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Friday, Jan 25 2013 12:03 AM

Wonderful women of Bakersfield

By Lisa Kimble and Jorge Barrientos

In 2010, Bakersfield Life Magazine featured several local women who are making a tremendous positive impact in our community. This year, we've revisited some of those women.

For this "Women's Issue," some of the 2010 honorees have nominated a new group of ladies who are devoted to giving back to our community, and represent it with class and professionalism.

Related Photos

Kim Albers

Patricia Marquez

Cindy Pollard

Cynthia Guimarra in front of Canyon Hills Assembly of God.

Nancy Chaffin

Maria Paine

Brooke Antonioni

Meet this year's group.

The 2010 honorees were: Diane Hopkins, Ginger Morehouse, Judi McCarthy, Mikie Hay, Sheryl Barbich, Sheryl Chalupa, Cathy Abernathy, Mary K. Shell, Barbara Smith, Judi McCarthy, Mary Christenson and Rosa Corona.

Patricia Marquez

Most of Patricia Marquez's peers are still trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Not this enthusiastic community cheerleader.

This young woman on a mission is luring businesses and prosperity to Kern as the marketing and communications specialist for the Kern Economic Development Corporation, and infusing a youthful passion into Bakersfield's branding.

Marquez, a 28-year-old CSUB graduate, joined the Greater Bakersfield Vision 2020 Image committee several years ago. She brought with her plenty of fresh ideas on "measurably improving the image of Bakersfield," helping to update the "Life as it Should Be" mantra and companion merchandising effort.

The result was the "I Love Bakersfield" slew of products now available across town.

"She also believed that if we could educate our community about the positive aspects, they would become advocates-ambassadors and spread the positive message," said Sheryl Barbich, president of Barbich Consulting.

Marquez took to social media and created the wildly popular Facebook page, "Who Knew? Bakersfield." Every week she posts quirky factoids about our town, and collaborated with Advance Beverage Co. to create coasters with the tidbits of trivia. In fact, 250,000 are expected to be distributed throughout the community in the coming months.

In addition to promoting all things Bakersfield, and helping recruit new businesses to Kern with KEDC, Marquez has been involved with Houchin Community Blood Bank's community-wide blood drives, Garden Pathways, and mentored a teen in foster care.

"I had a single moment where I realized it isn't just important to give back, it's something that I must require of myself," Marquez said. "I should be doing far more to help others with all the opportunities I'd been handed in my relatively easy life."

Marquez said her motivation boils down to integrity.

"Always tell the truth and make yourself someone that others can trust and count on," she said.

Admirers like Barbich see Marquez as an inspiration for other local young adults.

"Hopefully her example will encourage younger people to help create change," Barbich said.

But even Marquez, an avid runner, admits to feeling overwhelmed from time to time.

"When I start thinking that I may make the choice to slow down on my community involvement, I re-read a small note taped to my computer monitor which says, 'the more you give, the more you will have'," she said. "It reminds me that as long as I keep giving to others and to my community, I'll have everything I need, including the energy to keep giving!"

Kim Albers

Kim Albers, Garden Pathways' executive director, is Bakersfield's tech-savvy Mother Teresa. Her fingerprints are on nearly every organization in town dedicated to helping the disadvantaged and disenfranchised.

Bakersfield Californian columnist Lois Henry once called Albers "as tenacious as hell." Albers, 44, agrees.

The turning point for the co-founder of Flood Bakersfield Ministries, Inc. came seven years ago while she nursed her mother back to health.

"As I sat there in the hospital, I had lots of time to think about the value of human life and relationships," she said. "I had the opportunity to meet some people experiencing homelessness. My heart broke for them. I truly believed I could make a difference in their lives by being present, listening and loving."

Described as a consummate problem solver, her commitment to advocacy led to the formation of Flood Ministries in 2008.

"Community transformation through the power of relationships is my passion," she said.

In June 2010, Flood's Board of Directors officially hired her as its executive director, and after Garden Pathway's director Karen Goh joined the Kern Board of Supervisors, Albers was the obvious choice to take over.

She is as relentless as she is tenacious. Albers is a powerful voice on the Kern County Homeless Collaborative, the mayor's "A Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness," and Bakersfield Safe Streets Partnership, among others.

According to Albers, more than 4,000 individuals are served annually between Flood Ministries and Garden Pathways.

"There are so many people hurting and in need it is very motivating," she said. "I walk in confidence that this is where I am to serve."

Goh has described Albers as having a "heart of boundless compassion for the hurting, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. Kim deeply feels their pain. She is moved by their suffering, but beyond emotion, Kim resolutely translates her compassion into purposeful action."

In Kim Albers' world, everyone should have a roof over their head. Until then, she presses on "as if lives are at stake, because they are," she said. "We all have to do something."

Fellow community activist Judi McCarthy called Albers' Facebook page "a window on her soul."

"Here she shares her passion for her community work, her concern for our community's homeless, her love for her family, and her deep faith," McCarthy said. "Postings from other Facebookers demonstrate how admired she is by so many in the community."

Cynthia Pollard

If Cynthia Pollard -- the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce's new president and CEO -- faces a bit of a learning curve upon returning home, it isn't likely to be a steep one. Despite a four-year absence, the Bakersfield native, who honed her public relations skills over many years here and earned wide respect from the business community, was the perfect fit to replace retiring CEO Debbie Moreno.

Board chairman Tim Terrio, on announcing Pollard's selection, likened her to a "rock star" in the world of business advocacy.

"She can speak to the plight of small business owners, but also has connections with big business," Terrio said at a news conference last August.

At 54, Pollard's sterling resume would make most green with envy. A graduate of the University of Southern California, she went on to receive her master's degree from the University of LaVerne. Her first job out of school was with Walt Disney Productions.

"My experiences there helped shape my beliefs in business, and standards for customer service delivery," Pollard says.

She launched her own public relations firm in the 1980s helping a broad spectrum of businesses both large and small, including the mammoth Bakersfield Business Conference and PG&E. She also managed government relations for the Central Valley for the public utility, and worked on the Hinkley Chromium Remediation project.

Married for nearly 31 years to her high school sweetheart, Mark Pollard, the couple has raised two grown sons. She credits her mother, Judy Keyes, for helping her juggle the demands of a growing business while raising her family.

"I can't count the times that while they were growing up, my mom would leave dinner on the stove at our house so that my husband and I could share a home-cooked meal with our sons," she said.

Long a familiar face in the local business establishment, Pollard has given much of herself to local nonprofits as well, including California Living Museum, United Way and the Girl Scouts.

"Her enthusiasm is catching, which leverages those activities she champions," said local businesswoman Sheryl Barbich.

"It is the only way that we can continue to strengthen our community and build upon the quality of life for the people who live here," Pollard said. "This community provided the foundation that allowed me to pursue my dreams, so it is only fair that I help sustain the community that has given me so much."

Maria Paine

By the time many women are just beginning their day, 52-year-old Maria Paine has already run circles around most. She wakes in the predawn darkness at 3:45 a.m. to exercise, energize, and prioritize by attending Mass daily.

"I do that so my head and heart are focused on serving others instead of myself," Paine said. "My goal is that each day, I have made a difference to someone."

Then she is off to her day job as vice president of human resources at Jim Burke Ford Lincoln Jaguar where her co-workers warm to her grace and compassion. Paine oversees the dealership's employee charity, and serves as a facilitator for Lead Like Jesus with friend and mentor Holly Culhane.

Beyond the office, Paine sits on the Friends of Mercy Foundation board and assists with the Distinguished Young Women of Bakersfield, formerly Bakersfield's Junior Miss pageant.

"I believe we must all be good stewards of the resources and gifts we have been given so giving back to the community is my way of being thankful," Paine said. "We should all strive to make our community better."

A native of DeKalb, Ill., Paine is one of seven children and a graduate of Illinois State University, with degrees in organizational management and psychology.

Now a Kern transplant, this is where Maria Paine's heart is, bettering her adopted community and ministering at St. Philip the Apostle Church.

She strikes the right balance with the help of a supportive family, including her husband of nearly 28 years, Ed.

"My husband and I were also insistent that our children be involved in the community at an early age," she said. "We participated in many service opportunities as a family, and now my husband and I serve together when we can."

Her volunteer ethic has found a fan in Mikie Hay, vice president of community affairs at Jim Burke.

"Maria's life is framed by faith, family, and a commitment to service over self," Hay said. "Her clear values translate into a sense of fairness and clarity of purpose for all employees, and she has a contagious smile and upbeat personality that make everyone's day just a little brighter."

Cynthia Giumarra

Cynthia Giumarra battled in court when she practiced law for more than 20 years. Today, her fights are outside of the court room, doing what "God calls me to do," she said.

Serving as volunteer as director of women's ministries at Canyon Hills Assembly of God Church since 2000, Giumarra leads Bible studies and group activities, mentors and counsels women, and supports those who have been impacted by abuse.

Among her biggest efforts this past year, Giumarra and volunteers have aimed to raise awareness of human trafficking of young girls while raising funds for two ministries in India. With her leadership, and from the generosity of our community, the effort has raised more than $100,000 to fight against human trafficking of youngsters.

"I feel that I have just begun to fight and intend to do all God calls me to do to help rescue as many girls as possible from this unspeakable abuse," Giumarra said.

Giumarra is still an active member of the State Bar, but she retired as the assistant general counsel for Chevron in 1999. She is now a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God.

On a weekly basis, she meets with a small group of women to pray for our community -- our government officials, those in law enforcement, the judiciary and media, as well as our social workers and the children in foster care.

"We believe prayer changes things!" she said.

In the last several years, she has connected with nonprofit organizations dealing with matters from drug abuse, to unexpected and teen pregnancies, to family care and foster care, among others.

More recently, she has advocated for the Global Family Care Network and its Daughter Project on human trafficking.

"I am at a time and place in my life where I can answer the calls to help people in need," she said. "As a Christian, I believe that not only do I have a responsibility to help, but more significantly, I have the privilege to serve and give to the people in 'my community' as much as possible of the time and gifts that God has given me."

Political, marketing and legislative consultant Cathy Abernathy said Giumarra "devotes her time and endless energy to make positive changes in lives, both in Bakersfield and around the world." Her frequent words of inspiration, Abernathy said, define her attitude toward our city, such as, "We must knit our hearts together across our city and county."

"Cynthia is one of the most humble people you will meet," Abernathy said. "She cares deeply about each person she greets, and her every conversation helps a world thirsty for encouragement."

Nancy Chaffin

Nancy Chaffin sees our community as an extension of her home. It's natural, therefore, for her to care deeply for it, and give back.

Chaffin -- a Bakersfield native and The Bakersfield Californian 's vice president of operations and administration -- sits on several committee boards including board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Central California South and the Girl Scouts Women Influencing Girls program committee; board of directors for Kern Adult Literacy Council; Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce Leadership Advisory Council; and American Lung Association leadership board and holiday poinsettia committee.

"We take care of our home cleaning, improving and making (our home) a comfortable and beautiful place to live," said Chaffin, 57. "I see Bakersfield as my bigger home. Bakersfield has been very good to me, and it is my way of saying, 'Thank you.'"

But, as Chaffin explains, "a tragedy almost beyond comprehension opened the door for me to make perhaps the greatest impact."

In 2001, Chaffin's son Jeff was killed in a car crash, and several months afterward she was approached by law enforcement about a collaborative teen driving program they were developing. She agreed to share her son's story, and since 2002 has spoken to thousands of teens and numerous community groups about driving while distracted, reckless or under the influence.

"You never get over losing a child but my hope is to save at least one promising life and spare the heartbreak to another parent," said Chaffin, who sits on the board of directors for "A Life Interrupted" program. "How could I not do this if the door opened to give me a chance to save a life?"

Chaffin received her business administration degree from Cal State Bakersfield, and last year was named to CSUB's Alumni Hall of Fame (CSUB called her a "tireless community servant"). She sat on CSUB Alumni Association's board for 16 years, and is still involved with the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame committee.

