen reading software would revolutionize opportunities for blind Americans. She convinced the state of New York to incorporate computer training into their rehabilitation program. Blind since birth due to retinopathy of prematurity, Mindy has not let that stop her from achieving her high goals. She was part of the first group of blind students to attend public school in Miami, she sang in her first quartet at age nine and became the first blind female woman ordained as a cantor. During university, she majored in music education but her professors insisted that she never lead a chorus. Ignoring their advice, Mindy went on to direct her local Sweet Adeline’s chorus, leading them to first place in the regional’s small chorus division from 1994 through 1996. Throughout her life, Mindy has defied the odds and is one of the trailblazers of her community. She and the PAD organization hopes that bringing more blind entertainers into the mainstream will make progress in the public’s understanding and acceptance of blind people.

Cynthia Brooks has dedicated her life to uplifting the lives of women and children living in Philadelphia for over 18 years. She is the program director for Endow-A-Home, an organization comprised of more than 160 human-services programs sponsored by Resources for Human Development. Cynthia has played an integral part in helping hundreds of women and children defeat homelessness and poverty by providing intensive case management and securing long-term housing for these families. Cynthia’s work has helped stabilize low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia by teaching families how to maintain their homes and promoting home ownership. Not only does her work, help put women and their families in housing but she shows them that they achieve their goals even though the odds are stacked against them. Cynthia’s efforts have helped many of the program’s participants to purchase their home and some have earned graduate degrees. Cynthia is also an active member of her church, a former foster mother and assists local students who are looking for college scholarships write their application essays. Endow-A-Home recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. During that time, Cynthia has received several awards including a nomination for former president Bill Clinton’s Volunteer Action Award and former president George Bush’s Annual Point of Light Award.

Sharon Cummings is the founder of a non-profit Teen Sircles Incorporated. The organizations goal is to help teen girls identify their inner strength and use it to achieve their goals. Sharon is from the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland and was forced to deal with some negative elements growing up. Fortunately, she had a support system around her that always told her she could be whatever she wanted. Early on, she discovered that there were a lot of young girls who did not have a positive network and founded Teen Sircles Incorporated to make a difference in their lives. Next year, Sharon’s organization will be taking a group of girls on an altruistic trip to Ghana. Teen Sircles will pair up with Sankofa International, Inc. and tour the rural villages while giving aid to the less fortunate. The teenage girl’s who are members of Teen Sircles are seen as more than inner-city youth who need help. Teen Sircle Incorporated’s manifesto says that “Our members are young ladies who are interested in helping themselves and others. We can and will make a difference.”

Dr. Caitlin Anderson is a doctor, wife and mother who is living with multiple sclerosis. She is a fundraiser for MS and a motivational speaker for people with an MS diagnosis or other chronic illnesses. These illnesses have a life coach as well as a consultant, motivational and inspirational speaker re: living with chronic illness. She dedicates herself to speaking, organizing and fundraising for her cause. In addition to being a life coach she also makes it her personal mission to educate children about people who are different. Dr. Anderson has a PHD in Higher Education and Student Affairs Minor in Educational Research.

 Beth Shaw is the founder of YogaFit and a well-known animal advocate. The New York native is on the board of directors for many animal rescue groups including the Santa Monica-based Karma Rescue and is on the Humane Society’s National Leadership Council. Beth Shaw plays an integral role in saving many animals’ lives through her dedication and commitment to animal welfare. She has even played an integral part in some animal welfare initiatives such as: helping Los Angeles pass a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance that set an example for the entire nation, participating in statewide puppy mill legislation efforts and getting pet stores to change their model and adopt out animals and raising awareness for the importance of animal adoption. Beth even brings the spirit of altruism to her business; she has all of her Level 1 Trainees donate 8 hours of practice teaching in a community service setting. Her YogaFit Community Service program teaches seniors, children, HIV patients, handicapped people, at-risk teens and incarcerated individuals.

Mary Beth Sammons is a journalist for the Chicago Tribune’s lifestyle section who has authored seven women’s self-help and wellness books. She also dedicates her time to inner-city youth in Chicago. She uses her journalistic instincts to write powerful stories about transforming one’s life for the better as well as gratitude. She says that likes making a difference in the world through journalism. Mary Beth decided to start writing about being grateful after a life-changing experience. She lost her job at an Internet website and caring for her own father in hospice, she lost her job. She says she “was greatly humbled to become so financially vulnerable and jobless for the first time in my whole life since age 10….I understood the concept of being stripped from everything and forging ahead, and being grateful for what we have.” Through her struggles, Mary Beth says she became inspired to use her talent for writing to “give voice to the voiceless.”