EMMAUS ROTARY CLUB
The Emmaus Rotary Club celebrated International Women’s Day by recognizing two women who exemplify the Rotary Club’s values of service above self.
Honored were Debra Ann Geiger and Jennifer Kunes Driscoll.
Alicia Ruiz-Orbin, committee co-chair for International Women’s Day, said the International Women’s Day Celebration Awards “aim to celebrate women’s achievements and increase visibility.” Members of her committee included David Dunn, Dee Eng and Rose Galeano-Phillips, committee co-chair.
Ruiz-Orbin said the “seed for the celebration” was planted with past president of the Emmaus Rotary Club, Jeff McElhaney and passed on to current President Burt Duren.
Ruiz-Orbin also noted Duren said Rotary did not admit female members until the late 1980s.
“Although the 1989 council on legislation voted to admit women into Rotary Clubs, it was at the option of the clubs,” Ruiz-Orbin said.
In 1990, the number of female Rotarians jumped to 20,000 and in 1995, Rotarians elected the first eight women to become district governors.
“Today, of the 1.2 million Rotary members worldwide, about 272,000 are women. For the current Rotary year, 103 of the 539 district governors are women,” Ruiz-Orbin said.
The Emmaus Rotary Club is the first Rotary Club in the Lehigh Valley District 7430 to recognize women in celebration of International Women’s Day. District 7430 is comprised of 43 clubs and a combined membership of 1,800 Rotarians spreading across five counties: Bucks, Berks, Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton.
Geiger received the Rotary Award honoring a woman Rotarian who is a leader in her chosen field and is leading the way in outstanding international and local humanitarian service.
Geiger has a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, served in the U.S. Air Force for 26 years as a healthcare executive and served as the executive director of the Center for Humanistic Change, a drug and alcohol prevention agency serving Lehigh and Northampton counties from 2004 to 2012.
She joined the Bethlehem Rotary Club in 2008 and has served on the club’s board of directors, as secretary, program chair and program co-chair. She has been the Bethlehem Rotary Club grant writer since 2012 and serves on the board of the Bethlehem Rotary Foundation.
Internationally, Geiger was a non-medical volunteer in the Rotaplast Medical Mission to Pereira, Colombia in South America.
Locally, she serves on the board of directors of the Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley and has served as a veteran mentor with the Lehigh County District Attorney’s office, served as treasurer for her church for three years and led the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation through their most recent preparation for foundation certification. She and her husband participate in the Leonard Pool Society, a philanthropic support arm of Lehigh Valley Health Network and she is a past board member/ president of the Bethlehem AIDS Service Center.
In accepting the award, Geiger said, “I think all of us need to take risks ... and continue to do the wonderful work that we do as citizens of the world. Thank you – it has been an honor.”
Driscoll received the Community Award. The award honors a woman who is leading the way in outstanding professional achievement and exemplary record of service to her community. After Driscoll and her husband had two children born prematurely, they were inspired to create Lily’s Hope Foundation to help families of premature babies during this challenging time in their lives. Founded in 2013, Lily’s Hope Foundation has provided resources, aid and hope to over 1,000 families with premature babies in the Lehigh Valley and in 41 states across the country.
“Given the surprise and inability to anticipate premature birth, we saw a need to help families like us that didn’t have the time or resources to prepare for their child’s early arrival. Additionally, premature babies may have special needs such as specific car seats for infants under five pounds, special clothing with buttons and Velcro for cords and IVs and much more. These additional needs can be hard to find and very expensive in a short amount of time.
“As we reflected on the needs of families who shared experiences like ours, we wanted to establish the Lily’s Hope Foundation to provide resources for premature babies and their families,” Driscoll said.
Lily’s Hope has eight partner hospitals in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina that make requests for support. The families of the foundation are supported through their customized Packages of Hope program that answer the urgent and unexpected needs of premature babies.
Driscoll has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Moravian College and sits on the standards and member development committees for the Preemie Parent Alliance and is a member of both St. Luke’s and Lehigh Valley Hospital’s NICU advisory boards. In addition to being co-founder and executive director of Lily’s Hope Foundation, she works full time as an office manager for Cryo Technologies.
Driscoll and her daughter wrote and published a children’s book, “Lily’s Hope, A Preemie’s Journey of Hope” and has a second book due this spring, “Preemie Parents’ Tips to get You Through the NICU.”
“These two women illustrate the power of women to change the world and improve people’s lives through innovative and impactful projects,” Duren said as he presented the awards to the two honorees.
Ruiz-Orbin said the Emmaus Rotary Club plans to celebrate International Women’s Day annually. “Let us continue to recognize, honor and celebrate the important and impressive achievements of women globally,” Ruiz-Orbin said.