January 14, 2022

Congratulations to the 2022 Award Honorees

WOA 2022 | Honorees | Donate | Event Sponsorship | Register for Encore Event

YWCA Spokane is proud to announce the 2022 Women of Achievement Award Honorees

These 8 outstanding local women will be honored in the community throughout February and March, leading up to YWCA Spokane’s 40th Annual Women of Achievement Awards Ceremony and Luncheon, held Thursday, March 24th at the Davenport Grand from 11:30AM-1:00PM, where they will be officially recognized.

To be awarded a YWCA Women of Achievement Award, a woman must embody YWCA Spokane’s mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The selected honorees listed below give generously of themselves to make Spokane a better place for all to live. Continue scrolling or click each name to learn more about each honoree.

The winners of the 2022 Women of Achievement Awards are:

For 40 years, YWCA Spokane has celebrated successful women in the community for their achievements along with their commitment to giving back to the Spokane community. Established with the goal of increasing community awareness and appreciation for the diverse contributions of women leaders in Spokane, YWCA Spokane has honored over 250 women in the region. We are proud to add this year’s outstanding honorees to that legacy.

View the Press Release here.

Join Us In Honoring These Outstanding Women by Registering to Watch our Encore Event!

YouÊcan still enjoy the wonderful celebration we had on March 24th whereverÊyouÊwant with the Encore Event! Hamilton Studio has produced a video of the full Women of Achievement Awards Luncheon available until April 26th.ÊYouÊmight even want to gather some friends who couldn’t make the in-person event and have a celebration of your own. Be sure to take lots of pics and use #ywcawoa22 whenÊyouÊpost to social media.


2022 Women of Achievement Award Honoree Bios

Arts & Culture – Dawn Wolski

Dawn Wolski is Inland Northwest Opera’s (INO) first female general and artistic director and has significantly changed the landscape of performing arts in Spokane in her nearly five-year tenure. On the heels of a successful international singing career and two enlistments in the Unites States Army, she brought a small opera company back from the brink of closure, and in-turn, has created many opportunities for local singers to perform alongside world-renowned professionals. She is incredibly intentional when casting roles and tries to ensure there are opportunities for all singers to be represented. Not only was INO’s 2021 Mainstage opera, Orpheus and Eurydice, led by an all-female principal cast, Dawn currently leads a primarily all-female executive team at INO. She has managed to expand the team triple-fold within the past year.

Dawn is the driving force behind the growth and international reputation of the region’s only professional opera company. Through fundraising efforts, inclusive repertoire choices, and cultivating an active and deeply invested board, Dawn has not only quadrupled audiences and more than doubled INO’s budget size, but she has fostered essential partnerships with local arts organizations Ð even changing the name from Opera Coeur d’Alene to Inland Northwest Opera to serve the whole region more equitably. She oversaw INO’s critical partnership with the Spokane Symphony in 2017, which yielded multiple subsequent fully-staged productions at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.

Dawn is particularly passionate about the Inland Northwest commitment to nurture our own.Ê As INO’s general director, she has fostered relationships with every local university, proud to offer the only professional opera outlet in the region to both emerging and established artists in the field. ÊShe is further devoted to education of our youth, believing that meaningful and engaging connection to the arts can and should begin at any age!Ê From INO’s children’s opera program, to providing masterclasses and private instruction both at home and at local universities, she believes in filling in the gaps that waning arts education can leave behind.

Dawn is a fighter and a tireless advocate. During the early days of the pandemic, as performances were canceled through no fault of the artists, Dawn found ways to make sure singers and directors were still paid for their preparation Ð something even the Metropolitan Opera could not do. She has fought to ensure her team members at INO are paid competitively, paving the way for additional hires and a strong infrastructure poised for sustainable growth. She created the Opera Grams program Ð a personal singing telegram of sorts offered at low cost to individuals at safe distances outdoors ÐÊ not only to provide additional opportunities for artists to perform, but to bring a bit of beauty to the community during some of our darkest days.Ê She personally lobbied Governor Inslee to allow Opera Grams to continue as the arts remained shut down, and this program became the first and only live performance permitted in the entire state for the greater part of summer 2020.

