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Monessen Public Library gala to feature 'Women of Distinction'

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Two female trailblazers will return to their hometown roots Aug. 3 as speakers at the Monessen Public Library's annual gala fundraiser.

The event, “A Conversation With Women of Distinction,” will honor retired Maj. Gen. Jessica Garfola Wright, who now serves as Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and Kathy M. Manderino, former member of the state House of Representatives.

Both were born in Monessen and went to school locally, event chairwoman Susanna Swade said. Wright now lives in Washington, D.C., and Manderino lives in Philadelphia.

“They're both in male-dominated fields, and I think that that's going to be the key to the conversation. They have succeeded quite well in male-dominated fields and do they have advice for young women in our area?” Swade said. “We wanted to give them credit for succeeding in that kind of field.”

The women will speak in a moderated forum and will also speak separately to the audience.

“We wanted to let people know that there are strong women who have come from our town and achieved great success,” library board of trustees member Virginia Monaghan said.

This is the fourth annual gala fundraiser to honor successful people from the Monessen community, said Swade, treasurer/fundraising chairwoman with the library board of trustees.

“The ... underlying theme is fundraising for the Monessen Public Library,” Swade said.

Monessen has been home to a library since the 1930s. It's a large facility, Swade said, and it offers many materials.

“The idea of fundraising has become a bit of a challenge for us. We are trying to still maintain an excellent facility for the valley,” she said. “We're doing our best to keep it going.”

The gala will include a “meet-and-greet” with the speakers.

Wright is the senior policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense on recruitment, career development, pay and benefits for 1.4 million active duty military personnel, 1.3 million Guard and Reserve personnel, 680,000 DoD civilians, and is responsible for overseeing the overall state of military readiness, according to the library.

Manderino is now senior vice president of Intercommunity Action Inc., a community-based organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, behavioral health needs, and adults 55 and older, the library said.

The gala runs from 5- 9 p.m. Aug. 3 at St. Spyridon's Greek Hall in Monessen. Social hour begins at 5 p.m., and dinner begins at 6 p.m. It will feature basket raffles and a 50-50.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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