Girl Scout leader receives top honor at Zonta luncheon

Saturday, October 25, 2008
Denise Stewart, right, winner of the Women of Achievement Award from the Zonta Club, talks with fellow nominee Jane Jackson after Friday's award ceremony at the Osage Community Centre. AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@

Denise Stewart walked away with the top prize at the Zonta Women of Achievement Luncheon Friday.

The former executive director of the Girl Scouts of the Otahki Council moved to Little Rock, Ark., in September, but returned to Cape Girardeau for the honor. She is now the first president and chief executive officer of Girl Scouts-Diamonds of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Zonta is an international service organization made up of professional women seeking to "improve the legal, political, economic, educational and professional status of women," according to the organization's website.

Friday marked the fifth year for the achievement luncheon, which serves as a fundraiser. With 330 tickets sold, the chapter raised about $15,000 for community organizations, including Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, Safe House for Women, Vision House of Cape Girardeau and First Call for Help. Since 1976, the local organization has donated more than a quarter million dollars to charity.

Former co-worker Laura Hinke­bein described Stewart as "honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, and cooperative and strong." Other friends said they admired Stewart's work ethic and the fact she always made time for her family.

In her acceptance speech, Stewart said she has grown to deeply miss and appreciate Cape Girardeau because it is an area where "collaboration instead of competition and communication instead of hype" are valued.

Also honored Friday was Michele Stauffer, who received the Celebration Award. The award recognizes someone from the larger community for their contributions. Stauffer is president of Kansas Aircraft Corp. and a founding member of Angel Flight Central. Through the organization, she has flown more than 250 "missions" transporting sick or needy people for free.

Eight other women were nominated for the Women of Achievement Award. They were real estate agent June Clark; Linda Garner, executive director of Safe House for Women; retired teacher and county archivist Jane Randol Jackson; Cheryl Klueppel, executive director of the Southeast Missouri chapter of the American Red Cross; Denise Lincoln, former director of the Family Resource Center; Vida Mays, director of Pre-Collegiate Programs at Southeast Missouri State University; nurse Carol Sparkman; and lactation consultant Cheryl Wormington.

Maryann Gudermuth, founder and executive director of SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence, won the award last year. Southeast Missouri State University educator Jeanine Dobbins won in 2006.


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