Correction: The Hero of the Heart award was left off in the list in the fourth paragraph. Nina Wolfe is the honoree.
This weekend, the Friends of the Homer Public Library and South Peninsula Haven House hold two separate events honoring community leaders.
At 7 p.m. Friday at the library, the Celebration of Lifelong Learning honors people “who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to acquiring new skills and sharing their knowledge with others,” according to a press release.
At 6 p.m. Saturday at Alice’s Champagne Palace, Haven House celebrates “the cross-generational contributions of women in our community and encouraging the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of our community,” according to its website.
The Lifelong Learning awards go to:
• Lifelong Learning Award, high-tunnel innovators and local farmers Donna Rae Faulkner and Don McNamara
• Youth Learner Award, Neviya Reed
• Library Spirit Award, Olivia Glasman
The Women of Distinction awards go to:
• Woman of Wisdom, South Peninsula Hospital Public Information Officer Derotha Ferraro
• Woman of Distinction, Aliva Erickson
• Young Woman of Distinction, Olivia Glasman
• Hero of the Heart: Nina Wolfe
Glasman’s awards may be a first: a person honored in the Lifelong Learning and Women of Distinction awards in the same year.
“It just kind of happened,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday from New England where she toured college campuses. Because she’d planned her trip before hearing of the honors, Glasman won’t be physically present for the ceremonies, but may attend virtually.
Homer High School counselor Paul Story nominated Glasman for the Young Woman of Distinction award. In his statement, he noted how Homer High consistently graduates “highly competent, driven scholars.”
“Olivia is no exception to this rule,” Story wrote. “In fact, her resume of academic and extracurricular accomplishments is one of the most impressive I have seen in my career.”
The daughter of Claudia Haines and Steve Glasman, Olivia’s mom worked for many years as the children’s librarian. Olivia said she did hang out in libraries a lot, “but I don’t think that’s the reason for the award,” she said.
Glasman said she got the Library Spirit Award for her involvement in helping run Girls Get IT, a computer science program from girls in grades 3-5. In 2018, her mom invited her to volunteer, and with her friend Delilah Harris, signed up. Neither had much computer science experience.
“I didn’t know this would happen, but we became teachers, too,” Glasman said. “It was very cool and very interesting, which was unexpected.”
She liked it so much, she volunteered again. Glasman recruited more friends to sign up, including Youth Learner winner, Neviya Reed. During the pandemic, they made at-home kits so girls could continue learning. Glasman noted how for all its strengths, Homer has gaps in its services.
“Homer is multifaceted,” she said. “There are things going on, but there are areas we can improve.”
When she made friends with a person who’s deaf, Glasman learned American Sign Language. She then started taking college classes. During the pandemic she helped the library with a community sign language club.
Glasman said she sees her volunteer work as helping close some of those gaps, like gender and equity.
“Even though I’ve done a lot of work finding the gaps and being critical of Homer, I’m very thankful for all the people I’ve met in the library, like Mr. Story and my teachers,” she said. “… I think it’s important to know. We’re all going to college because of our ambition, but also these people along the way. I think that’s very important.”
Neviya Reed is the daughter of Jody Mastey and Andrew Reed. In recommending Neviya for her award, Homer High social studies teacher Michelle Borland wrote how Neviya showed resiliency during the pandemic as she and other students fluctuated between remote, hybrid and in-person learning.
“I greatly admire Neviya’s insatiable drive to achieve success and her positivity in the face of adversity,” Borland wrote.
Borland also noted Reed’s work in student government and in borough government. Reed serves as the student representative for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education.
“She is again taxed with representing student voice in fractious meetings about COVID-mitigation plans and dwindling school budgets,” Borland wrote. “Throughout it all, Neviya keeps her sense of humor and perspective and remains ground in steadfast commitment to the public process and public service.”
Community farmers Donna Rae Faulkner and Don McNamara own Oceanside Farms, a small farm that grew from several high tunnels on Ocean Drive Loop to a 6-acre farm on East End Road. In her recommendation, Kyra Wagner of Sustainable Homer wrote, “Don and Donna Rae are a team of the most inquisitive people I have ever known. And they are obsessed with the systems that feed us.”
Wagner noted that the couple have attended every workshop given locally — and how they share their knowledge as mentors with the Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute.
“I have learned a TON over the years from these two beautiful people,” Wagner wrote. “They are still learning, but now more from YouTube university, absorbing unique idea and information from around the world.”
For the Women of Distinction awards, in their descriptions, Haven House development director Michael Hurd recognized Ferraro as Woman of Wisdom for her work over the past two years as SPH public information officer during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll, Ferraro has done pandemic updates at Homer City Council meetings and weekly for KBBI Public Radio.
“She has been a consistent presence and collaborative leader for our community during the course of the pandemic,” according to the press release. “She has worked with numerous agencies throughout the community to provide current and accurate information and to set up systems to make both testing and vaccines readily available and accessible to all community members. She has worked long days and weekends providing these services and updates so that our community can remain educated and supported during this unprecedented time. This community has greatly benefited as a result of her ability to clearly communicate, her focus on community wellness, and her relational leadership style.”
Woman of Distinction Erickson, a school nurse in Homer, also was recognized for her work in public health. She helped found the Safe Families chapter in Homer, a program connecting volunteer host families with vulnerable youth in need of temporary shelter. Not only did she found the program, but Erickson hosted two young women herself. She also volunteers in the community, such as a high school softball coach, providing leadership and mentorship to young women through this after school sports program. In Anchorage, she worked in a leadership team for state public health, helping to improve the state’s system for tracing tuberculosis in rural communities.
With COVID-19, “She pivoted to addressing an unprecedented pandemic and worked to manage a team that created a statewide electronic contact tracing program and filing system,” according to the press release. “She applied her knowledge and expertise as a nurse consultant/practitioner, in combination with her leadership and project management skills, to successfully launch this time sensitive program that continues to help Alaska manage the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For the Hero of the Heart award, Nina Wolfe “constantly considers the needs of others in the community and the small or large things she can do to help them,” according to the press release. “She instantly makes you feel like family with her warm and caring approach. She is always ready to take you under her wing and teach you something: be it how to navigate Homer as a newbie or how to help different groups in the community by understanding what would be most helpful for them and how to easily get that in their hands.”