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Community honors Athena Award winner

FLAT ROCK — Annie Fritschner, a longtime volunteer, non-profit fundraising expert and ordained minister, was honored as the 2013 Vanessa Y. Mintz Athena Award winner during a luncheon Thursday at Kenmure Country Club.

Fritschner, who has dewormed orphans in Haiti, worked for women's rights in developing countries and mentored many young women in Hendersonville over the past 20 years, was visibly moved when her name was announced. She said she was humbled by the honor.
"I wasn't necessarily the most positively responsive person to this," she said of her reaction when told she had been nominated. "I also don't feel deserving."

She thanked nominator Elizabeth Moss, Pardee Hospital director of community affairs and outreach, who also nominated  2012 winner Myra Grant.
"When I saw the names of the other nominees I called her up and I said I know I sound like the runner-up at the Academy Awards but really being nominated is all it's about," Fritschner said.
"You are a roomful of spectacular women — sorry guys, love you too — but the nominees honor me just being in their presence. I am really stunned by this.
"Part of what I want to say, too, is thank you, to the family (of Vanessa Mintz). I think Vanessa was actually the first person I met before I moved here 19 years ago. (Her daughters) Jessica and Andrea used to babysit for my beautiful stepchildren. So this is extremely, extremely personally meaningful to me."
Currently associate minister for pastoral visitation at First United Methodist Church, Fritschner is also an expert and trainer in fundraising for nonprofit agencies.
"It is not always in her words but in her silence and in her actions that she had the greatest impact" on women she has mentored, her nomination said. "She genuinely cares about the struggling, the poor and the underprivileged."
She started volunteering in soup kitchens as a teenager and has never stopped, working in her 19 years here for Mainstay, Habitat for Humanity and Four Seasons Compassion for Life, among other organizations.

"Annie's resume includes two pages that list Significant Achievements and Significant Volunteer Work," the nomination said. "To read the lists is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Her passion for serving her community and others has kept her engaged in her own community of Hendersonville, taken her throughout the state of North Carolina, across the nation and the globe.

"She has traveled to India to nurture women and mentor them about women's rights in an effort to help end India's culture of physical and sexual abuse. In the process she has sponsored two young adolescent girls, saving them from a life of sexual and domestic slavery. As a youth mission leader to Guatemala and a missionary to Haiti, she served as chaplain for a medical team and helped de-worm orphans and children in the hill towns north of Port Au Prince."

The other nominees were:
• Maurean Adams, the founding director of the Children and Family Resource Center. "Maurean never sought credit for any of her efforts, believing that it was her job to make everyone else a hero, to help them overcome their challenges and grow beyond their wildest dreams." Nominator: Spence Campbell.

• Marybeth Burns, who used her battle with anorexia to educate other women and girls about body imagine issues. "Marybeth truly believes in the idea of helping women understand the power within and givng them the tools to meet their full potential. While she says she is not a 'poster child' for eating disorder recovery, and is still fighting the battle, her achievements are awe inspiring." Nominator: Jennifer Marlowe.

• Julie Gordon, owner of Discovery in Action, who has been active in anti-war and non-violence efforts locally. "She coaches women on a one-on-one basis and is a lifeline to senior citizens, providing friendship and support so they can maintain their independence and joy." Nominator: Richard Stafford.

• Melanie Matteson, an operations analyst and community relations executive with Kimberly Clark Corp., is president of the Apple Festival, a member of the Chamber of Commerce board and active in many community efforts. ""Melanie's best demonstration for other women is simply in watching what she does on a daily basis." Nominator: Kimberly Bryson Clark.

• Shirley Palmer-Hill, the owner of Wickwire Gallery and an active participant in the arts and in downtown promotion efforts."She gives generously to many causes and has always displayed and encouraged strength, foresight, leadership and innovation in the people she encounters." Nominator: Stephanie Hanel-Seitz.

• Janice Prichard, Henderson County human resources director, was instrumental in creating the county wellness clinic that has improved employee health and saved taxpayers thousands of dollars. "From the sheriff's deputy patrolling our streets to the EMS paramedic saving another life, Janice's tactical HR strategies truly touch the lives of every citizen in our great county." Nominator: Steve Wyatt.

• Sissy Rogers, human resources director of Selee Corp., has started weight-loss and smoking cessation programs and blood drives at Selee. She is active in mentoring women at First United Methodist Church. "She is truly known and revered by them through both trusted relationships and genuine friendship." Nominator: Mark Morse and Dan Martin.

A panel of judges, only one of whom is from Henderson County, selected the winner based on nomination letters.

Past award winners were Grant, the founding director of the Pardee Foundation; Joyce Mason of Four Seasons Compassion for Life (2011), Pat Shepherd of Pat's School of Dance (2010), Ragan Ward, then of Carolina 1st Bank (2009) and Robin Reed, of the Bares It All breast cancer awareness campaign (2008).

The ATHENA award honors individuals who strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and forge paths of leadership for other women to follow. The Athena Award, sponsored by Judy Stroud and State Farm Insurance, was awarded during the Business and Professional Women's Luncheon, a part of Small Business Week by the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce.