7 to be honored at YWCA Dayton’s Women of Influence luncheon

The honorees will be recognized Thursday for their community contributions.

YWCA Dayton is recognizing seven women in the Dayton community who work to further the organization’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

The women will be honored at the nonprofit’s 2023 Women of Influence (WOI) luncheon on Thursday, March 9 at the Dayton Convention Center.

Six of the women will be recognized as honorees of this year’s WOI class while a seventh woman will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Since 1998, the YWCA Dayton WOI Awards have recognized and honored more than 180 influential women in the Dayton area, visionaries and thought leaders who have made a difference in our community through their dedication to the YWCA mission of empowering women, eliminating racism, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all,” a press release from the organization said.

The six honorees were selected from a pool of 67 nominations by YWCA leadership and the volunteer WOI Committee. The Lifetime Achievement Award winner was selected from the pool of past WOI honorees based on her continued contribution to the community.

Meet the seven women who will be honored during the Women of Influence 25th anniversary luncheon:

Women of Influence Honorees

Melodie Bennett

Executive Director, House of Bread

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Melodie Bennett has been the executive director of House of Bread, a nonprofit organization in Dayton, since 2009.

“The work we do at House of Bread is all about wanting true social justice for people living in poverty, and to change the systems that keep people in poverty — that do not allow for upward mobility,” Bennett said.

She said she was completely shocked when she realized she was selected as an honoree.

“There are so many women in the Dayton community working and collaborating every day in their respective neighborhoods and groups, in both small ways and major ways, to make Dayton a better place for everyone to live and thrive, and every woman who gets up every day, has my respect,” Bennett said.

She added, “I’ve been to the luncheon in previous years, I’ve seen the faces of the women recognized in previous years, and I’ve always been in awe of their achievements. Actually, I still am in awe.”

As the executive director at House of Bread, Bennett said her role is to advocate for people in the Dayton community who come to the organization. She said she also helps other members of the community understand the factors and situations that lead people to walk through the doors of House of Bread.

“We so often have stereotypical ideas of what poverty, hunger and homeless look like, and we’re quite often missing an understanding of all the pieces that contribute,” Bennett said.

When asked what inspires her to contribute to the Dayton community, Bennett said it’s the people she has met and the stories of their lives.

“It’s so much more than just numbers of people needing social services — it’s about the families and the lives impacted by decisions that are made on a small day to day level, and much bigger decisions made on a city, state, and even federal level,” Bennett said.

Marvene Mitchell Cook

Director of CARES Act and Workforce Development, Montgomery County

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Marvene Mitchell Cook, the director of CARES Act and Workforce Development in Montgomery County, said her county career started at the age of 19 and fueled her public administration journey of over 32 years.

“Recognizing that I was once a youth intern that became the first African American Assistant Treasurer over cash management at the age of 24, proves that young people can do whatever they set their minds to,” Mitchell Cook said. “This honor solidifies that support and mentoring can go a long way to compel young adults to greatness.”

As the Director of the Montgomery County CARES Act, Mitchell Cook said she leads her team with a “meet them where they are” philosophy. As the small business community was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Mitchell Cook was instrumental in providing access to grant funding to businesses and organizations across 20 or more jurisdictions within Montgomery County.

Mitchell Cook also serves on various boards across the area including the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board, Montgomery County Out of School Youth Board, University of Dayton — Greater West Dayton Incubator Advisory Board and Dayton Public Schools — Business Advisory Board, among others and is an active member of the Dayton Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a public service sorority.

She was the recipient of the Dayton Area of Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year award in 2020, the NAACP Dayton Chapter 2019 Chair Lady of Community Engagement and the Community Champion Award of 2019 from Tabernacle Baptist Church.

“I’m inspired by being in close contact with people with similar views and values such as promoting equity and inclusion and freedoms for all. I find myself collaborating with community activists who also share those same values and ideals to build up the workforce and community,” Mitchell Cook said.

When asked how it feels to be selected as a WOI honoree, Mitchell Cook said she is appreciative and humbled knowing that there were so many influential women before her.

“This accomplishment is not something that I did alone, and there are many others who deserve to share in this award. There were many women and men who provided emotional support and education along the way that have been my inspiration,” Mitchell Cook said. “My mom always told me “to thine own self be true.” “Because if I didn’t believe in me no one else would.””

Mitchell Cook said she has always emphasized activism — from starting campaign literature drops as an 8-year-old to introducing workforce resources, paving the way forward for women in business and building innovative programs to mentoring youth as an adult.

