Red Cross honors women who give and give


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From helping an organization save $60,000 to finding low-cost studio space for artists, the women of South Florida have built and strengthened many in the community.

On Tuesday, the American Red Cross will honor 11 notable women at its annual Spectrum award luncheon. Awards range from contribution to the arts, to entrepreneurship to volunteering. The luncheon will be at the InterContinental Hotel in Miami.

“We’re just really happy that we’re able to shine a light on women’s accomplishments in our community,” said Gloria Danovitz, chief development officer on the Florida region. “They’re not being selected because they dress well or make a lot of donations. They’re selected because of their impact.”

One of the women, Jeanett Slesnick, works with several organizations, including chairing the Coral Gables Community Foundation and helping the Coral Gables Museum open.

“It’s a big award,” said Slesnick, who is receiving the chairman’s award for her contribution to the community at large. “I appreciate awards and being spotlighted, but I don’t volunteer in order to get my name out and around.’’

Slesnick, a real estate agent and wife of former Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, worked with the museum for five years to open it. She also found a space for the Coral Gables Community Foundation to lease for $1 per year, saving them $60,000 per year, she said.

The winners are chosen by a committees set up by the South Florida chapter. The awards were started 20 years ago by Elizabeth Dole, president of the Red Cross at the time.

“Some of these women are really unsung heroes,” Danovitz said. “People are not really aware of some of the impacts that these women have in our community.”

Recipients this year include Red Cross Service honoree Janelle J. Patty, who has volunteered with the organization for more than 20 years.

“I have a belief that I have a moral and spiritual obligation to contribute to our community and to help those who are less fortunate,” said Patty, who has served on the Red Cross Ball since 2000.

She began volunteering with the Red Cross after seeing how much the group helped people after Hurricane Andrew.

“Seeing the overwhelming need and seeing people reaching out and trying to help.made me realize that the Red Cross needed volunteers,” Patty said.

For Patty, the award holds special meaning because she chaired the Spectrum luncheon in 1998 and knows of the lengthy process that goes into picking the winners.

“I was blown away, actually,” she said. “And very honored at the same time.”

Kathryn Q. Mikesell, a technical consultant, is receiving the cultural award for her work in Miami’s arts community. Along with her husband Dan, the couple have set up a residency program and studio space to allow artists from Miami and elsewhere to work in the city.

“We wanted to try to get to know the artists whose work we collect,” Mikesell said.

They invite national and international artists to stay for two months at a time and provide them with housing and studio space. The project began in 2008 and they bring in between 30 and 40 artists per year.

The couple also opened Fountainhead Studios in Little Haiti in late 2008, providing affordable and flexible studio space for up to 30 local artists at a time.

Mikesell and her husband also hold fundraisers for several museums every year. They support artists, in part, because of of how supportive the artistic community tends to be.

“Artists are always the first people to jump in and help, whether it’s for a natural disaster, or an organization,” Mikesell said. “Artists are just lovely, lovely people.”

For all of the women, the most important part of their work was helping others.

“When you go through life and you have opportunities to give back, there are things in your life that have touched your heart and there are things that you choose to spend your time on,” Patty said. “I think it’s important that we’re there to help people who are having difficulty helping themselves.”

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