Hope Rising

South Peninsula Haven House to host annual Women of Distinction awards on Saturday

Four Homer women will be honored by South Peninsula Haven House at its 19th annual Women of Distinction celebration.

The ceremony will take place at Land’s End Resort on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The four awardees this year are Nina Faust, Flo Larsen, Ireland Styvar and Keri Keller.

The event celebrates inspiring women in the community and provides Haven House with a fundraising opportunity through ticket sales and a live and silent auction to support child advocacy centers in Homer and Kenai. It is offered in April because it is the national Child Abuse Prevention month, recognizing the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect.

The women chosen as awardees are nominated by community members either online or in person through Haven House and then the nominations are voted on by board members. The Hero of the Heart in an exception; this awardee is chosen exclusively by the Haven House board and staff members.

The organization’s website defines the Woman of Distinction recipient as a person “accomplished in her profession, field or area of interest. She is a leader with compassion and respect for all; is inclusive, has a collaborative approach to leadership; is a mentor to others and gives back to the community through her time, talent and resources.”

This year’s awardee is Nina Faust, a retired teacher and scientist dedicated to extensive fieldwork on the Kenai Peninsula. The Haven House press release notes that Faust and her husband Edgar Bailey “ultimately shaped the boundary blueprint for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.”

The couple also donated to the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies 19 pieces of property comprising 700 acres of spruce forest now designated as Inspiration Ridge Preserve located at the end of Skyline Drive past Ohlson Mountain Road overlooking Kachemak Bay.

The Woman of Wisdom, awarded to Flo Larsen, is a recipient who is an inspiration and mentor and who shares her experience. She gives willingly of her time to build a positive environment for the next generation.

The Haven House press release explains that Flo Larsen moved to Alaska during the oil boom after starting a teaching career in math, biology and chemistry as well teaching childbirth education classes. At one point, Larsen was one of only three certified childbirth educators on the Kenai Peninsula. She also taught abroad in Jakarta, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. She has contributed math education to adult students through the Kenai Peninsula College in Homer.

The Young Woman of Distinction is an exceptional young woman who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in her school, community and inspires her peers to follow her examples. The 2024 awardee is Ireland Styvar, a young performing artist whose first stage event was as a mouse in the Homer Nutcracker at age 8. She performs in events all year in dance, aerials, hooping and acting and has contributed to Jubilee, Homer Nutcracker Ballet, Harbor School of Music and Dance, Pier One Theatre, the Alaska World Arts Festival and Homer High School stage events.

The 2024 Hero of the Heart is awarded to Keri Keller, who has been teaching preschool in Homer for the past 15 years. She opened her own personal preschool, Tiny Trees Seedling Grove, in 2016. According to the press release, Keller’s philosophy is “focused on attached relationships, protecting the wonderment of childhood and facilitating connection and respect for nature.”

The theme for this year’s event is “Hero of the Heart,” honoring Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

Haven House board chairman Britt Huffman said the board chose the poem as the theme due to the inspiration of the return of birds in the spring season and the way that these women provide a similar contribution to local residents. She also noted the icon of cranes in Homer and how much the community looks forward to seeing them annually. April is also National Poetry Month.

“We were drawn to that poem and cranes, specifically, because Homer tends to have such a large sandhill crane-watching community and it just so happened that Nina Faust ended up with the Woman of Distinction award because she loves cranes, she calls herself a ‘craniac.’

“We had that vision as a theme for event and then we had these amazing nominations for Nina before she received the award. It really put the icing on the cake for us; it’s a really lovely coincidence.”

This is the first year the event will also offer live music, with Michelle Morton playing the harp. Huffman said the auctions will include items such as local art work and handmade pottery, a gift certificate for a fishing charter and a seafood box from Citizen Salmon Alaska.

Attendees can also provide donations for specific programs and services offered through SPHH.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at Haven House or the Homer Bookstore or at the opening of the event at Land’s End. Individual tickets are $100 or a table for eight tickets can be purchased for $700.