She's received the California Women Lead's Women of Distinction Award in 2011 and three Beautiful Bakersfield awards.

Other previous involvements include serving on the board of directors for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and Junior Achievement of Bakersfield, and others.

She said she is fortunate to have worked and received professional development from several companies including PG&E, ARCO, Texaco, Chevron, and of course, The Bakersfield Californian .

Californian Publisher Ginger Moorhouse said Chaffin is making Bakersfield a better place "through (her) contributions to the community, and dedication to our city, giving back."

Said Chaffin: "It doesn't get any better than working for a company whose middle name is 'Bakersfield!'"

Lana Fain

All of Lana Fain's most recent career paths have one thing in common -- the goal in each job was to make Bakersfield and Kern County that much better.

She has worked for the Kern County Board of Trade, encouraging the film and tourism industry to do business here; about a decade with the Bakersfield SPCA as public relations coordinator, helping the homeless animals in our community; and now she is the zoo manager at California Living Museum.

"I grew up here, so I am proud that all of my career choices helped make Bakersfield, and Kern County, a better place," said Fain, 56. "If you love your community, it is only natural to give more than you take."

Through CALM, widely considered a jewel for Kern County, Fain and staff have reached out to schools, service organizations and other nonprofits -- like the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House, which has its annual Walk on the Wild Side benefit at CALM. Among Fain's favorites is the Kern County Superintendent of Schools' annual Kid's Spree that provides clothes for kids in need.

"All of our signature events at CALM -- such as HolidayLights, Boo at the Zoo, Spring Fling, and the many birthday parties and school tours -- would not happen without Lana," said Steve Sanders, chief of staff at KCSOS and CALM administrator. "She loves her job at CALM, and it shows."

Fain grew up on a farm near McFarland, and graduated from Bakersfield College and CSUB. Her lovs include photography, reading, learning about new things, and of course, animals.

At CALM, Fain watches after 14 acres and more than 80 species of animals who are injured or who cannot survive in their native environment. The facility displays native California animals, plants, fossils and artifacts, and aims to teach a respect for all living things through education, recreation, conservation and research.

"The thing I respect most about Lana is her passion for animals and her commitment to the important educational mission of CALM," said Kern County Superintendent of Schools Christine Frazier. "This comes through in the many roles Lana performs at CALM, and our local zoo would not be as successful without her."

Said Lana: "I feel blessed to have the wonderful job I have, and to be recognized for what I love to do is icing on the cake."

Brooke Antonioni

In 2010, Bakersfield Life highlighted Sheryl Chalupa, president and chief executive of Goodwill Industries of South Central California, for her lifetime of service to local nonprofits. If she says she's impressed by a person's dedication to the community, you know that person is doing something good.

That's the case with Brooke Antonioni.

"I think she is one of our community's young leaders," Chalupa said. "One who will have the opportunity to positively impact on our community for years to come."

Antonioni, 36, is the president and CEO of TRANS-WEST, a local business that provides private security, and commercial and industrial cleaning, and employs 500 people. Before TRANS-WEST, she worked at Court Appointed Special Advocates, and in the Kern County Superintendent of Schools' Child Development and Family Services Division as the liaison to the foundation board. She was also responsible for grant writing, fundraisers and other special projects and community events.

But it's her work outside of the office that has garnered attention. She has served as a member of Rotary Club of Downtown Bakersfield, the board for the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce and Tree Foundation of Kern County, and as a trustee on the Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Foundation and Bakersfield Vision 2020 Task Force.

She also serves as a committee member for Links for Life's Lace'n It Up Walk, CSUB Council 100 and the United Way Women's Leadership Council.

Antonioni said she believes community involvement should extend beyond herself, and involve family, too. Her husband and 6-year-old twins participate along with her, planting trees, ringing bells for the Salvation Army or supporting events for board and groups she's involved in.

"We believe there is no better way to model how to become a positive part of this community and society than to include them in these activities," she said.

The Bakersfield native added: "I am proud to raise my family here, and want to make a positive difference so my girls enjoy an even better Bakersfield."

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