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12-11-12 | Posted by

What do Andie MacDowell, Julianna Margulies, Trisha Yearwood and Arianna Huffington have in common? At the 7th annual L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth (WOW) awards last week in New York City, each of these celebrities had the honor of introducing one of 10 remarkable women, who were recognized for their life-changing philanthropy.

Not only are the honorees community volunteers and leaders, but each founded and/or runs a charitable organization that impacts thousands of people. Some of these organizations have grown beyond their founder’s wildest dreams and today boast thousands of worldwide volunteers working for their cause.

L’Oreal Paris’ Karen Fondu (2nd r.) with WOW presenters Aimee Mullins, Andie MacDowell, and Julianna Margulies

“Every year, these incredible women raise the bar on what it means to make a beautiful difference in our communities, and this year is no exception. L’Oreal Paris’ 2012 Women of Worth honorees exemplify our brand’s philosophy – ‘Because You’re Worth It’ – and inspire those around them to be a force of positive change in our world,” said L’Oreal Paris president Karen Fondu.

Ranging in age from 19 to 72, the WOW honorees’ concerns go from child abuse to homelessness, disabled children to job creation. Each will receive a $10,000 donation from L’Oreal for their charitable cause.

Introduced by ABC news anchor, Sade Baderinwa, WOW recipient Kate Bialo founded the first furniture “bank” in Westchester County. Furniture Sharehouse provides furniture for families struggling to turn an apartment into a home.

Actress Andie MacDowell welcomed honoree Catherine Meek to the stage. As a full-time volunteer, Catherine runs School on Wheels, a tutoring program that assists more than 6,500 homeless children in southern California.

Olivia Stinson developed the idea for PEN Pals Book Club & Support Group when she was just 13. Introduced by CNN anchor, Soledad O’Brien, Olivia promotes literacy and cultural and social activities for children of incarcerated parents.

An “out” Asperger’s woman, Lorraine Kerwood founded NextStep, a computer refurbishing workshop that provides on-the-job training for people with disabilities and gives computers to children and families who need them.

With one of the most touching stories of the night, photographer Sandy Pucˊ described how she founded Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a nonprofit that provides free professional photos to families of babies who are stillborn or at risk of dying soon after birth.

Actress Allison Williams introduced Amy Paterson, who co-founded My Little Waiting Room, a drop-in hospital child care service for patients. The service was based on Amy’s own experience of having to arrange child care for her son while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

WOW National Honoree Risa Risa Vetri Ferman with presenter Arianna Huffington

Introduced by Arianna Huffington, Risa Vetri Ferman is a Pennsylvania district attorney, who was staggered by the way child abuse victims are treated by the police and the legal system. She founded Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center to provide free legal service to children. Risa was also this year’s National Honoree, chosen by more than 70,000 online votes, and will receive an additional $25,000 for her organization.

Growing up in a low-income family inspired Sue Runsvold to created Turning Wheels For Kids. The volunteer organization provides brand new bicycles to parents to give to their children, particularly at Christmas time. Sue was introduced by author Jessica Seinfeld.

Singer Trisha Yearwood welcomed Dr. Ida Johnson to the stage. As a single mother of five, Ida would invite neighborhood children into her home for games and learning. This turned into a community action center and eventually United Neighbors, Inc., which provides a multiple of free services, including an after-school program, homebuyer education, and down payment assistance.

Sarah Cronk, the youngest of the evening’s honorees was introduced by actress Julianna Margulies. When she was just 15, Sarah created The Sparkle Effect, a nation-wide, student run cheerleading program for teens with disabilities.

Now in it’s 7th year, the Women of Worth program is an annual event. Go to womenofworth.com to learn about this year’s honorees and how to nominate a philanthropic trailblazers for next year’s award.

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