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W.Va. Women's Commissionto honor Otto and Yates soon

April 15, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.-Two area women, Annie M. Wageley Otto and Irene E. "Beth" Yates, are being celebrated by the West Virginia Women's Commission for being role models.

Otto, who lives in the Hedgesville, W.Va., area, and Yates, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., are among 13 women who will be honored April 28 at the annual Celebrate Women Awards ceremony hosted by the Women's Commission at the Stonewall Jackson Resort in Roanoke, W.Va.

Otto retired from the Berkeley County Board of Education after 28 years, including a stint as the school district's transportation supervisor. She now is president of the retired school employees association.

Active in politics, Otto's passion these days is advocating for changes to laws that affect child custody rights of family members in court.

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"I think Annie (Otto) really set the stage for a lot of us who came behind her," said Kimberly A. Sencindiver, who was honored by the women's commission for volunteer service in 2000, and who, like Otto, is active in the Democratic party.

In 1991, Otto worked with lawmakers to pass a grandparent visitation law. She remains active with Grandchildren/Grandparents Inc., which, along with the Relatives as Parents Program, calls for more reforms on the federal level, specifically a mandate that family members be notified in advance of a child's adoption.

Otto served on the party's state executive committee in the 1970s, but resisted running for office when asked to consider a bid for the House of Delegates.

In 2006, she was named Berkeley County Democrat of the Year and elected to the Silver Haired Legislature as a senator.

"I've always wanted to know what's going on," Otto said of her interest in politics.

Otto's daughter, Vicki R. Jenkins, said her mother still is in the know, and it was hard to keep her award nomination a secret.

"She's been an excellent role model to me," said Jenkins, who is principal/director of James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville.

Yates, 43, is being honored for being an Unsung Hero.

"Beth is a shining example of the uncounted women who make up the unpaid labor force throughout the world," Laura Ellison, a teacher at Shepherdstown Middle School, said in her nomination statement for Yates. "She shows a selfless commitment to family; her own and those around her."

Yates is the mother of four - Samantha, Sidney, Richard and Max.

Ellison noted that Yates has devoted much of her time to Jefferson County Schools, including helping organize fundraisers and other projects.

"I just try to pitch in wherever I can," Yates said, emphasizing the support she has received over the years from her husband, Joseph.

"My parents raised us to be respectful and polite and to give back to the community," she said.

Over her years of involvement in local schools, Yates has served on several committees, including the Shepherdstown Elementary Association, 50-Year Committee for the elementary school and Local School Improvement Council, and acted as a PASS Coordinator for children who need social and/or emotional support, among other work, Ellison said.

"She's so involved and so unassuming about it all," Ellison said.

For 22 years, the Celebrate Women Awards have highlighted West Virginia women who are positive role models and are providers of selfless service in addressing concerns of women and their families, according to organizers.

More information about the Celebrate Women Awards is available on the women's commission Web site at www.wvdhhr.org

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