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McKeesport-area women honored for their achievements

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
Lynn Bellinotti
Linda Brewster
Tiffanee Cherise Heywood
Shari Holland
Stephanie Eson and Marie Linebaugh of Project HEART
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Rula Skezas
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Helen Stratigos
V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery
Nancy Wetzler
Patricia Williams
Samantha Luketic
The Rev. Cora Suiter

The 2013 Mon River Fleet Women of Achievement will be honored on Oct. 3 with a banquet and awards ceremony aboard the Gateway Clipper Empress.

Sailing the Monongahela River around the Healthier Communities PartnerSHIP towns of Clairton, McKeesport, Duquesne and Braddock, the event will highlight accomplishments of local women who have made an impact on the communities where they live and work.

Healthcare Leader — Shari Holland ( Dedicated by the UPMC McKeesport Latterman Family Health Center)

Shari Holland, a behavioral scientist with UPMC McKeesport's Family Medicine Residency Program, works with resident physicians who serve patients with psycho-social issues at the hospital's Latterman Family Health Center.

Understanding that health is broader than medical care, Holland reaches out to patients in all aspects of their lives. She treats each person with dignity and respect.

Holland received her master's degree in counseling and human development from Walsh College in Ohio. She is a licensed professional counselor who is nationally certified. She has managed outpatient programs and been a child, adolescent and family therapist for more than 20 years.

Holland began teaching behavioral science in 2003 and joined the UPMC faculty in 2008.

Her teaching appointments include Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Department of Family Practice/Behavioral Science, University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, Duquesne University Department of Counselor Education and Kent State University Department of Community Counseling. She has been a behavioral science coordinator with Mercy Hospital, an educational facilitator in the Allegheny County court system and child/adolescent therapist with Mon Yough Community Services.

Holland is a member of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, National Board for Certified Counselors, Family Therapy Network Forum and American Balint Society.

Past honors include beging named a UPMC Resident Avocate of the Year in 2010.

Healthcare Leader — Nancy C. Wetzler ( Dedicated by the UPMC McKeesport Center for Digestive Health)

Nancy C. Wetzler, a registered nurse with UPMC McKeesport's Center for Digestive Health, is a dedicated and compassionate health care provider whose skills and bedside manner earned her Women of Achievement and Cameos of Caring awards in 2013.

Wetzler said she is fortunate to share her “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much” motto with many in her career.

In the hospital, she touches the lives of patients, families and physicians. Her soft-spoken words, encouraging conversation and warm hugs generate positive energy. She is there for her patients, whether it be by holding a hand, wiping a tear or fluffing a pillow.

Wetzler demonstrates care and awareness in her nursing career and is teaching a younger generation of health care professionals to do the same.

In 2008, Wetzler completed the UPMC Pitt Preceptor course. For seven years, she has been an e-mentor preceptor for high school students. She developed an educational program for nursing staff about success in accomplishing a proper cleansed colon using the Touring Tutor.

Wetzler has been certified in Gastroenterology Nursing since 2006. She formatted colorectal cancer screening recommendation pamphlets and distributed them to 100 physicians at UPMC McKeesport and local clinics. She presented at the Golden Key Club a program regarding Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness and for the McKeesport Medical Explorer Group a Digestive System Overview presentation.

Wetzler was active in the Professional Practice Council for 10 years. She presides over the Center for Digestive Health Unit Based Council. She belongs to the Physician Invasive Procedure Committee and co-developed the Special Care Areas Council. In 2009, she completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at Chatham University. Her original education was through the St. Margaret School of Nursing and Community College of Allegheny County.

She and her husband Ron Wetzler have three children, Gary (Leanna), Emily and Alex; and two grandchildren, 4-year-old Jackson and 2-year-old Adalyn.

