Keri Brenner

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March 6, 2014
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'Elder activist' women to shine at gathering

Six Nevada County women will be honored and celebrated Saturday as “elder activists” who are making enormous contributions to the community in their later years.

“We have people in our community who have all this knowledge, all this experience — and they’re out there, still doing it,” said Judith Hurley Prosser, co-founder of the annual Gather the Women of Nevada County event, now in its 12th year.

“These women are incredible examples of that (knowledge and experience),” she said. “That’s why we’re honoring them.”

Saturday’s sold-out event at the Unity of Gold Country Spiritual Center in Grass Valley is being held in conjunction with International Women’s Day. This year’s tribute to the six activists will shine a light on the value of so-called “elder” women in a culture that idolizes youth, Hurley Prosser said.

“The concept that elder means being old — that being past 60 is old — is such a fallacy,” she added.

“An ‘elder’ for a woman is usually someone who is just past menopause,” Hurley Prosser said. “That could be someone aged 46 or 47.”

For example, in Nevada County, a total of 525 people are active in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

“It’s amazing what the elders in our community do,” Hurley Prosser said. “That’s the issue we’re trying to address.”

Saturday’s honorees are:

— Darlene Paulsen has been a member of the local branch of American Association of University Women since 1999. She established a Great Decisions discussion group within AAUW-Nevada County.

In addition, she has served on the branch’s board and established Neighborhood Circles to improve branch communications.

She is an active member of Peace Lutheran Church where she has been president of the Woman’s Group and serves as a greeter, a lector and a Eucharistic Minister visiting home-bound seniors to brighten their day.

— Eleanor Reed is an active member of Soroptimist International of Grass Valley and the area business community. She is the co-owner of Reed’s Locksmith.

Reed was on the board of United Way and the board of a first attempt at a youth center on Zion Street in the late 1970s. In 1982 she became president of Soroptimist International of Grass Valley.

During her presidency, the club contributed to many local nonprofits and the club’s membership grew exponentially. Soroptimist International of Grass Valley honored her with a meritorious award in 1983, life membership in 1994 and “The Women Helping Women Award” in 1997.

She has led a meditation group for 39 years and also taught women at Hope House meditation techniques to facilitate their treatment.

— Janice O’Brien is an originator of Hospitality House in Grass Valley.

After it became apparent that there was no one serving the homeless population in Nevada City who could not, or would not, utilize Hospitality House, O’Brien and others have created Sierra Roots, which is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

She is president, and her goal is to bring into public awareness the need to care for our most fragile citizens who have fallen through all the cracks and are now destitute.

— LaNell Lee was born on a farm in Alabama in 1925. She married at 16 and arrived in Grass Valley as a war bride in 1944, when her husband Robert was stationed at Beale Air Force Base.

In the 70 years since her arrival, she has raised a family and become a great-grandmother, been an active parent supporter in the local school systems through parent teacher associations and sports programs, active with both Cub Scouts and Brownies and served as chair of the DeMolay Mothers Club.

Lee is past president and life member of Soroptimist International of Grass Valley and active in the Grass Valley Methodist Church.

She has taken her skills as a beautician to the community, setting up salons and then volunteering services for nearly two decades, first at the old County Hospital then in two of the local convalescent homes.

— Pat Poggi of DVSAC, who has an undergraduate degree from UCLA in kindergarten and primary education, went on to have four children of her own.

Poggi enjoys working with adults now and has recently added an Adults Molested As Children (AMAC) group.

— Sylvia Osman is a peace activist, arrested three different times during nonviolent protests.

As a licensed clinical social worker, she worked with foster children for 10 years.

Osman has attended every GTW March 8th International Women’s Day event since its inception 12 years ago and contributed to it in many forms. Early on, she offered a circle based on the book, “Traveling with the Turtle,” a Small Group Process in Women’s Spirituality and Peacemaking.

For the past three years, her circle, “Looking Within for Personal and Spiritual Growth,” has provided a space for women to literally transform their lives.

Osman has also been a volunteer for Hospitality House.

Even though Saturday’s event is sold out, the organizers will be holding Women’s Circles later this year. A Circle Creation meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, April 14, at the Medlyn Helling Library, Highway 49, Nevada City.

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To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email or call 530-477-4239.

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The Union Updated Mar 7, 2014 09:06AM Published Mar 7, 2014 09:34AM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.