Diane Hendricks is dedicated to bettering people’s lives

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Thursday, March 18, 2010
— Diane Hendricks is committed to bettering the lives of people in Rock County. She also is a role model for women everywhere.

Those are two reasons that Hendricks, a local businesswoman and philanthropist, was chosen as one of this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction.

Hendricks does not seek the limelight, so the honor makes her a bit uncomfortable. Still, she said she was honored to be recognized as a woman who makes a difference in the community she loves.

“I’m very proud to be getting this award. It means a lot to me. But I’m not comfortable receiving it,” she said.

Mary Willmer-Sheedy, who has worked side-by-side with Hendricks on one of the community’s largest economic development projects, Rock County 5.0, was proud to nominate her.

“She works tirelessly and without need for recognition or praise, simply dedicating her time to accomplishing our task at hand,” Willmer-Sheedy said of Hendricks.

The two women committed to raise $1 million for Rock County 5.0 and nearly accomplished that in two short months. “Everybody sees the need and realizes the benefit in the platform,” Hendricks said. John Beckord, Forward Janesville president, said some people might assume that Hendricks’ support is primarily financial, but that would miss the more significant part of her involvement.

“She has committed substantial time and energy to numerous causes she believes in. She has spent countless hours building bridges between Beloit and Janesville, connecting people to her vision of one unified voice for the area,” he wrote in his nomination letter.

Hendricks, who leads the multibillion-dollar ABC Supply Co., headquartered in Beloit, also supports and is involved in many local civic and philanthropic activities.

“Diane has set the bar high and reaches across many spectrums as she and her companies support initiatives that have the intense purpose of improving lives in this area,” Willmer-Sheedy said.

Hendricks serves on the boards of the Beloit Foundation, KANDU Industries, Wisconsin Eye Public Affairs Network, Wisconsin Aviation Academy, Rock Valley Chapter of Wisconsin Women Entrepreneurs and Rock County Junior Achievement. She also is a member of the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, Stateline United Way and Republican National Committee.

Hendricks said she gets involved in organizations if she respects them and if she thinks she can help.

Through her involvement in the corporate and nonprofit worlds, Hendricks also is in a position of affect women’s lives daily.

“Her company is full of women who have successfully risen to the top in an organization that could often be termed a nontraditional women’s environment. But Diane, and her late husband Ken, have changed that stereotype,” Willmer-Sheedy said.

Hendricks’ daughters Konya Hendricks-Schuh and Kara Hendricks-Stecker agreed: “What an extraordinary woman our mom is. Not only to us, but as a role model for all women,” their nomination letter said.

Rodney Oksuita and James McMullen, both of KANDU Industries, wrote this about Hendricks: “… It takes strong character, resilience, resolve and determination to actually survive success of any kind and emerge with the best of human compassion, kindness, caring and consideration intact. Diane is the best example we personally know that exemplifies what people can aspire to no matter what their beginnings.”

The YWCA award is only one of many for Hendricks. In 2007, she received an honorary degree from Beloit College. In 1995, she received the Beloit Daily News Headliner Award, and in 1987, she was awarded the Independent Business Association Growth Award.


Anne Brophy

It wasn’t until 1910 that the first woman with full police power was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department. Still today, women make up only 9 percent of the nation’s 524,000 police officers, according to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau.

One local female sergeant, Anne Brophy of the Janesville Police Department, has distinguished herself and is among this year’s Women of Distinction.

Brophy has been with the department since 1984. After starting as a patrol officer, she quickly established herself as a leader and worked her way up in the ranks. Brophy has been a DARE instructor and field-training officer. She also has been a supervisor for the police mountain bike unit, the hostage/crisis negotiation unit, the detective division and the patrol division.

Brophy is the only female officer from the Janesville department who has attended the Northwestern University for Public Safety Staff and Command Training, a demanding 10-week session geared toward top leaders in police organizations around the world. One of her nominators said Brophy has clearly inspired other female police applicants and officers to have successful, rewarding law enforcement careers.

Most recently, Brophy was instrumental in changing the way the department handles domestic violence incidents. She volunteered to direct a team of community members to improve the outcomes of domestic violence reports, which ultimately led to the development of the Domestic Violence Intervention Team.

Co-worker Sgt. Brian Donohoue said Brophy is a role model who leads by example.

“Some would say a female has no place in law enforcement. Anne has clearly proven those critics wrong,” he said.

“Brophy is passionate about law enforcement not to earn awards or chart a course in history,” Donohoue added, “but because she is committed to improving everyone’s quality of life in the community.’’

Jennifer DeGarmo

In her interview as one of The Janesville Gazette’s People who Matter last year, Jennifer DeGarmo quoted Henry Drummond: “You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”

Based on the many letters of support from businesses, organizations, colleagues and friends, DeGarmo has always done things in the spirit of love for others and for her community.

DeGarmo is owner of Freelance Illustration Design and Odd Jobs, where she has built a business that creates marketing, public relations and graphic design. But most of her creativity is in juggling her business; her volunteerism and the many in-kind projects she does for local organizations; her family; and her friends.