Educational Leader — Rula S. Skezas ( Dedicated by the Clairton Community PartnerSHIP)

Rula S. Skezas has been assistant superintendent for McKeesport Area School District since 2010. Her professional teaching career started in the Frederick County school system in Maryland and continued in the South Park School District prior to coming home to McKeesport Area schools.

Skezas has held various jobs within McKeesport Area School District. She was a substitute teacher, Title I tutor and Title I math teacher. She served as principal of White Oak Elementary, Francis McClure Middle School and Francis McClure Intermediate School. As a district central administrator, she serves as an advisor to the Personnel, Safe Schools, Education/Legislation/Policy, Cultural Diversity, and Career & Technology committees.

Skezas received her Bachelor of Science in Education, Master of Science in Education, Elementary Administration, Superintendent's Letter of Eligibility and Doctor of Education from Duquesne University. Her professional organizations include Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Phi Delta Kappa International, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, American Association of School Personnel Administrators, and Pennsylvania Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Her professional activities include presenting at the Governor's School Institute of Math at Pennsylvania State University, the Title I School Wide Conference in Philadelphia and teaching as an adjunct professor at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

She and her husband, Jacob N. Skezas, are the proud parents of Nicholas Anthony and Eleni Fotini Skezas — both graduates of McKeesport Area School District.

Social Leader — Tiffanee Cherise Heywood ( Dedicated by Mon Valley Providers Council)

Tiffanee Cherise Heywood volunteers in her native Duquesne neighborhood, leading efforts to bring opportunity and awareness to the Mon Valley.

As co-chair of the Working Group on Employment and Training, sponsored by the Mon Valley Providers Council, Heywood is a major force behind the “Who is Left Standing” and “How to Get a Job and Keep It” initiatives.

The Working Group on Employment and Training connects individuals seeking employment with appropriate training programs and promotes the qualities of the employable in the Mon Valley. It increases the ability of social service providers to connect clients with employment opportunities and develops a network of agencies that enhance that link.

Heywood also is a member of the Mon Valley Providers Council Youth Committee, an active participant in the annual Community HIV/AIDS Awareness Walk and Relay for Life. She is a member of the newly started Boys & Girls Club Alumni Team.

In her work with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Heywood's leadership was recognized with Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year awards.

Social Leader — V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery ( Dedicated by Laura Jenkins and Family)

V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery is a lifelong resident of McKeesport. Her political career and civic involvement were inspired in McKeesport in her youth.

After high school, Walker-Montgomery obtained a bachelor's degree in political science from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. While in North Carolina, she worked on various political campaigns and lobbied in Raleigh for the Voters Owned Elections Act. Walker-Montgomery interned on Capitol Hill for Congressman Robert Andrews and worked with a nonprofit for teens in Washington. She returned to McKeesport and volunteered at McKeesport Area High School and began a district Race Relations Committee while working with YoUNITY Ministries.

In 2006, Walker-Montgomery graduated summa cum laude from Point Park University with master's degree in Criminal Justice Administration.

She has served on McKeesport council since January 2010.

Professionally, Walker-Montgomery has 11 years of experience in social services, working with local families and agencies such as Macedonia FACE; Adelphoi Village; Every Child Inc.; and Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families. She chairs the McKeesport Downtown Business Authority and is vice chair of the Home Rule Charter Committee. She serves with McKeesport Recreation Board, McKeesport African American Political Coalition, Rainbow Temple-Operation Save Our Youth, Semper Fidelis Club, McKeesport NAACP, Association of Black Social Workers and Carnegie Library of McKeesport. She is a past board member of First Step Recovery Homes and the recipient of a community service award from Voice of Vision Outreach Ministries in 2013.

Fawn is married to George Montgomery, and they have one daughter, Grace Walker.

Safety Leader — Lynn Bellinotti ( Dedicated by McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service)

Lynn Bellinotti, a McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service staff member for 16 years, is the agency's paramedic supervisor. MARS provides emergency medical service to McKeesport, Duquesne, Port Vue and Dravosburg.

During the administration of flu vaccines through the Mon River Fleet's regional Healthier Communities PartnerSHIPS, Bellinotti serves as lead paramedic. For the past two years, she has been instrumental in scheduling sites and times to meet the needs of the public and ensure that the program is available to the largest number of people possible.

Bellinotti, a resident of Ross Township, is the mother of Kristine Holman and Alexis Holman.

Her work in the emergency medical field was inspired in the early 1990s by Kristine's birth. Because her daughter was born with a congenital heart defect, Bellinotti wanted to have the skills to provide Kristine with emergency care if needed. She studied at Allegheny General Hospital through the Community College of Allegheny County.

In addition to her work with MARS, Bellinotti is an adjunct paramedic instructor at CCAC.

Recreational Leader — Linda Brewster ( Dedicated by state Sen. James R. Brewster)

Linda Brewster is involved in numerous community activities and organizations. She is president of the McKeesport Trail Commission, president-elect of the McKeesport/White Oak Kiwanis Club, a member of the McKeesport Lions Club, and a committee member/gate coordinator for International Village. For the past three years, Brewster has served on the organizational team for the Village for Kids fun day in her role with the local Kiwanis Club.

The McKeesport Trail Commission played a vital role in the 2013 completion of the Great Allegheny Passage. The trail encourages strong physical activity and brings a healthy lifestyle to the city Brewster holds dear to her heart.

While working for McKeesport Area School District, Brewster organized Mini-Olympics for the 11th Ward Elementary School. Brewster currently is employed at McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service as a secretary/bookkeeper.

In 1970, she married James Brewster and together they have three daughters: Jamie (Ken) Brewster-Filotei, Jodi (Curtis) Adams, and Jill (Jeff) Lape. She has six grandchildren: T.J. and Nina Filotei, Taylor and Mikayla Adams, and Maxson and Lucas Lape.

Spiritual Leader — The Rev. Cora Suiter ( Dedicated by the Rev. Dr. Christopher and Dr. Tracey Conti)

A native of Braddock Hills, the Rev. Cora Suiter gave her life to Christ at First Baptist Church at 13 years of age. At age 16, she taught Sunday school and started a Junior Ushers Group. At 18, she joined the FBC Choral and became a helper to church clerk Rose Couser.

Remaining faithful to First Baptist and never moving her membership, Suiter served as church clerk, Christian education coordinator, deaconess and youth leader. She started the Birthday for Jesus Ministry in 1975. In 1995, she formed Spreading the Word Ministry and the Ministry of Preaching. Spreading the Word aired on Sunday mornings for five years — on WPGR radio for three and on 860 AM for two.

Suiter served four years as the second vice president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Pittsburgh & Vicinity. She was vice president at large of Allegheny Union Baptist Association Congress of Christian Education for 2008-12. She is president of the Congress of Christian Education of the AUBA.

Now living single, Suiter was married for more than 20 years and has two daughters, Jonette Lynn and Gina Marie. She has eight grandchildren, three goddaughters and one godson. She is a retired cashier from the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is now a day care provider with King's Playhouse, located in her home.

Lifetime Leader — Patricia Williams ( Dedicated by McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko)

Patricia Williams has worked for the city of McKeesport for 37 years and has held the position of city clerk for the past 28 years. She has served with six mayoral administrations and numerous city councils.

Williams started as deputy city clerk in 1976 under then-clerk Joan Winters. She loves her job and likes to help those who need answers and don't know who to call. Because she has the answer to everything, Williams often is referred to as McKeesport's “Little Mayor.” She has a name plate on her desk to prove it.

Williams has been the stability behind city government. Her competence and commitment to McKeesport have served parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren alike with a quality beyond measure.

She has been married to Giff Williams for 54 years. They have two children, David Williams, who lives in Florida, and Mary Lisa Melkon, who lives in White Oak. They have six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They belong to Corpus Christi parish of McKeesport. They love to travel and spend time with friends and family.

