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March 31, 2023

Schiff Announces 2023 Women of the Year Honorees From California’s 30th Congressional District

Burbank, California – Today, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) announced the names of sixteen remarkable women from California’s 30th district who are being honored as the 2023 Woman of the Year. These women have made significant contributions to their communities through civic engagement, community service, and leadership in their respective fields. 

“The sixteen 2023 Woman of the Year honorees are an inspiration to their communities for their passion and dedication to service. As artists, engineers, entertainers, surgeons, bakers, and beyond, these women are not just leaders in their fields of work but in their communities, making our home a better place for all,” said Schiff.

Schiff will celebrate the honorees at a private luncheon this summer. Schiff annually selects women who have made outstanding contributions to their communities to honor as Women of the Year. Any resident of the 30th Congressional District is eligible, and Schiff seeks nominations from the public.

The 2023 honorees are Barbara Monderine-Williams (Atwater Village), Isabel Omero (Burbank), Rhonda Reynolds (Echo Park), Maria Herrera (Elysian Valley), Dr. Christina Ashjian Garabedian (Glendale), Carolyn Ramsay (Hancock Park), Dr. Joanna Chikwe (Hollywood Hills), Alexa Skarpelos (Hollywood), Delores Shine Kerr (Miracle Mile/Mid-Wilshire), Patricia Lombard (Larchmont Village), Barbara Howell (Los Feliz), Chanchanit Martorell (Park La Brea), Dr. Marie Levine (Pasadena), Barbara Kwong (Silver Lake), Evelyn Serrano (Sunland/Tujunga), and Barbara Meltzer (West Hollywood).


2023 Women of the Year Honorees


Barbara Monderine-Williams, Atwater Village

A former music industry executive, Barbara found a passion for baking. She co-founded Auntie Em’s Kitchen in 2002. Later, Barbara and her husband Richard started The Village Bakery and Café in the old home of the L.A. Bread Company, supplying Italian baked goods to the community. Through her “One Cookie At A Time” bakery drives, Barbara has raised thousands of dollars throughout the years, most recently CARE’s Ukrainian Crisis Fund.


Isabel Omero, Burbank

In 2022, Isabel was the driving force behind Burbank’s first-ever LGBTQIA+ celebration “Family Pride In The Park,” an event that brought Burbank together in a powerful display of support and love. She worked with city government, law enforcement, and businesses to collaborate with Burbank’s vibrant LGBTQIA+ community and create a fun and safe experience. Isabel has also been a guest speaker at the Burbank Community YMCA Social Impact Center, Burbank’s first and only LGBTQIA+ Resource Center. When the Burbank City Council declared Transgender Awareness Week, Isabel accepted the proclamation from then-Mayor Jess Talamantes. Isabel’s career as a television Script Supervisor spanned more than four decades of comedy and music series, most notably, all seven seasons of The Golden Girls. 

Rhonda Reynolds, Echo Park

Rhonda moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the mid-90s with her husband and opened their restaurant, Masa of Echo Park, in 2004. Rhonda and her husband donate supplies and food to many nonprofit events, and Rhonda dedicates countless hours volunteering on local committees and charities. Rhonda currently serves as the President of the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce. In the past, she has served on the Dodgers Neighborhood Community Advisory Board and the Echo Park Film District Planning Committee.


Maria Herrera, Elysian Valley

Maria is a longtime resident of Elysian Valley, having moved there from Jalisco, Mexico in 1993. From connecting her neighbors to local resources, advocating for equitable schools, and hosting people at her home, Maria is a leader in the community who embodies love and generosity. Maria is a member of Mercadito, a volunteer-run produce distribution system in Elysian Valley that provides free food to more than 200 Northeast L.A. residents. To her neighbors and fellow volunteers, Maria is appreciated for her positive energy, contagious smile, and delicious food. Maria’s civic leadership started nearly two decades ago when she was a parent organizer with the Coalition for Educational Justice, fighting for better policies for students. As a proud mother of three children who are LAUSD grads, Maria helped win many victories that made student learning more equitable and inclusive.


