Susquehanna Style’s 2019 Women of Style focus on the small things, and make big things happen. They overcome fears, finding purpose on the other side. Their impact reverberates from Susquehanna-region neighborhoods to villages in Kenya and into cyberspace. They draw strength from family, friends, colleagues, and the inner fires that drive them to elevate the lives of others and create communities formed on shared bonds.
BY M. DIANE MCCORMICK
FOUNDER & CEO | RAFIKI AFRICA
CO-OWNER | RAFIKI DELI, LANCASTER
- As a girl, Dorothy Dulo would sneak food to street people. “I would sneak my books and my food to other kids who looked like they lacked food or needed a book to read,” she says. “From the time I started talking, all I wanted to do was help other people.”
The nonprofit Rafiki Africa was inspired by Dorothy’s first visit to her Kenyan village since leaving for college in the United States. AIDS had devastated the region. Her father, an education official, had started a school for orphans. Classes gathered under a tree. Dorothy’s mother cooked meals for all those kids.
Dorothy was studying nursing at Messiah College, while learning the nuts and bolts of mission trips and community engagement.
“I felt the call to truly focus into what my vision was since coming to America and getting an education,” she says, adding, “Why not?” She worked two jobs, sending every spare dollar to her parents for food and school expenses. She raised money to build one classroom after another. She fell in love with her future husband Roger Godfrey, a native of Uganda, who pointed out that her model was not sustainable.
She discovered a Lancaster Central Market stall for sale. That would suit her idea of a business whose profits would support the mission work. Initially, Rafiki Shoppe sold Amish fare, until a customer asked Roger–her outward-facing, PR-oriented husband and co-owner–why they weren’t offering a taste of Africa. With an enthusiastic okay from market officials, Dorothy began cooking the African dishes she had learned in her mother’s kitchen.
- Rafiki Africa (rafikiafrica.org) now advances education, health, and economic empowerment in Dorothy’s village. Other district schools are following the Rafiki model, while the first of Rafiki’s students are now college graduates and young professionals, carving better lives for themselves and their families.
“Our kids are brave… They’re challenging the way people treat women.”
“Our kids are brave,” she says. “They want to change their community. They want to solve their problems. They’re challenging their local leadership about cutting trees. They’re challenging the way people treat women.”
Whatever works, she says, “we’ll do it.” Lancastrians and many others pitch in. Some offer financial support. Others join mission trips to teach the skills of canning or goat farming. “That’s why we’ve really valued being in the Lancaster community, because people understand helping others and the mission work,” says Dorothy. “I would not be wrong to say that Lancaster has embraced us as part of their family, and whatever a family member’s need is, they come along and help.”
CO-CHAIR | COMMUNITY RESPONDERS NETWORK
PRESIDENT | ASIAN AMERICAN PAKISTANI HERITAGE GROUP, CENTRAL PA
- The first time Aaysha Noor spoke at a state Capitol rally, she was “pretty nervous. It was scary. But for the things I believe in, the things I’m passionate about, I do speak up.” Today, Aaysha is a speaker, organizer, and builder of bridges among cultures. Her work with the Community Responders Network brings her alongside “rabbis and pastors, going to their churches and temples, and bringing them to our mosque.” She often hears people say it’s the first time they met a Jewish person or a Muslim person, “and it’s not that bad.” “I’m glad to find some common ground,” she says.
Aaysha’s journey to social justice advocacy started with a passion for volunteering for Harrisburg-area causes. Then came that Capitol rally–and now, “every week or every other week, I’m organizing something.”
Her faith has taught her courage and resilience. So has her mother, widowed in Pakistan when Aaysha was 18.
“I saw my mom as a strong and courageous woman and the rock of our family who kept us together,” Aaysha says. “She had the courage to step up and do the things she had to do.” With the Community Responders Network (bit.ly/crnpa), Aaysha belongs to a team that reaches out to targets of bias incidents. They organize responses that demonstrate “love and hope, even if the event washateful.”
- Serving on the YWCA Carlisle’s board and the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Inclusion Task Force, as well as championing other social-justice causes, can make for exhausting days. She sometimes worries she’s not doing enough.
“There are things happening right now that you and I can do to restore…faith.”
But then she recalls meeting a Holocaust survivor who held her hand “with such grace and warmth” after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting and told Aaysha of the imam who provided the shelter that saved her life.
“These are the stories that happened years ago and restored their faith in humanity,” Aaysha says. “There are things happening right now that you and I can do to restore that faith, because people are losing faith.”