To bring even more art to the region at large, Dawn dreamt up a project called the Opera Truck: a fully refabricated 16-foot box truck that opens to unfold a stage. The Opera Truck was completed in August 2021, debuting at the Northwest Museum of Arts, bringing back a beloved tradition previously fulfilled by the now-defunct Spokane Opera. With the Opera Truck, INO has been able to travel throughout the Inland Northwest to present FREE community concerts as well as children’s opera to so many who would not have experienced this art form otherwise. Dawn’s vision and advocacy was honored with the 2021 Leadership Award from Spokane Arts.

Dawn has helped put Spokane on the map in the opera world, continuing to bring in incredible artists and hiring local artists to work alongside them. She has given her entire heart, soul, and voice to the region’s arts community and she will continue to advocate for the arts along the twisting road ahead. “Our job is just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. That applies to us as individuals, to us as a community. If you know what your core mission is, you can adjust. My mission is not just opera. We’re looking to bring people together. We’re looking to find ways to unify across different demographics, different age groups. If we can bring a little bit of joy, then I feel really grateful.” YWCA Spokane is honored to present Dawn Wolski with the 2022 Women of Achievement award for Arts and Culture.

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Business & Industry – Nancy Mahoney

Nancy Mahoney is a long-time Spokane resident with deep roots in the business and philanthropic community, who has been committed to raising up women along the path of her career. Nancy’s impact for women in business began nearly 40 years ago when she started her career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a notoriously male-dominated industry at the time. She quickly established herself as a fast learner, hard worker and valued team player and opened the door for more women to join the profession. Women now comprise 40 percent of CPA positions because of trailblazers like Nancy, who showed hard work and tenacity in the industry to break through barriers.

In 1980, Nancy established a local sprinkler and landscaping company with her husband, Gary, and successfully guided the financial and administrative operations of the small business for over 38 years. Her business acumen and CPA credentials served her well while growing and managing Dew Drop Sprinklers & Landscaping. Not content to simply make a living for her family, she took the opportunity to live out her values of service, stewardship, generosity and compassion through her small business. She hired and mentored women and minorities, expanded employee benefits to help employees balance work and family needs, and handled employee issues and difficult life circumstances with kindness and flexibility. The company demonstrated a compassionate approach to employees with addiction issues, providing financial support during addiction treatment, and most importantly, a second chance.

Nancy has a long and impressive track record of giving back in the Spokane community. Her professional training as a CPA led to involvement in the financial aspects of nonprofits, serving both Women Helping Women Fund and Women & Children’s Free Restaurant as board treasurer. Nancy’s leadership abilities and altruistic spirit resulted in her also serving as board president of each of these organizations. Whether she is creating an annual report, balancing a budget or lending a listening ear to a struggling mother, Nancy works toward interdependence and creating shared vision.

Community involvement is a passion in Nancy’s life and her volunteer hours are endless. She led a capital campaign for Millwood Community Presbyterian Church which resulted in the Millwood Community Center that now hosts community events and meetings, including youth groups and various support groups. Nancy also served on the West Valley School District Curriculum Committee for over 16 years.

As supporters of Hutton Settlement, Nancy and Gary opened their home for many years as a Friendship Family.Ê They were foster parents and their home remained open, even after those children aged out of the program. Remarkably this was during the time they were raising their two daughters, Molly and Katie, and running their business.

Social justice is woven into Nancy’s family legacy. Her grandmother rode her horse to cast her first vote in 1920. Her mother’s passion for human rights was ignited at a young age when she witnessed the inhumane living conditions at a Japanese internment camp in Idaho during World War II, and her family were some of the first in the area to rent land to Japanese families after being released. These events instilled a lifelong respect for other people and a commitment to human dignity in Nancy’s mother, Colleen Mahoney, and ultimately in Nancy. She has carried forward this family legacy of community activism.

Nancy was instrumental in setting up the Dean and Colleen Mahoney Fund at the Innovia Foundation. The fund is dedicated to advancing causes in the Lewiston- Clarkston Valley through supporting organizations such as Lewis-Clark State College and the YWCA shelter for domestic violence survivors, and through college scholarships awarded to women, minorities and veterans.

Nancy exemplifies leadership in her field of expertise, serves as a role model to other women and girls and gives back to the community. Her deep understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, her moral courage, and her vision that today’s actions will influence the future are her unique gifts to the greater Spokane area. YWCA Spokane is honored to present Nancy Mahoney with the 2022 Women of Achievement award for Business and Industry.

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Carl Maxey Racial & Social Justice – Hanncel Sanchez

Hanncel Sanchez is the founder and executive director of Mujeres in Action (MiA), a community-connected nonprofit organization serving Latinx survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The seeds of the organization grew from Hanncel’s experiences in her community and her examination of local resources for survivors from the Latinx community. The gap in access to culturally responsive crisis, advocacy and counseling services for survivors was apparent. As an immigrant herself, Hanncel knew the barriers for survivors’ help-seeking efforts including the lack of providers who speak Spanish and understand the culture, the mistreatment of immigrant women and the fear of the systems’ relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hanncel made Spokane her home in 2016 and has been contributing to the community in general and to the Latinx community specifically since she arrived. She pursued a major in women and gender studies with a double minor in Spanish and Religious Studies from Eastern Washington University (EWU) while she held a full-time job and volunteered for Lutheran Community Services. While volunteering and learning more about the inequity’s women experienced, she realized that her community was invisible and began to form the building blocks of what MiA would be come. She took the time to listen to the voices of survivors and their families, she made the effort to learn from local nonprofit organizations as to the unmet needs of the Latinx community and harnessed the volunteer efforts of other like-minded individuals and before she graduated in 2019, Hanncel established MiA.

Since then, she has worked tirelessly to transition the volunteer-led organization, conducting community education events in Spanish, to its current form as a 501(C)3 organization with a full board of directors and six staff members, offering advocacy and support services to the Latinx community in Spokane. MiA also sponsors a weekly KYRS Thin Air Community Radio show in Spanish (La voz de pueblo) on Ke Buena 95.7fm and will soon be launching a Spanish helpline. She was also the executive producer of the documentary “El poser de contarlo”. Hanncel has gathered a team of change agents to educate, serve and strategize to bring the realities of domestic and sexual violence to light in hopes of transforming lives and the community.

Hanncel has served as a board member for the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition (SRDVC), advocating for increased and improved quality of access for the Latinx community to direct services, support and legislative initiatives. Beyond the SRDVC, Hanncel has built bridges and formed partnerships with local advocacy and cultural groups such as Latinos en Spokane, the Hispanic Business and Professional Association, Spokane Alliance, Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition and Raiz. She has been the prominent voice at the table in each community group in which she interacts for those who have traditionally been invisible and are most often targeted for racist, xenophobic, classist and sexist acts and statements.

Hanncel is the epitome of what all leaders should be. She is strategic, thoughtful, empathetic, trusting and trust-worthy, and believes that we each carry our own truth. She makes and gives space for others to bring their best self forward. Hanncel has strong critical thinking skills, passion for ending domestic and sexual violence and is grounded in community. She points out the gaps in services and access, oppressive practices and systematic racism while sitting down with people with diverse views for form a solution. She does this because she believes in the power of people working together. Her important work is providing services to an underrepresented community in Spokane. YWCA Spokane is honored to present Hanncel Sanchez with the 2022 Carl Maxey Racial & Social Justice award.

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Community Enhancement – Fawn Schott

Fawn Schott has been instrumental in providing safe shelter to women and young people living on the streets in Spokane and its neighboring communities. Most women and teens in homelessness have experienced trauma and abuse, and many are fleeing domestic violence. Volunteers of America (VOA) of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho provides hope to women in the form of safety, shelter, health care and resources to transition them to long-term independence and well-being. Fawn is passionate about the community she serves, and cares about each and every person VOA helps each day. She works tirelessly to secure funding, build corporate and government partnerships and strengthen relationships, all in service of those who are most vulnerable in our community.

Through 2020 and 2021, Fawn was a voice and an advocate for people living with homelessness. As the pandemic shut down businesses and sent those of us fortunate enough to have a home inside, those who were outside became even more vulnerable. Fawn and her team worked alongside others who care about our community to find alternative solutions when shelters had to close or reconfigure because of COVID-19. She saw many homeless community members contract the virus, and never game up trying to find resources and safe, healthy shelter. In the midst of the pandemic, she led capital funding and construction of a 100-bed women’s shelter and 60 affordable apartments, Hope House 2, which opened in spring of 2021. At its opening, Hope House provided 100 beds so that more women living in our community would have to sleep on the streets. In addition, she is currently completing a capital fundraising effort to replace Crosswalk, which serves homeless youth in our community, many who represent marginalized groups and experience discrimination and racism.

