JACKSON TWP.   Honoring mentors is a key part of Women’s Impact, a group that encourages women to unleash their power and to realize their full potential through connection, education and recognition.

The group has given the awards for the past six years, starting out as the Athena Awards and then rebranded to the Women’s Impact Award about three years ago. This year there were six people awarded including five women and, for the first time in the organization’s history, one man for his role in advancing women professionally.

“Our organization is not just about giving awards to women, it’s about what a person does to bring women along,” said Paula Mastroianni, president of Women’s Impact. “We are pleased that Luke Durodogan is on the stage tonight. While this is the first male we’ve awarded, its something we have been working on for a long time. We always said that anyone who has helped bring women along in the workplace, we would award that person.”

Mastroianni said the organization was started by a group of four professional women who saw a gap of professional women coming to the table in companies around Stark County.

“We saw a need for professional women in the area to have an organization that could support them and encourage them to support each other and a place they could grow and find resources for their growth and to lift each other up,” she said.

Women’s Impact does all of those things through education, connecting and empowering women. Formally organized and incorporated in 2012 as a professional/educational organization, Women’s Impact is a network of professionally minded women that seeks ways to advance women for leadership opportunities, fostering an atmosphere that leverages the unique capabilities and perspectives of women. Membership has grown to 160 since its founding.

The awards ceremony was held on March 7 at the Kent State at Stark Conference Center. The emcees were Elaine Campbell, director of Mercy Development Foundation and Barbara Frustaci, administrative director of ambulatory services for Mercy Medical. Opening remarks were made by Paula Mastroianni, development director of the Stark County District Library.

This year’s recipients of the Women’s Impact Awards are as follows:

Andrea Capuano: Vice president of organizational development and facilitator for Heart to Heart Communications. Helping others find their passion and live authentically is something she feels drawn to do. A self-described “accidental executive,” she has a successful 26-year career at ComDoc, beginning in payroll in 1993 and rising through various roles in human resources to her current position. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Kent State University, and her master’s degree in organizational leadership from Malone University. An advocate of servant leadership, Capuano established the Stark County branch of Heart to Heart Communications, co-founded Green High School’s “Developing Leaders of Tomorrow” program, founded and leads ComDoc’s women’s leadership group called Inspire, and co-founded and leads the company’s emerging leaders program called SPLASH! Her service in the community includes years as an officer with the Living Fountain Dance Company and Cuyahoga Falls Jaycees, and as a coach for the Cuyahoga Falls track and cross-country teams. She is a founding member of Women’s Impact, serves on the Business Advisory Board at Malone University and volunteers on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Autograph Committee. Capuano lives in Canton with her husband and biggest supporter, Mark, and enjoys spending her free time with her three stepsons, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters.

Michelle Cordova: For Cordova, mentoring is an important part of her professional and personal life. During her 22 years with the Stark County Prosecutor’s office, including the past 15 years as chief of the juvenile division, and while managing a staff of 12 professionals, Michelle has mentored 84 interns, including undergrads considering legal careers and law students, and 10 new attorneys participating in a lawyer-to-lawyer mentoring program sponsored by the Ohio Supreme Court. A graduate of The University of Akron School of Law, she actively addresses major social issues by participating in the Juvenile Human Trafficking Task Force that primarily impacts girls, and the Stark County Opiate Task Force. Named by the Canton Repository in 2012 as one of Stark County’s 10 most interesting people, Cordova is an ardent quilter who has made more than 400 quilts. She has donated many to nonprofit organizations to help raise money through auctions. Michelle and her husband, Andrew, are raising four children, ages 14 to 23. She has been involved with many school, church and scouting activities, including coaching with Girls on the Run and (North Canton) Viking Victory Run. She also volunteers monthly at the Refuge of Hope in Canton where she serves meals and recently joined the board of directors.