“I’m ecstatic the work that I am so passionate about also resonates with others,” Mitchell Cook said. “I hope that this recognition of my work can serve as an inspiration to others in the community.”

She said her commitment to the community is a direct reflection of her commitment to her faith.

Joanne “Jo” Granzow

Community Volunteer

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Joanne “Jo” Granzow, a longtime community volunteer, said being selected as a WOI honoree is satisfying as it represents many years of dedication to meaningful endeavors.

“Recognition, after 50 years of volunteering, comes as a welcome surprise,” Granzow said.

Much of Granzow’s work focuses on preservation and restoration.

Granzow is a founding member of Friends of the Dayton Arcade, a group focused on preserving the Arcade. She is also an active participant in the Garden Club of Dayton working to promote community beautification and education of the natural world.

“Inspiration to contribute to the community stems from the fact that Dayton is home,” Granzow said. “I am a lifelong resident who appreciates our great history and the beauty of our landscape and changing seasons.”

Granzow has received several awards from the Garden Club of America including 50 Years of Service Medal of Merit and the Conservation Committee: Advocacy and Protection of Natural Resources Award of Excellence, among several others. She also received the Partners for the Environment (Dayton Foundation) 2019 Lifetime Award to celebrate her work to preserve and restore the environment and agricultural resources of the Great Miami River and Watershed.

Granzow partnered with YWCA Dayton in 2010 as a founding member of Friends of the Dayton Arcade to host a joint fundraiser called, “Jewels of the Gem City.” She said they sold tickets for tours of the Dayton Arcade, YWCA Dayton and the Dayton Woman’s Club. Tours were followed by a gala dinner and awards presentation.

Granzow said she plays a role in making a difference in Dayton by participating in the well-being of the community.

“I would hope that people realize the joy and satisfaction of getting out yourself — to learn and to realize how many wonderful people there are out there.”

Michelle Kaye

Vice President and Client and Community Relations Director, PNC Bank

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Michelle Kaye, vice president and client and community relations director at PNC Bank moved to the Miami Valley in 1988 and said the Dayton area has come a long way since then.

“We have work to do, but that’s what inspires me,” Kaye said. “Working with others to make our community better for everyone, watching the growth, the inspiration, the vibrancy, all of it.

As the client and community relations director at PNC Bank, Kaye said she has the privilege of working with the bank’s regional president and various lines of business, developing and implementing key regional initiatives, events and projects. She said she works to bring business and non-profit leaders in the community together and to connect resources.

“Every day, I work with others and their respective organizations to break the cycle of economic insecurity and homelessness and achieve self-sufficiency through assistance and support,” Kaye said. “This is not just for women but for all members of our community. All boats rise with tide. Assisting others and meeting them where they are is what we should all be doing.”

Kaye serves on several boards across the Dayton area including the YMCA of Greater Dayton, YWCA of Dayton, Learning Tree Farm, Learn To Earn Dayton and the Five Rivers Metro Parks Foundation.

She was the recipient of the 2002 Dayton Business Journal “40 Under 40,” 2010 Leukemia/Lymphoma Society Women of The Year and the 2011 WiBN Top 25 Women To Watch.

When it comes to being a WOI honoree, she said she is humbled and honored to be part of a fabulous group of women and owes much thanks to many incredible mentors who have believed in her.

“This is one of those honors that you never expect to receive. You go about doing your “thing” because it’s just what you do,” Kaye said. “I never thought receiving this honor would be possible and I am in awe of the women who have come before me. It is one thing to be well-liked and respected for your talent or skills, but to truly have influence, you need to be known for your ability to make sound decisions and drive progress and measurable growth.

Kaye said she believes there are three qualities critical to being able to exert influence: passion, courage, and collaboration.

Carol Prewitt

President, Prewitt Consulting LLC

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Carol Prewitt, president of Prewitt Consulting LLC, is a Dayton native and United States Air Force veteran.

“What inspires me to continue to contribute to the Dayton community is the love I have for humanity, the responsibility I have to inspire and empower others to be their best. The hope and love that I continue to see in others regardless of the ills in our society,” Prewitt said.

When asked what being a WOI honoree means to her, Prewitt said, “It means the home training I embraced from my great-grandmother who reared me, has made a difference not only in my life but the lives of others who I have encountered over the years.”