Fawn is deeply caring, passionate, driven and authentic. She believes in the mission of VOA and is visionary in her leadership of the organization. She takes care of her employees, because she knows that they are the catalyst for change in our community.

Fawn exemplifies servant leadership, works tirelessly for those who are most vulnerable in our community and runs a nonprofit with a sharp business mind. One VOA board member notes, “I am inspired by her dedication and love for the people and the community she services, as well as her intelligence and ability to influence real change. She leads with her heart and makes change with her hands.”

Fawn was recently recognized by VOA National as the winner of the Leadership in Administration award. Fawn is highly respected by her employees, those she serves and many within the community. She is sought out by city, county and state government officials looking for input and guidance to address homelessness throughout our state. Her strong morals, integrity and empathy show in everything she says and does. She truly leads by example. YWCA Spokane is honored to present Fawn Schott with the 2022 Women of Achievement award for Community Enhancement.

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Education – Lee Williams

Lee Williams has had an outstanding career as a teacher, advocate and leader in the field of education and empowering people in the Spokane community. Her passion for early childhood education makes her one of the community’s most valuable voices in fostering improved quality and accessibility for early childhood education and high-quality child care. Her impact has been most keenly apparent during the pandemic as others have now awoken to the importance of child care and early childhood education is now at the forefront of community awareness due, in part, to her decades-long leadership.

She has consulted with legislative leaders at the federal, state and local levels to ensure that child care is part of every discussion and strengthening families and communities and has been describe by legislative partners as a connector, a collaborator and a fierce advocate for women and children. She has worked with Tribal services, and minority-owned or operated organizations, to ensure quality services for all children. Child care and early learning are primarily Ð but not exclusively Ð a woman-owned and operated industry. Lee was one of the early champions of improving provider qualifications, enhancing training, raising state reimbursement rates and instituting a fair wage ladder to recruit and retain high qualified providers.

Lee began her career as an elementary teacher teaching a multi-level kindergarten through third grade class. This experience prompted her devotion towards child development. During this period, she earned her master’s degree in early childhood education. Lee moved on to work in the local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, later becoming program director and joining the state-wide network. Lee distinguished herself as a knowledgeable and forward-looking leader in the state. She served as the president of Washington State Child Care Resource and Referral Network for three years. During her tenure, the network became a formal entity with a paid executive and staff. They now operate as Child Care Aware of Washington. Lee was recruited to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Division of Children and Family Services as a child care licenser. Lee attained a supervisory position, and then was promoted to regional director for licensing of DSHS Region 1. In 2004, Lee was hired as the founding director for St. Anne’s Children & Family Center. For 10 years, she directed and guided St. Anne’s as a model of quality care and early education in Spokane. In 2014, Lee was hired as the eastern Washington director of early achievers at Community-Minded Enterprises where she eventually became chief executive officer (CEO). Community-Minded Enterprises’ portfolio of programs under her steadfast leadership have resulted in individuals receiving education, child care, employment support on multiple levels and most importantly, a voice in their future.

Lee is widely recognized throughout the community and statewide as a thoughtful, pioneering leader. She employs a quiet but steady leadership style that focuses on possessing a high degree of knowledge and study, combined with experience and innate wisdom. Lee is known as an active listener who can absorb information on all sides of an issue. She has remained steadfast in her commitment to improve the lives of children and families through early childhood education and improved human services in Spokane and throughout the region and understands the importance of including all children and parents, especially from historically marginalized and economically disadvantaged communities.

Lee is always seeking new methods and evidence-based innovations in her work. While at St. Anne’s, she embraced the newest teaching methods based on the latest research on infant brain development. Another example of her bold vision was to institute the 32-hour workweek as the CEO of Community-Minded Enterprises. This was groundbreaking in our community and serves as model for organizations to better meet the needs of employees while maintaining high standards in organizational output. In each of her endeavors throughout her career, Lee has developed programs and improved the quality of organizations, based on her talents as a leader.

Lee is a leader like no other. Beginning with her experiences as a parent and co-operative toddler and preschool class participant, she flourished into a passionate leader of early learning efforts. In the decades since, she has been an unwavering advocate for families with young children in our community. As the director of Saint Anne’s, a founding member of the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance and a program manager in the early learning division at Community-Minded Enterprises where she now serves as CEO, she never misses an opportunity to make a difference for others. Through conversations with lawmakers in Olympia, Lee is passionate, confident and articulate Ð always speaking up for those who have no voice.

