Local women honored for their leadership

Local women who have made an impact on the community with the good deeds they do were honored this week by the newly combined Malibu Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce. About 200 people gathered for a luncheon at Duke’s restaurant on Nov. 3 to congratulate the honorees and, for many, to reunite with friends they hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic.

The Chamber’s 2022 Women’s Leadership Awards was emceed by Mistress of Ceremonies Heidi Bernard of Pepperdine Crest Associates. Bernard is also a past chair and Lifetime Legacy Award winner. Opening remarks were delivered by Bernard, representing the university as a cosponsor along with The Malibu Times. Hayley Mattson, publisher and editor of The Malibu Times, welcomed attendees to the beautiful ocean view setting.

Malibu’s Mona Kyle received the Women in Philanthropy Award for her many years of service in bringing education to children in Kenya. The longtime education advocate recently returned from volunteering in Africa. “The problem with writing checks or donating money is that, too , the philanthropy ends there. The check is entered into the checkbook with little more thought given to the person or organization that’s supposed to benefit from the gift.” She repeated a phrase heard in Kenya, “What more can I do?”

Pacific Palisades physician Dr. Patricia McDermott was honored with the Women in Health Award for her 40 years of service locally. She apologized to those in attendance who she “had taken a COVID swab from,” adding a little levity to the program.

Ashley McCreary received the Andy Cohen Safety Award, named after the late Malibu resident who served on the city’s Safety Commission. McCreary works for security company International Protective Service. 

“Security and law enforcement is mostly male,” she commented. “It’s a challenge, but it’s amazing.” The mother of three youngsters and cancer survivor said she’s lucky to show her girls “strength and perseverance.”

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A former Safety Award winner, Jennifer Seetoo, Captain of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Lost Hills station, gave an inspiring speech about her rise from Laker Girl wannabe to becoming the first female captain at Malibu’s law enforcement agency, the LASD. Seetoo spoke about “unlocking your potential.” Her humorous speech actually delved deep into the emotional roadblocks that can hold people back from developing their full potential in life. And she asked those in attendance an important question, “Are you mentoring our future generation?”

The Pacific Palisades Community Service Award was given to Marissa Hermer, owner of the Draycott restaurant in Palisades Village. Hermer stepped up during the height of the pandemic with a GoFundMe titled, “You Give, We Cook, They Eat.” She raised thousands of dollars in donations. Her staff was able to make meals for some of the most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic; first responders, medical workers, and the elderly. Hermer personally delivered the meals to hospitals and wherever needed to help stressed out workers during their exhausting workloads.

The Malibu Community Service Award went to Siugen Constanza, who has tirelessly worked for decades, often behind the scenes, for the benefit of children, the Latino community, senior citizens, and the community as a whole. 

Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

“I love to give back, and I love to make a difference,” Constanza commented. “Malibu is a great community that always is there for each other.” She asked, “If we as adults aren’t role models for kids, where are they going to learn about it? Especially nowadays.”

Kelly Furano of Aviator Nation Dreamland in Malibu was awarded the Women Breaking Barriers Award for her entrepreneurship.

And the Lifetime Legacy Award was given to Ellen Shane, who created the Emily Shane Foundation. Created in honor of her daughter, who was killed on Pacific Coast Highway 12-years ago, the foundation provides middle school students in underserved communities with individual tutoring and mentorship in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

It wasn’t all women at the celebration at Duke’s Thursday. One of the many gentlemen in attendance was Mark Harwell of Harwell Brothers Construction who commented on supporting women, “I was raised by a single mother. She raised five of us. It’s reinforcing the fabric of women and their importance in society and our family unit.” 

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