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Crawford's Hillenburg 'torchbearer' for victims

April 06, 2011
Twelve women, including Cheryl Hillenburg of Milltown, were honored during Indiana's Salute to Women program presented March 9 by the Indiana Commission for Women and the Indiana Women's History Association.

Crawford County Prosecutor Cheryl Hillenburg
It was the 15th anniversary of the Indiana Commission for Women, which was created by the Indiana General Assembly. The ICW is "committed to the full participation of women in all aspects of society in order to make Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family."

"We're here to honor what we think is Indiana's most precious resource: its women," Betsy Corridan, chairperson of the ICW, said.

Past recipients include Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman of Bedford, former state auditor Connie Nass of Huntingburg and Pat Koch of Santa Claus (Heart of Indiana Award).

Dr. Virginia Calvin, who chairs the council of judges, explained the process for selecting the Torchbearer recipients, calling it a "joyful and painful" process.

Calvin said there is joy because the council is "inspired" as it reads the nominees' accomplishments but painful because only a few are selected.

"Everyone nominated was deserving of this award," she said. "Like most selections in life, the process isn't an easy one."

The nominees are pared to 20 based on a score before the list is narrowed again.

"This can take hours," Calvin said. "And the final decision must be unanimous."

During the crystal celebration, held at the Indiana Government Center in Indianapolis, Hillenburg and the other recipients — Ellen Annala, Elaine Bedel, Tanya Bell, Susan W. Brooks, Dr. Maria Del Rio Hoover, Cynthia Hubert, Marisa Larrison, Harriet Sweedler Miller, Janice Montgomery, Dessie Partenheimer Koch (Lifetime Achievement) and Katie Stam (Heart of Indiana) — were introduced individually before receiving a medallion, certificate and a floral bouquet. Thirty-one other women were listed as nominees.

"This is the most prestigious recognition of women," Gerry Dick, host of "Inside Indiana Business" who emceed the event, said. "These women have led the way for others by breaking down barriers ... We never want to forget the contributions they have made.

"They have real stories of compassion," Dick said of the women who "really impact our state ... "

Betsy Corridan, chairperson of the ICW said, "I'm impressed by all that can be accomplished by a small group of women."

Hillenburg was nominated by Bonita Embry Coots, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Crawford County.

"Cheryl Hillenburg epitomizes the Indiana Commission for Women's purpose: assessing, advocating, partnering and representing," she said. "Cheryl is steadfast and persistent in her focus, a no-nonsense professional concentrating her energies day in and day out as an advocate for women and children."

Hillenburg, who is serving her second term as Crawford County prosecutor, has been an advocate for the prevention of domestic violence and child abuse.

"Unfortunately, our world is riddled with abuse," Coots said. "Many victims live in fear of their abusers. They have no voice. Cheryl's advocacy efforts speak for these victims. With a lifetime of focus on prevention/education and the prosecution of the guilty, many offenders have successfully been sentenced through the judicial system."

Hillenburg, while accepting her award from Erin Houchen, said, "It's an honor for me to receive this. ... I think there's a lot of things we can do for women."

Beginning her law career in Fort Wayne, Hillenburg gradually made her way to Southern Indiana.

"I hope when I look back on life, I can say I have made a difference in children's lives," she said.

Coots, who, along with others from the CFCC and other friends of Hillenburg attended the ceremony that concluded with a catered reception, said, "I am personally in awe of Cheryl's advocacy efforts and dedication. She is considered a pioneer in her own time. Cheryl's development of innovative support programs and education continues to connect those in need with available resources. Cheryl's footprint on our earth grows with each passing day and will continue to do so well beyond her lifetime even after Cheryl passes the torch forward."

After the recipients had been recognized, Kristin Svyantek Garvey, executive director of the Indiana Commission for Women, spoke.

"It took women with tenacity and men with fortitude to make the change," she said, adding there's still work to be done, as women make up only half of the workforce.

"We need to teach our daughters where we've been ... and inspire them to be whatever they dream to be," Garvey said. "We must build a society where women have every opportunity open to them."

The program included musical selections by the Capital City Chorus, an all-woman's a cappella group.

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    Excellent Choice
    April 08, 2011 | 11:06 AM

    I have known Cheryl for many years and I can't think of a more deserving recipient for this award! She is amoung the smartest, most dedicated and head-strong women I know and we need more people like her. Congrats, Cheryl!!

    S. Romero
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