Rebecca J. Crowl: When Crowl was appointed vice president and chief nursing officer of Aultman Hospital, the CEO doubled her salary. “I told him it was too much money and I couldn’t accept it,” she recalled. “He told me to take the extra money and learn about investing. And, if after a year, I still thought my salary was too high, he would reduce it.” After a year, she asked for a raise. That began her quest to learn the business world as she transitioned from working mostly with women in a clinical patient care environment to working mostly with men at the executive business level. At age 35, she was the youngest ever promoted to the highest nursing position. Her mentor and CEO, Richard Pryce, was instrumental in teaching and guiding her in this new role. She earned a diploma from Aultman School of Nursing, bachelor’s degree in nursing from Kent State University and a master’s degree in nursing administration from The University of Akron. Becky led the team that launched Aultman College of Nursing and Health Sciences in 2004. She was named the first president and held that position until she retired in 2018, after 44 years with Aultman. A graduate of Leadership Stark County, Crowl served as president of Junior Achievement, board member of the Greater Stark County YMCA and chair of Walsh University’s nursing advisory council. Today, she co-chairs fundraising for the Canal Fulton YMCA. Three years ago, Crowl married Jenny, her partner of 30 years. Together, they raised two adopted daughters.

Luke Durodogan: In a published statement, Durodogan said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without women.” He is president of Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems, and the first man to receive a Women’s Impact Award. “All my life, I’ve had strong women influencers. In business, a woman promoted me to my first vice presidency. In my family, all the women have been brilliant and fierce – my grandmother, who immigrated from Poland, my mother, my wife and my daughter.” He met his wife of 40 years, Elizabeth, when they studied together at Yale University. Daughter Hayley graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Women’s Studies. Durodogan credits her with the idea to start Meggitt’s Women in Leadership (WIL) group. When Hayley asked if there were many women executives, Luke realized there were not, so he set about establishing programs for career advancement. The WIL in Akron has become the model for the corporate-wide group at Meggitt Aerospace After a 40-year career, including 30 years in the aerospace industry at McDonnell Douglas, Allied Signal and Honeywell, Luke is planning to retire from Meggitt at the end of 2019. He plans to do more than relax in his retirement years. He and Elizabeth are now heavily involved in charity work, trying to give back the goodness they’ve been given. He also will continue his plan participation work with venture capital and private equity companies.

Helen Garofalo: Garafalo's profile related a story about a man visiting her campaign booth as the Stark County Fair in 1979 who asked her, “Can you trust a woman in public office?” “I don’t know if you can trust every woman, but you can trust this one,” she responded. “But, can you trust every man?” She won that contest for Stark County Clerk of the Common Pleas Court – the first woman to win a countywide election. Garafalo was re-elected twice for a total of 12 years in office. Her integrity and managerial capabilities are well-known. While she was serving as the first woman director of the Stark County Board of Elections, from 1977 to 1979, several prominent attorneys urged her to run for Common Pleas Court clerk, based on her prior 27 years as deputy clerk and chief deputy. Earlier, when she was named elections director, a local politician objected to paying her the regular salary because it was more than her deputy (a man) would be paid. Finally, the Secretary of the State of Ohio intervened and made sure she received the regular salary. In the mid-‘70s, Garafalo worked as the first woman bailiff in the court of the first black Stark County judge, Ira Turpin. For decades, she supported many women’s judicial and political campaigns by hosting and organizing “backyard picnics” where voters met candidates throughout the county. Helen and her late husband, Carl Garofalo, group leader in maintenance engineering at Timken, raised five children. She now has 14 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Kari Groh: Groh’s mother had to sign a work permit to allow her underage 17-year-old to work at The Timken Company. Groh had graduated from high school a year early and was eager to start classes at The University of Akron, but she needed a job to put herself through school. Equipped with shorthand and typing skills, she accepted a secretarial position and began what she thought would be her job for a few months, at most. Nonetheless, 41 years later, Groh retired in 2016 as vice president of communications and Timken’s most senior female executive. Throughout her career, Groh viewed her mother, now 81, as a trailblazer in her own right, and found in her the inspiration to achieve unprecedented success. With a journalism degree in hand, Grooh moved into PR and communications management at Timken, and continued her evening studies to earn her MBA degree. Mid-career, she pursued an opportunity to learn the operations side of the bearings business, overseeing global customer service and logistics, and gaining valuable insights for when she was asked to join the executive team as Timken’s chief communications officer in 2009. She helps women build their self confidence and personal brand and often quotes Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” Parents of three adult children and an adoring golden “retreater” Luna, Kari and her husband, Gary, call Canton home.

To learn more about Women’s Impact, Inc., visit http://www.womensimpactinc.com/