At 39, DeGarmo already has a lengthy history of community involvement. She has served on the board of directors for the YWCA, is president of Forward Janesville’s Leadership Development Academy, a volunteer for Junior Achievement, KANDU and UW-Rock County and secretary for Washington Elementary School’s PTA.

Her past volunteer projects include United Way, Forward Janesville, the city of Janesville, American Cancer Society and Janesville Noon Rotary. She also has a long list of pro-bono work, which includes Lutheran Social Services’ Child’s First, Rock County Humane Society, local Catholic Schools, YWCA, Janesville Youth Hockey, TAGOS, Rotary Gardens and Tee it Up for Women.

In her leadership academy role, DeGarmo was instrumental in collaborating with Beloit to secure both participants and locations for sessions.

DeGarmo is known to be a role model for balancing work and family. As the mother of two boys, she—together with her husband, Craig—tackles the challenges and joys of parenthood with a sense of humor, dignity and respect.

As someone who has witnessed cancer throughout her family and is a survivor herself, DeGarmo has a strong sense of compassion and empathy for others, said Jennie Krajeck, nominator.

“Jen is so strong-willed,” Krajeck said. “Even in her own personal times of need, Jen is always quick to point out the positive, explaining there are folks out there in worse situations.”

Dr. Kim Kostka

The only female full professor and the newly appointed associate dean on the UW-Rock County campus, Dr. Kim Kostka, professor of chemistry, has reached a level of professional success attained by few women in higher education.

During her second year at the university nearly 15 years ago, Kostka was ranked “exceptionally meritorious,” an award limited to only three faculty members. Since then, she has received many teaching awards and is known around campus as the “over-achieving” professor.

Kostka is a successful grant writer, a recognized researcher, a campus leader of a variety of committees and a mentor for other women in higher education.

But it is also what she does out of the classroom that elevates her achievements. Kostka helped develop Career Choices Unlimited, a program that introduced middle school girls to the world of science-based careers, and STEMs, an exploratory program aimed at middle school students who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

Kostka has also connected her teaching with community service projects by having her students test soil in city parks and by offering free science demonstrations.

As a mother of two girls, Kostka makes it her personal mission to be a role model for girls and young women to excel in science.

Kostka has helped lead U-Rock’s team to the top in the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra’s Trivia Contest, serves on the YWCA Board of Directors, appeared in the Vagina Monologues and volunteers at Montessori Children’s House, where her two daughters attended.

Husband and colleague David McKay praised his wife and fellow staff member.

“She is known as one of the best teachers on campus. Female students, especially, have told me of the positive impact Kim has had on their education. On top of this, Kim somehow finds times for our daughters, teaching them, playing with them, talking to them and shaping them into the fine young women they are.”

St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home

Set in a historic house in Janesville’s Courthouse Hill Historic District since 1950, St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home Skilled Nursing Care first opened in 1955 as a “rest home” for women with the mission of “caring hands, healing hearts.” The facility became a skilled nursing home in 1964.

The Sisters of Charity and the staff of St. Elizabeth Home, according to nomination letters, are still carrying out its mission.

Today, St. Elizabeth’s provides quality health care with compassion and service in its Gospel spirit. Men and women of all faiths call St. Elizabeth’s their home and are cared for by a health care team of women. The home cares for 43 guests with varying degrees of needs. To those who work there, the duties are a privilege and gift to them as they learn from each resident and value each story told to them in their care.

St. Elizabeth’s is directed by Mother Marie Julie Saegaert, the mother superior of the Sisters of Charity who work at St. Elizabeth’s. In addition to her duties at the nursing home, Mother Marie was key to the development of St. Elizabeth Manor, an assisted living community in Footville, and is on the faculty of Concordia University in Beloit, and Upper Iowa University’s Janesville campus.

To many, St. Elizabeth’s is a storybook place to visit, with a combination of fun—they raise rabbits as a method of pet therapy for its residents—and peace that neighbors seem to agree permeates the local streets.

“What a treasure St. Elizabeth’s is to our area, city and the Janesville Historic District,” said Lynn Swenson, whose mother lived there for more than a year.

“It is a quiet bastion of caring in midst of a busy city where the precious lives of residents find dignity, compassion and unconditional love,” she said.

Neighbor and nominator Jackie Wood said the women at St. Elizabeth’s exemplify this award by demonstrating excellence, accomplishment and creativity in their profession. They are role models dedicated to giving back to others and the community.



Who: YWCA of Rock County.

What: 36th Annual Women of Distinction Awards luncheon.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Friday, April 16.

Where: Holiday Inn Express and Janesville Conference Center, 3100 Wellington Place, Janesville.

Reservations: $30 for YWCA members, $35 for nonmembers. Reserved group table of 10 is $325 before April 10 and $350 after. Presenting sponsorships are available for $1,000 and include a table of 10. Reservations are due before April 10 by calling (608) 752-5445 or by registering at ywcawomenofdistinction.com and mailing it with payment to YWCA, 1735 S. Washington St., Janesville, WI 53546. Reservations will be held at the door.

Last updated: 1:09 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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