Christina Ashjian Garabedian, Glendale

Dr. Christina Ashjian Garabedian began her career at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center as a clinical pharmacist. After several years of practice, she became a Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist, a certification held by a small percentage of pharmacists. Twelve years ago, Christina started volunteering for the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. She was a member of the walkathon committee and is part of the donor recruitment team and outreach committee, giving presentations to schools, churches, and other community-based programs. She also was on the committee of ABMDR’s first cancer symposium, bringing free health information to the local community. Christina also participates as a judge for local high school science fairs, and is a member of the Nerouj committee, a program under the leadership of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America, empowering the Armenian youth through education, support, and mentorship.


Carolyn Ramsay, Hancock Park

Carolyn Ramsay is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation. Before becoming Executive Director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, she was a Chief of Staff for the late Los Angeles 4th District Councilmember Tom LaBonge, and Los Angeles Program Director for the Trust for Public Land. Her public service work followed a career in print journalism, as a staff writer at the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut, a correspondent for People magazine in Los Angeles, and as a writer for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The New York Times, and Buzz Magazine. 


Dr. Joanna Chikwe, Hollywood Hills

Joanna Chikwe, MD, FRCS, is a recognized leader in the field of mitral valve repair and coronary revascularization, with expertise in minimally invasive cardiac surgery. She serves as the inaugural Chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. An internationally recognized heart surgeon, Dr. Chikwe has published three textbooks as well as more than 200 papers in prestigious medical journals. One year ago, she was named editor-in-chief of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons' premier academic journal, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. Her research focuses on comparative outcomes in cardiology and cardiac surgery. 


Alexa Skarpelos, Hollywood

Alexa Skarpelos is president of the Hollywood Dell Civic Association. Her dedication has resulted in a more cohesive neighborhood association providing safety information and monthly meetings with updates from community officials. She has been involved in neighborhood outreach events and led neighborhood programs, creating a safer and more connected neighborhood. 


Delores Shine Kerr, Miracle Mile/Mid-Wilshire

Delores Shine Kerr has been on the Board of Trustees of the California Science Center for more than 25 years and is also a member of their Muses program. The Muses support and promote the California Science Center Foundation and its educational programs through scholarships for their weeklong Science Camp and annual Science and Engineering Fair for state-wide 6-12 grade finalists. She's an active member of The Opera League of Los Angeles' volunteer support group for the Los Angeles Opera. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for African Americans for L.A. Opera, a section of the Opera League devoted to amplifying opera's presence in L.A., creating space for African American opera lovers, and bringing African American Artists to the forefront. After almost 70 years, Delores continues to be involved in the Los Angeles Tuskegee University Alumni Association, helping with scholarships for Los Angeles students attending this historic Black university. Her bachelor’s degree in nursing education and post-graduate studies at UCLA lead to a teaching credential and set the stage for her to be a Nursing Education Instructor and health consultant for the state of California, and she worked as a runway model, actor, and performer close to seven decades ago.


Patricia Lombard, Larchmont Village

Patricia Lombard is the Co-Publisher and Co-Editor of the Larchmont Buzz, which provides online news coverage of Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire areas of Los Angeles. She is also a volunteer trustee at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and Vice President of The Ebell Rest Cottage Association, which started in 1918 as a cottage for women to convalesce at and over time evolved into a grant-making endowment. As Vice President of the RCA, she helps manage its endowment and performs the due diligence involved in making grants to charities that help women and their children in Los Angeles County.


Barbara Howell, Los Feliz

Barbara Howell is a seasoned nonprofit professional with more than 40 years of fundraising and management experience. In 2004, Ms. Howell became the Executive Director of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center. BTAC is dedicated to helping meet the short-term needs for food and basic services necessary to live with dignity. Barbara has been instrumental in broadening BTAC’s fundraising activities. She is also a good problem solver and works well in difficult situations, including a 2017 hostage incident that occurred at BTAC’s facility. The pandemic brought additional problems, as BTAC dropped from 80 volunteers to 18 almost overnight, but BTAC never closed. In fact, under Ms. Howell’s leadership, BTAC was able to meet the growing needs of the community, while doubling the amount of groceries each household could receive.


