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December 3, 2012-The recipient of this year’s Athena award hasn’t only helped the local community but the whole world, and she’s just getting started, organization representatives say.

Cecilia Dinio Durkin, founder of Women’s Work, a Poughkeepsie-based fair trade store, will represent the Hudson Valley at the Athena International Conference in Chicago this year.

Durkin’s store sells jewelry, art, crafts and home goods created by women worldwide. The company pays about 20 women and companies a fair market wage for their products, Durkin said.

“I was last year’s keynote speaker, so (this) is a huge honor,” Durkin said. “The chamber is so supportive.”

This is the seventh year the Chamber Foundation presented the award, which recognizes individuals in the community, especially women, with exceptional leadership and other qualities.

“The selection process is so difficult,” said Charles North, president and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Foundation.

“But every one of these nominees is a winner; the one who gets the award is just representing everyone who works so hard in the community,” he said.

This year, there were nine possible recipients at the annual brunch, held Sunday afternoon at The Grandview in Poughkeepsie.

Nominees besides Durkin were Joan Crawford, deputy executive director at Family Services; Geeta Desai, management consultant for Global Business Advantage; Jacqueline Goffe-McNish, a professor at Dutchess Community College; Maureen Kangas, general manager at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel; Dr. Kathleen Mantaro, medical director at Vassar Brothers Medical Center; Sharon Matyas, special events manager at the Culinary Institute of America; Sister Rose Marie Mullen, Saint Francis Hospital historian; and Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega, owner of Dr. Michele Winchester-Vega and Associates.

“I got involved with the Chamber Foundation because I started helping them source giveaways for International Women’s Day,” Durkin said. “They ordered 500 bags (two years ago), then scarves. Because of the orders they placed, two groups of women were able to be paid full salaries for an entire year.”

Durkin also serves as international chairwoman on the board of the American Association of University, chairwoman for the Live Your Dream Girls Conference and co-chairwoman of the My Sister’s Keeper initiative.

“Cecilia is someone who doesn’t just make the Hudson River Valley better, but the whole world,” North said.

Honorees said they support and are proud of one another.

“Every woman here deserves to win, together,” said nominee Geeta Desai. “I believe that women will save the world.”

Nina Schutzman: nschutzman@poughkeepsiejournal.com, 845-451-4518 Twitter: @pojonschutzman