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Awards celebrate Baltimore women with spirit

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Alice Ann Finnerty, 75, was born in Baltimore, grew up in Baltimore, was married in Baltimore, raised six children in Baltimore and ran two businesses in Baltimore. In September, she was honored with the 2013 Spirited Woman of Baltimore Award, recognizing her philanthropic and professional accomplishments.

"I was very humbled by it," said Finnerty, whose Turnover Shop consignment store in Hampden recently marked 35 years since she founded it. Finnerty also founded and ran the Finnerteas Tea Room in Hampden from 2003 until severe storm damage forced its closing in 2007.

The Spirited Woman awards are given by MyCity4Her, an organization founded and run by Monyka Berrocosa. In 2013, the group's seventh year, about 70 women were nominated, and 10 were honored. The winners included Finnerty, as well as three women between the ages of 21 and 35 who received Baltimore's Spirited Woman Rising Awards; three Spirited Woman in Business award-winners, and three Spirited Woman in Balance award-winners.

The 10 women and their accomplishments were highlighted at a luncheon on Sept. 18 at the Four Seasons in Baltimore.

Berrocosa said she started the awards because "there are so many women doing amazing stuff that people don't really know about."

A panel of judges, including past winners and prominent women in the business community, score the nominations based on community involvement, business success, and "the words in the nomination," reflecting the character of the nominee, Berrocosa said. Women can't nominate themselves, she said, though some try to.

Finnerty, of Guilford, has a long history of community involvement, Berrocosa said. She was a founding member and first president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, and worked to bring together the coalition that in 1995 opened the Hampden Family Center, an organization she ran for years. She has also served on many boards, including those of Union Memorial Hospital and the Caroline Center.

"Success can happen if we want it," she said in her speech to about 300 who attended the luncheon.

Spirited Woman Rising winners are:

•Emily Chiarizia, of Canton, an attorney with Peroutka and Peroutka in Pasadena who helps firefighters and police officers draft living wills at no charge.

•Thomasina Poirot, of Federal Hill, an attorney with Venable who focuses on complex pharmaceutical cases. She's involved with the Baltimore Tree Trust, which is planting trees in low-income communities; and the Great Kids Farm, a nonprofit farm that serves as a teaching tool and fresh food source for Baltimore City Public Schools. "I'm really interested in healthy eating habits, particularly for children," she said.

•Casey Schurman, of Lutherville-Timonium, a second-grade teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary who chairs her school's wellness committee and serves on the board of Earl's Place, which provides transitional housing to homeless men struggling with addiction.

Spirited Woman in Business winners are:

•Ella Pritsker, of Towson, founder of the Ella Moda custom clothing line and creator, in 2009, of the Maryland Center for Fashion Design. She also co-founded the Baltimore Fashion Alliance in 2010.

•Marianne Kelly, of Ruxton, president and founder of Image Recovery Centers, which provide services including hair, makeup and wardrobe help to cancer patients. Kelly and her husband, Jerry, operate three such centers, and have overseen the launch of more than 20.

•Vanessa White, of Sharp - Leadenhall, owner of Vanessa Vintage Treasures in Federal Hill. White also teaches arts, crafts and quilting to students in the after-school program at Lockerman-Bundy Elementary School, and is active with the spring fundraiser for St. Jerome's Head Start program.

Spirited Woman in Balance winners are:

•Lori Villegas, of Arnold, a wealth advisor and first vice president of Morgan Stanley, who helps women and minorities develop and grow their businesses. She is active with organizations including Believe in Tomorrow, The Children's House, the United Way of Central Maryland and the Women's Leadership Council.

•Lisa Nitsch, of Violetville, director of clinical services and education for House of Ruth, who in 2010 was invited to the White House to discuss domestic violence and programs promoting responsible fatherhood.

•Kimberly Armstrong, of Belair - Edison, founder of The Abeona Group, a sustainability consulting group, and an advocate for violence prevention and juvenile justice issues. Armstrong's son was in the juvenile justice system and was murdered nine years ago, at 16. "I want to save as many children and educate as many parents as I can," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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