She is “blessed and grateful” to have the support of her husband and 17-year-old son. It’s a blessing “to get to do what I’m doing with the help of so many otherpeople.” “If you see lack of diversity and intolerance, you can accept that, or you can do nothing about it, or you can take action and make a positive difference,” she says. “All of us have the capability to do that.”
FASHION BLOGGER | MOMMY IN HEELS
FOUNDER | MORE THAN A SIZE MOVEMENT
OWNER | ELIZABETH & WEST FASHION HOUSE
- Some days, Rebecca Wattenschaidt ponders the point of taking selfies and posting them online. Then, a blog follower sends a message. She used to hide her weight under baggy clothes, she’ll say. Now, she’s in jeans and gets tons of compliments when wearing Rebecca’s recommended items.
“Seeing you be so confident,” followers might say, “gives me the nudge I need to keep moving forward.” In turn, Rebecca finds the “daily effort and daily thought process” to build her own confidence. “God has a way of making timing perfect,” she says. “You need to hear what you need to hear when you need to hear it.” Rebecca was “extremely pregnant” when starting a fashion blog somehow seemed like a good idea. “If you give me a shirt or a dress, I can think of multiple ways to wear it or style it,” she says.
“I’m comfortable with myself and comfortable with my size.”
One day in 2016, Loft’s Instagram page reposted a photo of Rebecca wearing a Loft sweater. The comments poured in, thanking Loft for showing “a curvier person.” That started the blog’s evolution into a business (mommyinheelsblog.com).
Rebecca began writing about her own journey “with gaining and losing, and gaining and losing, andgetting to the point where I’m comfortable with myself and comfortable with my size and not just focusing onmy weight but on my overall health: mental, physical, emotional.”
- “That resonated with a lot of people,” she says. Rebecca and her husband, Ryan Wattenschaidt, “are very much a team.” He runs his family’s Maryland-based plumbing business. With their two daughters–becoming three this fall–they enjoy walks and outdoor time on the trampoline.
“We have a nice Sunday routine,” Rebecca says.“We go to church. We go to Dunkin’ Donuts.” When the blog was still new, Downtown Inc. told Rebeccaabout an available retail space. She feared repeating a past failed business experience. At her husband’surging, she plunged in again. “It’s overwhelmingsometimes,” she says. “My store is a full-time business(elizabethandwestfashion.com). My blog is a full-time business. There are some days when I say, ‘What am I doing?’”
The answer appears at the sight of movement “in the right direction, where women of all shapes and sizes are being more represented in the media.” Rebecca was featured on the cover of Redbook in 2017, along with other influencers, for her body positivity. She took the momentum and founded a movement called #MoreThanASize in January 2018, which encourages women to share the reasons why they are more than just the size labeled on clothes via social media and in real life. She’s appeared on The Today Show and the cover of Susquehana Style too. Those examples of confidence and self-esteem extend to her daughters, followers, and customers.
“Even if it’s just one person a week or one person a month who feels slightly more confident because of something I’m doing or saying, to me it’s worth it.”
CEO | HAMILTON HEALTH CENTER, HARRISBURG
- A cross-section of Harrisburg is entering Hamilton Health Center–young families, the elderly, all races and ethnicities. They stroll past colorful, meticulously tended flower borders. They enter a bright, soaring lobby and are greeted by friendly staff. Clearly, pride is on display at a health care facility that is shattering stereotypes of community health.
Jeannine Peterson stepped into a caretaker role at Hamilton Health Center in 2000. She brought 22 years of experience in state government, culminating as deputy health secretary. As she led the facility out of $2 million in debt, she realized that she had to make a commitment. The caretaker role turned into 19 years of employment and counting.
In those two decades, Hamilton Health Center (hamiltonhealthcenter.com) has blossomed. Once a scattered collection of sites, Hamilton now occupies a modern, full-service primary health care facility in a former printing plant. In recent years, Hamilton branched out from the city to provide care in the rural areas of Perry and Dauphin counties, as well.
Peterson says she “stands on the shoulders” of thepeople who founded Hamilton and have kept it going since 1969. “This was created by the community–everyday residents, the business community, outstanding doctors and nurses,” she says.
- This fall, Hamilton will unveil plans for two acres adjacent to its main facility in Harrisburg’s gritty, vibrant Allison Hill community. Child care is a probability. Health care workforce development in partnership with local health systems and educators is another.
Peterson’s commitment to community doesn’t stop at Hamilton Health Care’s sliding doors. As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Epsilon Sigma Omega chapter, she helps the sorority offer financial education, sponsor health care symposia, and award scholarships.
“It all connects me to the areas of my passion,” she says. “It’s that service to the community.” If she and her team have replaced stereotypical notions of Federally Qualified Health Centers with the reality of a “highly recognized, high-quality health care institution that is comprehensive,” then she feels she has done her job.
