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"Women of the Year" Include Patricia Durham, Chris Sorensen

El Cerrito's Patricia Durham, leader of the group that started the city's Martin Luther King Jr. parade and rally, and Kensington's Chris Sorensen, long-time community volunteer, are being honored by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

This year's "Women of the Year" named by state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner includes Patricia Durham of El Cerrito and Chris Sorensen of Kensington.

Durham "led the coalition involving her church, the NAACP, West Contra Costa School District and others to realize El Cerrito's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade and events," says an announcement from Skinner's office. "Pat played a leadership role in the rebuilding of El Cerrito High School and has served as a role model for others in retirement when she took over her late husband's tax preparation business."

The announcement called Sorensen "a multi-decade volunteer" who has been "pivotal to improving education at Kensington Hilltop and Portola Schools and El Cerrito High; she led the PTA and presided over the Kensington Educational Foundation. A former Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, Chris was instrumental in bringing Planned Parenthood's clinic to El Cerrito Plaza."

They are among 15 awardees representing communities in Skinner's District 15.

They will be honored at a dinner tonight, Thursday, at the . The gathering, which is sold out, will include a talk by noted Bay Area journalist, Belva Davis, who formerly lived in El Cerrito and .

The call for nominations from Skinner's office in November said, "Nominees must be female residents of Assembly District 14 or women's organizations located within AD 14. Nominees must have made a notable contribution to empowering women, strengthening democracy or improving civil rights; their or the organization's accomplishments may be either as a volunteer, or in a paid position."

This year's award winners include 12 women and three women's organizations:

  • Albany, Peggy McQuaid
  • Berkeley, Anewamerica
  • Berkeley, Rocio de Mateo Smith
  • Berkeley, Karen McKie
  • El Cerrito, Patricia Durham
  • El Sobrante, Maria Resendiz
  • Emeryville, Mary Tagliaferri 
  • Kensington, Chris Sorenson
  • Lafayette, Katie Ricklefs
  • Moraga, Valarie Burgess
  • Pleasant Hill, Pamela Comfortt
  • Richmond, Toody Maher
  • San Pablo, Nour Tweimeh
  • Oakland, Bananas, Inc.
  • Oakland, Women’s Cancer Resource Center 

A brief description of each awardee can be found on Skinner's Web site.

Longer biographies of Durham and Sorensen provided by Skinner's office are attached to this article. 

Skinner also expressed her appreciation to Joann Steck-Bayat of El Cerrito, Laurie Schumacher of Kensington and others on the event-organizing committee, who are receiving special recognition at the dinner:

"A special thanks to the volunteers who helped me establish the Woman of the Year recognition event, and made it what it is today. They developed the program, solicited nominees, reviewed nominations, and much more; they worked behind the scenes to ensure a well-deserved night of recognition for others: Chair Joann Steck-Bayat, Pam Belchamber, Patricia Durham, Rhoda Haberman, Laurie Schumacher, Pat Player, Dolores Dalton, Genoveva Calloway, Jill Friedman, and Judy Garvens."          

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