CALARCO: Honoring female trailblazers during Women’s History Month

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Every year the president of the United States designates March as Women’s History Month, but in some ways it feels like we have been celebrating women’s history milestones since January.

2021 started with Kamala Harris being sworn in as our nation’s first woman vice president. John Adams became the first vice president of the United States in 1789, and the role continued to be held by men in the 232 years that followed. It took more than two centuries to elect a woman to the post, and now that Vice President Harris has broken that glass ceiling, she will not be the last.

More glass ceilings shattered as the year went on. Avril Haines became the first woman to lead the U.S. intelligence community as director of national intelligence. Janet Yellen became the first woman to serve as treasury secretary. Sarah Thomas became the NFL’s first female referee to officiate a Super Bowl, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coaches Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust became the first female coaches to win a Super Bowl. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria became the first woman to be chosen as director-general of the World Trade Organization. And it’s only March.

Women’s History Month is about recognizing women for their contributions, which is why since 2003 the Suffolk County Legislature has honored “Women of Distinction” to acknowledge and recognize local women who work to better our county and nation. One outstanding woman is chosen from each legislative district, and from that pool of honorees, an overall countywide winner is chosen by the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission.

This year’s honoree from the 7th Legislative District is pastor Kara Bocchino of AXIS Church in Medford. I have known Pastor Kara for the last five years and have been working with her on a number of community initiatives. Pastor Kara and her team have personally assisted my legislative office on homeless outreach and support for victims of human trafficking. Her work in Suffolk County extends beyond my district, as she also chairs Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon’s Interfaith Council. Pastor Kara has never backed down to a challenge and has used her extensive training as a licensed mental health counselor to assist the most vulnerable.

This past year, her services have been indispensable, as AXIS Church was on the front line during the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout the spring peak, she provided weekly food and cleaning supplies to over 120 families. She teamed up with HeadStart and the Patchogue-Medford School District to deliver food to families throughout the school district. All of their efforts were concentrated on the health and wellbeing of our local families as they faced quarantines and job losses.

Alongside Pastor Kara, more than a dozen other incredible women were considered as the Suffolk County Women’s Advisory Commission chose an overall winner for the countywide designation. Picking one winner was no easy task, as each of the women considered was distinguished in her own right. This year’s overall winner, Marit Molin, is from the 2nd Legislative District, and she was recognized at the legislature’s general meeting on Tuesday. Molin, of Water Mill, is the founder and executive director of Hamptons Community Outreach. To feed people in need and help struggling restaurants stay in business during the pandemic, she began a fundraising campaign that raised $250,000 in cash donations and $70,000 in food donations. She also founded an arts camp and is involved in helping underserved communities.

Congratulations to Pastor Kara, Molin and all the other Suffolk County “Women of Distinction” honorees for making your voice heard and using it to help your communities.

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