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YWCA Announces 2019 Women of Distinction Honorees

YWCA Mankato


YWCA Mankato to Honor Four
Women and One Business on March 19

MANKATO, MINN. – YWCA Mankato has named Kate Cox, Dr. Annette Parker and Nancy Zallek as the 2019 Women of Distinction Honorees. Young Woman of Distinction, Deisy De Leon Esqueda, and Distinctive Difference, The Coffee Hag, will also be honored. The event and awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, at the Verizon Center Grand Hall and is presented by Jones Metal, Inc.

Kate Cox has lead Project for Teens, a peer mentoring program which has served close to 4,000 local youth, for over ten years. Cox’s personal mission to be a positive influence in our community is evident through her numerous volunteer roles. She has been a champion of and volunteer for YWCA Mankato for many years including faculty of the Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership program, GEARS mentor, and member of the Women’s Leadership Conference committee. Cox also serves on the boards of directors for the YMCA and Minnesota Children’s Alliance and continues to serve in numerous volunteer capacities across the community with many organizations.

Dr. Annette Parker is President of South Central College, where her industry knowledge and broad higher education experience have helped build capacity to serve the college’s students and the community. Parker serves in this role not only as the first woman, but also the first person of color. She also serves on a number of boards and committees at a national, state and local level, including the National Council of Black American Affairs, Greater Mankato Growth, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Agricultural Leaders Board of Advisors, and many others. She promotes and supports the participation of South Central College staff in YWCA Mankato’s programs and events or in a volunteer capacity. Throughout her career, she has served as an inspiration particularly for minority and non-traditional students, demonstrating in her words and actions the impact education, combined with resiliency, can make in your life and the lives of others.

Nancy Zallek, President and CEO of Mankato Area Foundation, dedicates her work to building a community of individuals who believe in the strength of giving while supporting the work of the nonprofit sector. Under Zallek’s leadership, the growth of Mankato Area Foundation has led to large-scale community initiatives, such as YWCA It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race, Kiwanis Holiday Lights and the Fallenstein Playground, as well as increased scholarship opportunities for local students. What Nancy values most of all, however, is the relationships she builds with people in the community. As she puts it, “Every day I get to connect thoughtful donors with incredible organizations and causes – it doesn’t get better than that.”  

The Young Woman of Distinction award will be given to Deisy De Leon Esqueda, manager at ECHO Food Shelf. In addition to her role at ECHO, she is also a businesswoman, who together with her husband, runs a successful food truck business. De Leon Esqueda serves as a role model of a successful, young, bi-lingual immigrant woman of color who offers much to the greater Mankato community. She has been called a “model of productive public service and a true agent for social change and understanding in our community.” De Leon Esqueda offers generous volunteer time of her own, is active in her church and speaks out against social injustice and racism. She encourages others to become involved and has been a role model in compassion, dedication, selflessness, and humility.

The Coffee Hag will be honored with the Distinctive Difference Award. This award was created in 2012 to recognize a business or organization’s contributions to community life which embody the mission of YWCA.The Coffee Hag is a thriving, popular, fast-paced establishment which remains true to its roots and exemplifies social responsibility. It’s “a place where people can find community and feel good about who they are the moment they walk through the door” according to Jenn Melby-Kelley, owner, one of the area’s most visible LGBTQ leaders, and local advocate for arts, music, small business, entrepreneurship and positive social change. The Coffee Hag has hosted community conversations and events centered on gender and race. Melby-Kelley, along with other staff, have supported YWCA Mankato’s efforts through volunteerism and attendance at and donations to events.

The event reception and silent auction will begin at 5:00 p.m. in the Grand Hall at the Verizon Center. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. with a program to follow. Single tickets are $80, a reserved table is $700, and all are available for purchase online at www.mankatoywca.org/women-distinction or by calling YWCA Mankato at (507) 345-4629. Tickets will be available for purchase through March 11th or until sold out.


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