Dozens of friends, family members, and local leaders joined with the Morris Herald-News on Wednesday to say thank you to three Grundy County women who notably put the needs of others before themselves.
The 2019 Women of Distinction luncheon was held this week at Morris Country Club. The annual event honors three distinctive, giving and powerful women from Grundy County who make important and selfless contributions to the community.
This year's honorees are Lois Darlington, Abbey Fink, and Nilsa Sochan.
Lois Darlington of Morris participates in countless fundraising and philanthropic efforts including Toys for Tots, IC Oktoberfest, and Operation St. Nick.
"I don't know how I do it all," she said, adding that while volunteer work and focusing on the community can be stressful, it's always worth it. "You help other people because you know they'll help you, too."
Abbey Fink, of Gardner, has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare disorder that causes vision loss, and Usher Syndrome, a disorder that can lead to deafness.
There is not a cure for either disorder, and since progression differs from patient to patient, there is no way to know when Fink will eventually lose her eyesight or hearing. Only in her mid-20s and the mother of two small children, Fink immediately thought of her sons. But she decided to also focus on helping others, organizing fundraisers for research.
"I told myself, you know what, you have two choices," Fink said. "One, I can let these diseases take over me, or two, I can take over these disease. I pulled up my big girl pants, and I was ready. I have made it my mission to help... to find a cure for myself and others out there who are suffering."
Fink has raised more than $57,000 for research and trials for those suffering from retinal diseases.
Nilsa Sochan of Morris moved to the area from her native Puerto Rico as a girl, and worked for 27 years in multiple roles at Morris Community High School, showing compassion and support for every student, teacher and parent who roamed the halls. Her desire to give to those around her are what inspired her nominators to put her up for the Women of Distinction honor.
Sochan said she was inspired to work with children by her father, who was a teacher, and her mother, who often reached out to help the homeless and less fortunate.
"I loved working at the high school," she said. "There is a story behind every person, and there is a reason why they are the way they are. Think about that before you judge someone, and always try to lend a helping hand."
The Women of Distinction award began in 2013. This year's selection committee, made up of community leaders and previous Women of Distinction recipients, received more than 40 nominations.
The 2019 Women of Distinction awards was co-sponsored by Riverside Healthcare, Grundy Bank, and Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers, and partners with the Grundy Area Chamber of Commerce, the Morris Retail Association, and Sarah R. Peterson Photography.
Read the full stories of Lois Darlington, Abbey Fink, and Nilsa Sochan in the 2019 Women of Distinction magazine, inside the Oct. 10 edition of the Morris Herald-News.