Always an encouraging mentor, she promotes the best in others, while challenging and inspiring many. She nurtures growth in people and helps them fulfill their potential. Her desire to serve the community extends beyond her job. She gives generously to several philanthropic causes and volunteers for many nonprofits, including as a former board member of Every Woman Can, supporting women with breast cancer. As she approaches retirement, Lee continues to commit to working with the Early Learning Alliance. At YWCA Spokane, it is our honor to celebrate Lee Williams and her outstanding achievements as our 2022 Women of Achievement Education award recipient.

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Government & Public Service – Alison Gregoire

Alison Gregoire is the first woman to serve as criminal chief for the Eastern District of Washington United States Attorney’s Office. Alison was selected for this role because of her exemplary track record of serving at-risk populations, especially victims of crime in Indian Country. Alison has handled extremely difficult cases and worked closely with victims of crime Ð including Native American women and women from diverse backgrounds Ð to empower women to tell their stories and seek justice against the individuals who perpetrated violence against them.

Alison is also a Major in the United States Army Reserves, where she has served since leaving active duty in 2011. In her role as a leader in the U.S. Army, Alison has served as a senior defense counsel and supervised trial defense for soldiers pending separation from the armed forces. She has also served as a professor of criminal law where she has trained judge advocates in trial advocacy techniques. Alison’s superb trial skills and close connections with victims makes her an incredible advocate within the U.S. Army and within the U.S. Attorney’s Office where she works for justice and equal treatment of all individuals under the law.

Alison has served as the Indian Country coordinator and Project Safe Childhood coordinator for the Eastern District of Washington. In these roles, she has coordinated Indian Country cases and training for the district and prosecuted a wide variety of offenses focusing primarily on crimes against children and violent crimes. Due to her tireless efforts and skilled advocacy, she received the Department of Justice Director’s Award for Superior Performance in Indian Country in 2018. Alison has developed close relationships with tribal leadership and law enforcement in each of the four federally recognized tribes in eastern Washington, and especially on the large physical boundaries of the Yakima Nation and on the Colville Reservation, who trust her to take on the hard cases combatting violence that are exclusively within federal jurisdiction.

Within the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Alison is the first person attorneys seek out with questions and to receive her suggestions and advice. She has one of the largest case loads of any assistant United States attorney because of her deep commitment to protecting children who have been victims of crime and to deter those who would harm vulnerable youth. On a personal level, she has been a trailblazer by demonstrating that a woman and mother can successfully serve in a variety of leadership roles in the office while treating everyone with respect and care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff under her leadership received regular check-in calls from her, inquiring not only about their work needs, but also about their personal well-being.

Alison is a woman of incredible integrity and honor. She serves her country with great humility and pride and every choice she makes is to further the mission of the office and country. Since graduating from Gonzaga University and Notre Dame Law School, Alison has served her country in the military and as a prosecutor for the United States for the last two decades. She focuses her work on cases that others might shy away from Ð such as with victims with complex histories Ð and she stands behind her decisions and her teammates even when the going gets tough. She has the best attributes of a leader Ð she will always have the back of her colleagues and protect her team. She builds trust through her commitment to excellence and the sincere investment that she provides to the attorneys that she trains and develops.

Her enthusiasm for her work and strong commitment to ensure that justice is being served is inspiring. Alison possesses the rare combination of a skilled litigator who can strategically manage a complex trial with the compassion of a victim’s advocate who inspires trust and can bring her legal abilities to truly empower victims of crimes to seek justice within a system that often feels unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Alison is a true servant leader who has greatly enhanced the eastern Washington community through her leadership and advocacy. At YWCA Spokane, we are truly honored to celebrate the work and accomplishments of Alison Gregoire, 2022 Women of Achievement award honoree for Government and Public Service.

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Science, Technology & Environment – Oludunni Oluwoye

Oladunni Oluwoye is devoted to driving meaningful change in our world and is making a significant impact through her work as an assistant professor in the Washington State University (WSU) Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and as co-director of the Washington State Center for Excellence in Early Psychosis. Oladunni’s research is focused on addressing inequities in mental health services among racially and ethnically diverse youth and their families. Students, faculty and community stakeholders know what she stands for: integrity, excellenc

By: Bridget Smith

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