PPH: Maine Women’s Fund honors those who have made a difference, May 19, 2015
A transgender teen, the CEO of WEX and shoe store chain Lamey Wellehan are among those recognized.
Nicole Maines, a transgender teen whose fight to use the girls’ bathroom at school drew national attention, was one of several Maine women and organizations honored Tuesday at the Maine Women’s Fund Leadership Luncheon in Portland.
Maines, 17, won a precedent-setting Maine court decision last year that forced the Orono school district to let transgender students use restrooms consistent with their gender identities.
In accepting the Samantha Smith Award for her work as a transgender advocate, Maines thanked her parents, Wayne and Kelly Maines, for supporting and shepherding her journey to become a strong, independent woman.
“They understood that I was a real girl,” Maines told about 700 luncheon guests at the Holiday Inn by the Bay.
Maines, now a graduating senior at the Waynflete School in Portland, delivered her acceptance speech via video because she’s in New York filming an episode of the USA television series “Royal Pains,” in which she plays a dance choreographer, her father said. Maines plans to study art and new media at the University of Maine in Orono in the fall.
The Samantha Smith Award is named after an international peace activist from Manchester who died in a plane crash in 1985 when she was 13 years old. The award recognizes young women from Maine who boldly work to promote social change in their school or community and inspire other girls to do the same. Maines’ parents attended the luncheon on her behalf.
“It’s awesome,” Wayne Maines said of the award. “So many people in Maine have been so supportive, it’s been kind of surreal. When we needed help, these are the kind of people who helped us.”
Started 25 years ago, the Maine Women’s Fund is a public foundation dedicated to transforming the lives of Maine women and girls through strategic financial grants, community engagement and support of nonprofit groups dedicated to social change.
The foundation presented its Tribute to Women in Industry Award to Melissa Smith, president and CEO of WEX Inc. in South Portland and co-founder of SheJAMs, a Portland-based social club for women of all ages and abilities who enjoy being active, training together and sharing their experiences.
In accepting the award, Smith credited her childhood growing up on a potato farm in northern Maine with teaching her that everyone must contribute to the overall success of an organization. From her mother, Dale MacDonald, Smith and her two sisters learned to disregard the barriers to success that people often put in their own way.
Whenever Smith doubted herself, her mother would level an “icy blue stare” and ask her, “Really, why not?”
Smith referred to the foundation’s slogan, thanking supporters for “investing in the power of women and the dreams of girls.”
Others honored at Tuesday’s luncheon:
• Judy Kahrl, founder of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights, received the Sarah Orne Jewett Award, which recognizes Maine women who exhibit the attributes of women characters in the Maine author’s fiction: true grit, independence, courage, humor and discipline.
• Lamey Wellehan, a 100-year-old Maine shoe store chain, received the new Visionary Partner Award, recognizing the company’s dedication to fairness in the workplace and president Jim Wellehan’s support for raising the minimum wage and ensuring economic security of women and their families.
• The Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project was recognized as a grant recipient for providing free and low-cost immigration information and legal assistance to low-income Mainers.
• Girls on the Run Maine was recognized as a grant recipient for its running-based youth development program, which teaches life skills and builds confidence in elementary- and middle school-age girls through physical activity, problem solving and collaborating with others.
Posted 05.19.2015 under News and Resources