Niagara Gazette

September 24, 2013

YWCA of Niagara offers up its annual Tribute to Women

YWCA of Niagara shines spotlight on awardees at annual fundraiser

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — For Joanne Basta, Tuesday night served as a gratifying moment in her 27-year teaching career.

As the recipient of the YWCA of Niagara 2013 Education Award, Basta's was recognized for her time spent both as a teacher at Edward Town Middle School in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District and as an adjunct professor at Niagara University.

Though she recognized her own tireless dedication working with 5,000 students over her career, she remains humble and willing to continue to make her mark on the future middle school and college-level students who walk through her doors every class day.

"It keeps you young," she said. "(This award) is a great culmination to my career. To know the community supports education the way it does is wonderful. It really is a way up, a way out of poverty. It really is an honor. There's so many dedicated teachers out there."

Basta, a Youngstown resident, said she particularly enjoys the middle school aspect of her employment. She said she enjoys her time with the young students, noting even those awkward moments she runs into a former student at the supermarket makes her happy.

She said her position allows her to help mold the positive people the students become when they're older, a task she enjoys because they look forward to learning when she's with them.

Basta was one of seven recipients of the YWCA's annual awards, emceed by WKBW anchorwoman Joanna Pasceri Tuesday at the Conference Center Niagara Falls. The organization, which promotes furthering the lives of all women through outreach efforts and educational opportunities, received 24 nominations for the seven awards this year, highlighted by Niagara County Family Court Judge Kathleen Wojtaszek-Gariano, Assistant District Attorney Lisa Baehre and Lockport's Ellen Martin, owner of Sweet Sixteen Cafe and Sweet Ride Rentals.

The awards presentation and dinner serves as the organization's largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds going toward sustaining Carolyn's House, a 19-apartment residence for women and children who are rebuilding their lives, as well as other programs it offers to enrich the lives of women and their families.

One of the night's most notable recognitions, though, belonged to a longstanding member of the Lockport community. Elizabeth (Betty) Phillips, this year's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, spent her entire adult life as a volunteer in her community. It's a life she said was "busy."

"I started as a mother and one thing led to another," she said. "I'm really honored to be recognized, because there's so many women who do so much for the good of the community."

Phillips' contributions to the area are well documented. She's a past chairman of the human rights commission, which helped springboard Lockport's housing authority, of which she served as a board member for 43 years. She's been influential within the local Episcopal church diocese and also worked with the national diocese.

She's also been recognized as Lockport Citizen of the Year.

"Participate and enjoy the goodness of life wherever you are," she said when asked her advice to young women.

This year's version of the Niagara Awards also included a new honor. The Friend of the YWCA of Niagara award was presented to State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, in its first year.

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.