“I really believe that one person doesn’t stop the show.”
“The community recognizes who we are, and the value that we have, and how many lives we’ve actually impacted,” she says. She will retire someday, but “those are the things that will resonate.” “I really believe that one person doesn’t stop the show. I had a vision. I brought it as far as I could. The next person comes in and picks up the mantle and keeps it moving forward.”
DIRECTOR | BUSINESS SOLUTIONS & INNOVATION
YORK COUNTY ECONOMIC ALLIANCE
- Sully Pinos left her comfort zone, moving from Brooklyn to York to campaign for President Obama’s reelection. Leaving her close-knit family, she found a new family to stay with–one that, like all of York, opened their hearts to her.
“It made me fall in love with this community, where I was able to find so many individuals who give you as much time as you need to make phone calls, to bake cookies, to find a way to help and find how my skills can help for the common goal,” she says now.
When Obama-campaign teammate Kevin Schreiber ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Sully joined the effort. After his victory, she was offered the “incredible honor and opportunity” to serve as his chief of staff.
“I love what I do, but it’s because I love the community I live in.”
When Schreiber transitioned to president and CEO of York County Economic Alliance, Sully went along. YCEA is York County’s driver of economic growth and development. She brings passion to her role, promoting workforce development by linking people and organizations with the resources needed to leverage growth. Even people she meets on shopping trips might get her contact information for help finding the connections to advance their dreams (yceapa.org).
- She volunteers for YWCA York, York County Literacy Council, and York College’s Center for Community Engagement. Sully realizes that her passion for community was inspired, in part, by her own family’s opportunity to learn English at a local communitycenter. “We’re in the world of being connectors and providing resources,” she says. “It makes our community and our county stronger.”
Sully and her husband, Kevin Kennedy, held their May 2019 wedding “in York, of course,” complete with the reception at the York County History Center’s Agricultural and Industrial Museum. Family from Brooklyn and Ecuador came to explore the region.
She and Kevin, assistant school-age director at York Jewish Community Center, live in York City and are a blended, three-dog family, with Sandy, Luigi, and Champion. She has run marathons and half-marathons, inspired by her grandfather’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease. Running the New York City Marathon three years ago, she wore her Michael J. Fox Foundation “Team Fox” shirt and, she says, “my family all wore their Team Fox shirts to cheer me on.” York, she believes, “has been on anincredibletrajectory.”
“I love what I do, but it’s because I love the community I live in. I’ve been very fortunate with opportunities and really great people to help guide me along the way.”
DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS | LANCASTER CITY ALLIANCE
- A New York Times reporter marveled at Lancaster’s scenes of cohabitation–Amish buggies clopping up the street, refugees establishing homes, restaurants plating international tastes. Anne Williams answered, “Growing up here, allthat was normal.” “It’s my job to tell the story of Lancaster City,” she says. “That can mean a lot of things. I try and focus on the people and what the people in this community are doing to ensure that Lancaster thrives for everyone.”
Anne made a life-altering decision in 2013, leaving her post as press secretary for Pennsylvania state agencies–“exciting” and “a real thrill” but a sure path to burnout. It was time to “either make a career out of it or move on.”
“I try and focus on the people…to ensure that Lancaster thrives for everyone.”
“It was at the height of the last recession, so moving on was a lot harder,” she says today. A few years later, she landed her dream job at LCA (lancastercityalliance.org). Anne grew up in Lancaster County’s rural New Holland. She had already moved back to the area “because my heart was there. I was starting to hear that Lancaster was this wonderful place and on fire. I wanted to become part of that.”
- Her goal at LCA this year is “to pass the mic to underrepresented people, so they have a part to play in Lancaster.” It’s a value she learned through YMCA Racial Justice Institute training. She worried that her outreach wouldn’t seem authentic but overcame thatfear by “just being me. That’s the best I can do, and it’s worked.”
In the “best of both worlds,” she promotes Lancaster City in the daytime and the Lancaster countryside, where she lives, in the evening. As an Adamstown Area Library trustee, she’s supporting a capital campaign that is renovating a new location into a state-of-the-art center for lifelong learning.
With her family–3-year-old daughter Holly and husband Peter Day, landscaping business owner–she focuses on “the simple pleasures in life.” Jumping on the trampoline with Holly provides “exercise when it doesn’t feel like exercise.” Their golden retriever-blue heeler Pip loves belly rubs. Anne is perpetually in movement–always on her bike, talking a walk, or “getting those squats in while the microwave is running.”
Above all, she loves hearing people’s stories. “I want people to know that I’m here to listen and lift them up and do my very best at making our community a good place to live.”
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