Williams is a graduate of St. Peter's High School. She serves as secretary of the McKeesport Civil Service Commission. She is a past member of the Pennsylvania Local Governmental Secretaries Association and the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Future Leader — Samantha Luketic ( Dedicated by the Grandchildren of Michele and Bill Matuch)

Samantha Luketic is a McKeesport Area senior in the Allied Health program and president of the Mon River Fleet Leos Club, a youth extension of the region's first community-health oriented Lions Club.

Samantha is a leader in the Allied Health class and is a positive example for her peers. She has volunteered with McKeesport Hospital Foundation and the Leos Club and taken part in the following activities: City of McKeesport Salute to Santa Parade, Baldwin Lions Club Breakfast with Santa, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Pennies for Patients, McKeesport Area High School Blood Drive, Presents for Patients at Riverside Care Center, McKeesport Healthier Community PartnerSHIP flu vaccine clinic, UPMC Youth Apprenticeship, Lions Auction for Diabetes, Mon River Fleet Senior Prom and the Future Nurses Club.

“I enjoy being involved in those kinds of things,” Samantha said. “I like the atmosphere.”

Upon graduation, Samantha plans to attend the Community College of Allegheny County to study nursing so that she can build a career on “helping others and making them smile.”

Volunteer Leader — Helen P. Stratigos ( Dedicated by Mr. and Mrs. Clifford W. Flegal Sr.)

Helen P. Stratigos has served the Mon Valley community extensively and in numerous capacities for more than 45 years. In addition to her professional career as a local Realtor with The Realty Company, she has been involved with many philanthropic charities.

Stratigos has volunteered for Meals on Wheels of McKeesport for more than 30 years. The bond between Meals on Wheels volunteers and the service recipients becomes more than just a meal; they make a connection and it reminds the recipients of times in their lives when they were healthy and proud.

Stratigos served as president of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church and is currently vice president of the parish council. She is treasurer of the St. Markella Philoptochos, a charitable women's organization, and is a past president. She served on many fundraisers for the Metropolis of Pittsburgh.

Stratigos served as the auditor of White Oak borough and is currently on the White Oak Planning Commission as secretary. She has volunteered with McKeesport Hospital Junior Committee and Mon Valley chapter of the American Cancer Society.

She and Anthony Stratigos, her husband of 50 years, are the parents of Dr. Rula S. Skezas (husband Jacob Skezas), and grandmother of Nicholas Anthony and Eleni Fotini Skezas.

Outstanding Special Project — Project HEART: Marie Linebaugh and Stephanie Eson ( Dedicated by the Rev. Earlene Coleman, Noah's Ark Community Center)

Project HEART (HIV/AIDS Education Research and Training) was an eight-week summer program implemented by the McKeesport Collaborative and funded by the McKeesport Hospital Foundation.

The program served as a hybrid course in HIV/AIDS prevention and job readiness. With Project HEART in its 13th year, interns Marie Linebaugh and Stephanie Eson revitalized it to further engage students as peer leaders and educators in their communities. They recognized the assets of each of the 11 youth enrolled in the program and helped students determine how their skills can serve the community through HIV/AIDS prevention.

Empowering youth in this way led one young woman to submit an essay to an international contest, and another group took their skit to several venues in the Mon Valley.

Project HEART enabled youth to seek beyond their knowledge gained in the program sessions and additionally empowered them to act as informed citizens who openly discuss tough issues in their neighborhoods.

Outside of her work with the McKeesport Collaborative, Linebaugh is pursuing a master's degree in social work with a concentration on community organizing and social administration at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she worked in the social services sector in New Hampshire and Ohio.

Eson is a second-year master's of social work student at the University of Pittsburgh, focusing on community organizing and social administration. Eson graduated from Miami University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Prior to moving to Pittsburgh, she served as a program leader with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati. She currently mentors a child through Amachi Pittsburgh.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or

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