Each year, the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce presents its Women of Achievement Awards to Downriver residents who are affiliated with a nonprofit organization or a business that belongs to the chamber.
And sometimes the honorees are both businesswomen and nonprofit volunteers.
Winners were chosen by a chamber selection committee from member nominations and were judged solely on content with names removed from the forms.
Sarah Kew of Southgate is this year’s winner of the chamber’s Unsung Heroine Award.
She’s devoted to Kiwanis, a global nonprofit group of volunteers who provide community service in many forms, focusing particularly — but not exclusively — on the needs of children.
Kew isn’t just involved with Kiwanis, she is governor of the group for the entire state of Michigan. She leads 160 clubs and their 4,500 members. She also works from home for online retailer Ruby Ribbon and, with her husband, cares for her 5-year-old son Maxwell.
“I love volunteering and helping to make the world a better place,” Kew said in her award speech. “My biggest motivation is my son.”
Creating a better future for children like Maxell inspires her in all that she does, she said. She also volunteers with the Kiwanis Key Leader program, which offers activities and workshops for teenagers, and with the Michigan Young Professionals group.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell offered a special Congressional recognition for Kew on Oct. 18.
The formal recognition talked of Kew “working quietly behind the scenes” to ensure that Kiwanis continues its work for children and the community.
“Known amongst her peers and colleagues for her high degree of professionalism, compassion and ambition, she is well-loved and cherished by so many within the Kiwanis organization and beyond,” the Congressional Record states. “Sarah truly embodies all the qualities of an admirable leader. She humbly strives for excellence without seeking praise or recognition for any of her significant accomplishments.”
Kimberly Kramer of Lincoln Park, founder of Your Look Logos LLC, was honored with the chamber’s Entrepreneur Award.
Kramer’s company, based in Lincoln Park, offers promotional products— everything from pens to leather-bound journals — imprinted with brand names, and also prints T-shirts. She helps the chamber with networking events, and is an active volunteer with the Downriver West Kiwanis Club and Mimi’s Mission.
Kramer said, “I’m grateful to do what I love every day and this recognition is very appreciated!”
Ann Rudisill of Wyandotte, founder of nonprofit Downriver for Veterans, was awarded the chamber’s Inspiring Achievement Award.
In 2018, Rudisill and her enterprise were featured on the Facebook-based reality show “Returning the Favor” featuring TV personality Mike Rowe. The episode has been viewed millions of times, and inspired donations for Downriver for Veterans and raised awareness for those in need of its help.
Rudisill, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, was serving in the Downriver Regional Veterans Treatment Court in Southgate a few years ago when she realized that many Downriver veterans were without basic needs — food, clothing and more —and had no way to get to Detroit for VA services.
She formed DFV in 2017, and it’s been going strong ever since. Rowe donated $30,000 to the group, which enable it to purchase a handicap accessible van to get veterans in wheelchairs to medical appointments or where they need to go.
The DFV warehouse in Wyandotte is stocked with food, clothing, furniture and hygiene products, and Rudisill and her volunteers box up food and other sundries to make regular deliveries to veterans in need to can’t get there. DFV also help veterans with housing, transportation and paperwork.
“Everything we do here is out of the heart,” Rudisill said during the awards ceremony. “How do you not help somebody that helped our country?”
Members of DFV’s advisory board include Dingell and Wyandotte Mayor Joe Person, a Vietnam veteran.
Rudisill is known as a “spitfire” who never takes no for an answer. If a veteran has a problem, she will work until she finds a way to solve it.
Anita Twardesky of Trenton, community outreach and public relations manager for Wyandotte-based Riverside Kayak Connection LLC and president of Downriver Linked Greenways was honored with the chamber’s Leadership Award.
Twardesky, who also serves on the Healthy Trenton Coalition, has been a leader in the fields of outdoor recreation and economic development Downriver for many years. She is a founding member of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, led the development of Huron River Trail Town and founded Destination Downriver.
For Twardesky, it’s all about bringing people and communities together to get more people Downriver outside for recreation, education and exercise — and promoting the area in the process.
She’s an active chamber member, and has served as parks and recreation director for the cities of Woodhaven and Flat Rock. She chairs the Trails Committee for the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association, and is a member of the State Wide Advisory Group Michigan Water Trails.
“We have a great community Downriver and are very fortunate to have so many parks, hiking and biking trails, rivers, and other waterways,” Twardesky said. “Access to our natural resources is key to our region for both economic development benefits and recreation use.”
In 2013, the chamber honored her with its Image Award in recognition of her promotion of the Downriver area.
Winning the Leadership Award this year prompted this Facebook comment from her: “Thank you seems hardly enough. Congratulations to all the women who were honored! You all are amazing women doing amazing work in our community. What an inspiration! Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber —thank you for making this an unforgettable experience from start to finish!”
The Women of Achievement Awards were presented during an Oct. 18 luncheon at Crystal Gardens in Southgate. Women’s health care advocate and philanthropist Karen Colina Wilson Smithbauer, a Trenton native who now lives in Monroe, served as guest speaker. Christy McDonald of Detroit Public TV served as master of ceremonies.