Alison Bawek — a local business owner, member of the Olney Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors and a supporter of many local organizations — is the recipient of this year’s Greater Olney-Sandy Spring Athena Award.
“I was very excited, and more than humbled to be nominated, especially when I learned who the other nominees were,” she said. “When I learned that I won, I was in tears. This means so much to me. I love this community, and the support is so incredible. Everyone helps each other like one big family. The Olney area is such a great place to live and work.”
The Athena program was adopted by the Brooke Grove Foundation and the Olney Chamber of Commerce to recognize and honor local women for community service and professional and personal leadership. It is presented in memory of Brooke Grove Foundation founder Eleanor Howe Marston, a registered nurse.
Bawek, a resident of the Olney area for 18 years, was honored at a tea held on May 2 at Brooke Grove Retirement Village.
From the moment she opened the Studio of Ballet Arts in 2003, Bawek has made a significant impact on the Greater Olney-Sandy Spring area.
A professionally trained dancer, she has dedicated herself to nurturing the love of dance and striving for excellence for her students and teachers. Encouraging self-confidence, poise and a sense of purpose in her students, she helps them find success in their accomplishments and express themselves in a creative and supportive environment.
Bawek provides additional opportunities for young women through internships, support for students’ special projects and scholarships.
The studio began in Olney, then moved to the old firehouse in Sandy Spring. After outgrowing that space, she moved her studio to the top floor of the nearby Stabler Building.
It became a new home for students, but also a home for the Olney/Sandy Spring community, hosting many events, including fundraisers, celebrations and monthly swing dances with the Olney Big Band.
Because the new space is large, she realized another dream by recently opening Alison’s Boutique, offering unique fashion, jewelry and dance wear for women.
Bawek’s dedication and generosity of spirit is evident in a long list of educational and community organizations and events she supports, such as the Sandy Spring Museum, Aunt Hattie’s Place, Farm Road Kinship Community, Sandy Spring Small Business Consortium, Sherwood High School, the Olney Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Board of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center and the Olney Theatre Center.
Named 2013 VIP Business Person of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, Bawek also has been recognized for leadership and community service by Girl Scout Cadette Troop 6811 of Sandy Spring.
Pamela Spears, a chamber member and an event organizer, said the committee was delighted to recognize Bawek for her devotion to mentoring young women through the Studio of Ballet Arts and Alison’s Boutique, her volunteer work, and her support of community organizations.
The other 2014 ATHENA nominees were:
• Ellen Coleman, a Realtor, business owner and past president of the Olney Chamber of Commerce;
• Sharon Dooley, a health care analyst and volunteer for civic, environmental, agricultural and historical organizations;
• Shannon Gorman, a business owner, Olney Chamber member and community volunteer;
• Anne Kaiser, a state delegate and teacher who advocates for education and equality and has worked on behalf of several local organizations;
• Lauren Kingsland, a quilt maker, author and teacher whose artistic talents help with healing and creative self-expression through thread work therapy; and
• Karen Montgomery, a state senator who is an advocate for education, the environment, health care, seniors and people with disabilities.
“It’s a privilege to be a part of a community that’s filled to overflowing with people who tirelessly devote their talents and so generously give their special gifts to make our community such a vibrant place,” Spears said.
Jon Hulsizer, the chamber’s executive director, said Brooke Grove did an incredible job with the decor, refreshments, ambiance and service.
“Alison was so happy with her honor, both bubbling with excitement, and crying with emotion,” he said. “She thanked everyone, as you’d expect, including her husband, Brad, who was there, but especially her 93-year old mom, Ruth Lotz.”
Previous winners are: Peggy Lyn Speicher, 2013; Dee Hawkins, 2012; Paula Kahla, 2011; Helene Rosenheim, 2010; Kulley Bancroft, 2009; Robyn Quinter, 2008; Lisa McKillop, 2007; and Carolyn Snowden, 2006.