She said she is intentional and mindful of being a servant leader and serves with gratitude and thanksgiving to God.

“My passion is to help others, especially our children, realize their potential, have faith in themselves and their abilities, and be purposeful in creating a beloved community for all people,” Prewitt said.

Through opportunities to volunteer in support of the YWCA’s programs and projects, Prewitt said she remains proactive in educating, inspiring and empowering the girls and families about the mission of the YWCA.

Prewitt is also a silver star member and public relations chairman for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, Beta Eta Omega Chapter (Dayton), College Promise mentor, Dayton Leadership Academies board member, lead advisor for the Leaders of Tomorrow Program of the Dayton Chapter National Black MBA Association and is involved with several other organizations.

She was the recipient of the Department of the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award, Amer Court No. 65 Excellence in Leadership, Mary Scott Legacy Award and WiBN 2013 Top 25 Women to Watch Honoree, among other awards and honors.

“I am truly honored and humbled to be selected to join other women I admire and respect for their tireless contributions, effecting positive change in the lives of others and the community,” Prewitt said. “I give God all the glory. I am a firm believer God blessed me with the gift of life and what I do with my life is my gift to Him.”

Carolyn Rice

Montgomery County Commissioner

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Carolyn Rice, a Dayton native who serves on the Montgomery County Commission, said she grew up in a family that valued service.

“My father was an educator and my mother was a nurse. They instilled in me a love of community,” Rice said. “My career path eventually led me to public service which I have discovered is my true calling. For me, there is no greater reward than tackling a difficult problem and finding a solution that will improve the situation and help people.

“I know no greater way to honor the values and the community I cherish than to dedicate my time, experience, and energy to working toward a better future for us all, Rice said.”

As a county commissioner, Rice works with her two fellow commissioners to address some of the community’s most complex problems and collaborates with a variety of partners to find solutions. She said she focuses on housing, early childhood development, youth, sustainability and the environment, criminal justice and mental health.

“Both professionally and personally, many of my activities and energy support and align with the YWCA’s mission,” Rice said. “Montgomery County considers the YWCA a strong community partner and our funding has supported a variety of YWCA Dayton’s programming related to domestic violence, housing for those at risk for homelessness, leadership skills development, and other services.”

Rice also serves on several boards and committees including Chair of Montgomery County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank), Montgomery County Investment Advisory Board, Montgomery County Planning Commission, Montgomery County Local Emergency Planning Committee, and the Community Improvement Corporation Board, among others.

Some of her most recent recognitions include the 2022 National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton Humanitarian Award and 2021, 2020 and 2019 Dayton Business Journal Power 50 honoree.

Rice said when she found out she was a WOI honoree it brought tears to her eyes.

“To be named a YWCA Woman of Influence means the world to me,” Rice said. “Know that I believe that with honors like this comes a responsibility to reach out to other women (and men) of all ages and help them believe in their own gifts and the role they can play in furthering the YWCA’s mission by making our community more equitable, just, and peaceful for all.”

Lifetime Achievement Honoree

Susan Gruenberg

Community Advocate

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Susan Gruenberg is a longtime community advocate receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award. She was first honored as a WOI honoree in 2003.

Gruenberg said receiving this award is both overwhelming and humbling.

“I am honored that they have faith in me and my commitment to our community,” she said.

When Gruenberg moved to Dayton 53 years ago, she said she joined the Junior League of Dayton where she was taught about every place in town and how to be a good volunteer.

Gruenberg has been a dedicated volunteer in the Dayton region, working with more than 35 nonprofits. She was also instrumental in the revitalization of the Dayton Arcade as a part of Friends of the Dayton Arcade which fought to save the Arcade from demolition. Her current volunteer focus is with Soroptimist International of Dayton working on finding missing and exploited children, in addition to serving on the Board of the Sidewalk Soldiers, who are survivors helping survivors.

“Every person and organization that I have had the privilege to work and collaborate with knows they can call on me,” Gruenberg said. “As the song says, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no…” I am blessed to have crossed paths with so many wonderful people who I might otherwise have never met.”

Other honors she has received include Dayton Daily News’ Top Ten Women in 1997, Beth Abraham Synagogue’s Women of Valor Award in 2013 and the 2018 Junior League of Dayton Sally Riffle Award for Innovative Leadership.

“The real award is making a difference and helping others,” Gruenberg said.

Thursday’s luncheon is sold out. Visit www.ywcadayton.org to learn more about the YWCA’s mission.

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