Haven House’s Hope Rising awards presented at Land’s End Resort on Saturday

The Haven House annual spring Women of Distinction event took place in the upstairs banquet room at Land’s End on Saturday.

The 2024 title was Hope Rising, from an Emily Dickinson poem, and the avian-themed event was joined by a seagull choir from the ferry pier.

Four women were honored for their significant contributions to Homer and beyond this year: Keri Keller, Ireland Styvar, Flo Larsen and Nina Faust. Each provided a brief presentation on their personal history and contributions to both Homer and other places in the world. Each awardee was given flowers, a certificate and medallion in honor of their award.

The opening reception was accompanied by local harpist Michelle Morton. The emcee for the event was Kathleen Gustufson. Two members from the board of directors, Britt Huffman and Maria Walker, began the program with a reading of the Dickinson poem. Referring to the poem, Walker noted, “Hope, as Emily Dickinson says, is within us. It perches like a bird singing throughout our lives, never asking for anything in return. The women who we are here tonight to honor through their exemplary service and passion, also inspire that hope within us, in our community and beyond.”

South Peninsula Haven House staff member Megan Pollock, human resource and operations director, presented the first award, Hero of the Heart, to Keri Keller who did not prepare a speech for the event but gave thanks for the award.

Gustufson presented the Young Woman of Distinction award to Ireland Styvar. Styvar thanked South Peninsula Haven House for their generosity and their contributions to the community. She thanked her parents and other members of the community who have supported her including teachers, coaches, artists and other mentors.

“These are the people (who) have helped me make me who I am. I couldn’t be more grateful for being raised by this village,” she said.

Flo Larsen, formerly a certified childbirth educator and public school teacher, provided a brief speech on her experiences from her first home in North Dakota, her move to Alaska and background in travel and teaching internationally.

“I want to thank the Haven House for choosing me as the Woman of Wisdom. It was quite a surprise and very humbling, to say the least. It is an honor to receive this award with the other women here tonight. In particular, Nina Faust, because she and I were fellow teachers at Homer High School for seven years and both of us taught math when computers were first installed in the new high school building. It was an exciting and challenging time to create new learning modalities.”

Larsen described her childhood and the role of family and neighbors early in her life.

“True peace requires mutual giving and receiving,” she said.

In addition, she also cited relationships within the communities where Larsen has lived and traveled as requiring the offering of giving and receiving.Larsen also talked about different animals and the they way share, assist and communicate with each other, including sand hill cranes and bald eagles “and the way that they share in nature’s harmony.”

Larsen concluded by saying, “Haven House gives women and children a reason to live and realized dreams. With these tools gained, they can reclaim their lives. They are able to become independent, hold jobs, create new relationships within their homes and community. They have a new direction and way forward; everything works better when we work together. I am grateful for what Haven House does in this community and for all people who give of themselves to create a better world.”

Gustufson introduced the final awardee, Nina Faust.

“I have interviewed this woman more times than I can count and she has been in my contacts since the week I moved to Homer. Here is a woman who sees what needs to be done and takes care of business in a way that is both gracious and absolutely no-nonsense.”

Faust started her talk by thanking Gustufson and agreeing with Larsen’s earlier remarks.

“Flo, it was great teaching with you. You are a perfect Woman of Wisdom. It is wonderful and serendipitous that we are here together at the same time,” she said.

She shared some thoughts about the theme and title of this year’s event.

“There are so many inspiring quotes to help us think about hope and, besides, I am always in the middle of hope because my middle name is Hope.”

Also Faust shared some of her memories growing up in Alaska, backpacking and her interest in mathematics. She talked about her experience as an adult mentor with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.

She wanted to share her love of the outdoors and she mentored a Little Brother for over 10 years.

“We hiked together, I helped him learn how to ski, we went horse back riding and river rafting and practiced baseball skills that turned into games with all of his friends. He said that it all made a huge difference in his life. Programs like this bring hope to youth; it gives them quality time with a person who cares and listens.”

The rest of her talk addresses the role of “hope” in many capacities as a teacher, in the environment and as a self-defined “craniac” for her love of the annual arrival of cranes. She described her tradition of “cookie chronicles” in her math classes that incorporated math and storytelling where students wrote short stories that included math terms they learned over the year and featuring each student in the class as a character in the story.

“One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when a former student of mine became math teacher herself and dedicated a page to me in a book that she wrote thanking me for the idea of cookie chronicles and how she was using it in one of her math classes.

“Being willing to work with students when they have criticism does not have to be intimidating because it can lead to creative solutions involving the whole class and the teacher. Well, the pre-calculus cookie has now morphed into the Inspiration Ridge trail cookie and promotes cookie diplomacy with neighbors, naturalists, visitors and friends. It’s not surprising how much a cookie will help conversations and negotiations,” Faust said.

The evening event also included a live and silent auction with all benefits going to South Peninsula Haven House. In addition to the auction, direct donations of $50 and $100 were also received by bid to benefit the Children’s Advocacy Services and Victim’s Services or the shelter component of Haven House. The services are available to people from the head of the bay to Seward as well as the villages across the bay, according Haven House employee Lindsay Collins.

The bids received during this period of the evening might be used for comfort items like quilts, toys or meals or they might help cover the costs of lodging, transportation, household items or moving costs that wouldn’t covered under other grants, Collins explained.

“Many times when men or women come into our shelter, many times they have left everything behind, except what’s on their back or maybe just a small bag. So, when it does come time for people to relocate and find a new place to live, your bid of $50 or $100 will help cover some of those costs,” Collins said.

The live and silent auction as well as the direct donations were well supported by attending members of the audience.