Chanchanit Martorell, Park La Brea

Born in Thailand and raised in Los Angeles, Martorell is the founder and executive director of the Thai Community Development Center, a non-profit organization she founded in 1994 to improve the lives of Thai immigrants through services that promote cultural adjustment and economic self-sufficiency. Her experiences leading to the founding of Thai CDC include working as a planner, as an aide to Congressman Mel Levine, and with other local and state legislative offices. During Thailand’s military coup of 1992, she mobilized the Thai community in Southern California to protest the atrocities committed by the military junta against civilian demonstrators in Bangkok, demanding a peaceful return to democracy for Thailand and its people. She is known most notably for her tireless advocacy on over a half dozen major human rights cases involving over 2,000 Thai victims of human trafficking who were discovered working in conditions of slavery in the United States. 


Marie Levine, Pasadena

In 1982, Dr. Marie Levine arrived in Pasadena as a young student from France to attend the California Institute of Technology, where she received a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Engineering. Upon graduation, she joined the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she is still working to this day. She has had many notable successes and awards during her career at JPL, where her work has focused on developing extreme precision space telescopes and observatories for NASA’s Astrophysics Mission Directorate. In her latest project, Dr. Levine has been the lead for the Integrated Modeling of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), reporting directly to the Mission Engineer. The JWST lead center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Maryland recognized Dr. Levine’s expertise in Integrated Modeling and requested that she be assigned from JPL to join the project. She was the only person from JPL to be embedded within the core JWST team at GSFC. Dr. Levine has received JPL’s coveted Magellan Award in recognition of her work on JWST. She has been an active resident of the City of Pasadena, where among other contributions has worked with the City’s Water and Power department to create a demonstration drought tolerant garden at Sheldon reservoir.


Barbara Poppy Kwong, Silver Lake

A native of Silver Lake, Barbara Poppy Kwong has long been passionate about caring for the environment. She can be seen in the early hours of the morning cleaning up trash in her neighborhood, cleaning the alleys surrounding the MATS Gym in Hollywood, or collecting trash on her hikes in Griffith Park, where she has personally removed more than 4,000 lbs. of waste over the last three years. During her 31-year career at Disney, she was the unofficial "Recycling Queen" of her department. Barbara is a lifelong supporter of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum, the Los Angeles Tanabata Festival, and the Los Angeles Zoo.  She has recently become very active at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants.


Evelyn Serrano, Sunland/Tujunga

Evelyn Serrano is an artist, educator, and community volunteer. She is a founding member of Sunland-Tujunga Forward, a group of dedicated Sunland-Tujunga volunteers who are passionate about their community, equity, and inclusion and aim to create spaces for anti-racism, civic engagement, and input from diverse voices in the community. With Serrano's contributions and leadership, ST Forward has accomplished record achievements in its two years of existence. Serrano received her MFA in Studio Art and Integrated Media from the California Institute of the Arts, her Masters in Education from Alliant International University, and her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She founded Nomad Lab, an award-winning non-profit arts organization that worked with Newhall and Canyon Country residents and city policymakers to develop art-centered initiatives and inclusive spaces for community organizing, learning, and grassroots change through the arts. She has also collaborated with visual and performing artists, writers, policymakers, educators, and nonprofits. She is the Director of Arts Integration and Visual Arts Specialist at California Creative Learning Academy. Her curatorial projects have been featured in Miami, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Montevideo, Tel Aviv, Tijuana, and La Habana. 


Barbara Meltzer, West Hollywood

Barbara's career began in her hometown of New York City, where she worked as an assistant to the producer on NBC's Tonight Show. Several years later, Barbara turned her attention from commercial to public broadcasting, joining LA's then-PBS station KCET-TV as Executive-in-Charge of Talent. Barbara returned to Public Relations as an Account Executive for Boonshaft-Lewis & Savitch, a public relations and government affairs agency. After several years with the firm, she launched Barbara Meltzer & Associates Public Relations and Marketing. In 2007, Barbara's active civic engagement led to her appointment as a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Commission for Older Adults. Barbara's service to West Hollywood increased in 2013 when she was appointed to the Human Services Commission. She also serves as Vice President of the Friends of the West Hollywood Library Board of Directors.