International Women’s Day 2024 – Recognizing Powerful Leaders in our Community

“In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Today – March 8th – is International Women’s Day. A day to bring awareness to gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women.

This year, Wellspring is recognizing local women who are leaders, role models, and champions of equality. Those whose own career journeys have opened up opportunities for other women and have been catalysts for change.

Wellspring enthusiastically announces our 2024 International Women’s Day honorees:

Person holding certificate of recognition

Linda Toohey wasted no time blazing aspirational career journeys and establishing herself as an impressive leader. In 1977, at just 28 years of age, she came to Saratoga Springs as the publisher of The Saratogian, making her the youngest publisher of a newspaper in the country. Just a few years later she joined the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce as the Executive Vice President, a role she held for more than three decades. In 1985, Linda founded a model leadership training program, Leadership Saratoga. With her direction, Leadership Saratoga has launched more than 600 community leaders. Linda has generously given of her time and expertise volunteering on the boards of Skidmore College, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, The Charles R. Wood Foundation, Wellspring, and the campaign team to launch Saratoga Hospital’s Community Health Center. While Linda’s personal contributions are impressive, she has increased that impact by inspiring so many others to community service.

Person holding certificate of recognition

Sister Charla Commins is a woman who notices community members in need and sets to work to find a solution. While her primary role is serving as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren, and Washington Counties for decades, Charla’s impact ripples throughout the network of human services agencies in the region. She was a founding member of Saratoga Domestic Violence Services, now Wellspring, Shelters of Saratoga, the HIV AIDS Coalition, and Community Hospice. Recognizing that basic needs are fundamental to stability, she has worked on housing initiatives including the partnership that developed Code Blue in Saratoga County and served a decade on the board of the Saratoga Housing Authority. From Albany through the north country, she has been the voice and lifeline for disadvantaged community members and a champion for programs that have positively impacted lives.

Person holding certificate of recognition

Assemblyperson Carrie Woerner. After a 30-year career in software and technical writing – which included the creation of new jobs in Saratoga Springs – Carrie served as the Executive Director of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation from

2002-8. Then followed her career in public services as a Village of Round Lake Trustee, Town of Malta Planning Board Member, and her eventual election to the NYS Assembly in 2014. Carrie is a passionate voice for the businesses, schools, culture and the people she serves in the 113th district. And even with that busy schedule, she continues to volunteer serving on the Malta Sunrise Rotary and the Saratoga Center for the Family Board of Directors.

Person holding certificate of recognition

Investigator Vanessa Rose of the Saratoga Springs Police Department climbed the ranks from court officer to sworn officer 20 years ago. While women’s presence in law enforcement dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when Vanessa began her career, few women chose a path in law enforcement. Even today, less than 15% of police officers in the United States are women. Now an investigator, Vanessa is highly skilled in complicated and sensitive cases involving victims of relationship and sexual abuse. Her professionalism and career trajectory provides inspiration for women considering careers in policing and public safety.

Person holding certificate of recognition

Dora Lee Stanley speaks passionately about her commitment to community volunteerism; it’s an ethic that fuels her life purpose. Dora Lee has been a member of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County since 1997, an international organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls through education and empowerment. She is also a member of the Elks Saratoga-Wilton Lodge #161. In 2022, she blazed new trails when she took the role as the first Black woman Exalted Ruler/CEO of the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge. Her rise to leadership is impactful given that women weren’t allowed to join Elk lodges until June of 1995. She has also been a member of the Albany Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, a leadership organization founded by African Americans to provide social and cultural opportunities for their children. Dora Lee energetically works to  address the needs of her community and to rally action for community betterment.

Person holding certificate of recognition

District Attorney Karen Heggen. After 22 years as an Assistant District Attorney, on September 19, 2014 Karen Heggen Esq. was sworn in as the first female District Attorney in Saratoga County. A lifelong resident of Saratoga County, Karen was inspired to pursue a career in the justice system after watching her father’s work as an attorney. Karen leads a team of prosecutors, investigators, crime specialists, and support personnel. The Crime Victims’ Unit is committed to assisting victims as they access protection and justice from the court system. Karen’s work for her community extends to her volunteer service with Saratoga Bridges, the Charlton School for Girls, the Ballston Spa Educational Foundation, Saratoga County Youth Court, Cornell Cooperative Extension, St Mary’s Church, and the Global Foundries Malta Foundation.

These powerful women have made an impact on our local Saratoga community that deserves to be recognized! Wellspring thanks them and the work they continue to do for women everywhere.

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