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Hempstead honors 10 extraordinary women

Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray and town board members Tuesday recognized achievements by 10 women who live in or work in the town, including a posthumous award, for its annual Pathfinder Award.

"When Eleanor Roosevelt said, 'The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,' she could have been speaking of the spirit exuded by the exceptional women we honor today," Murray told her audience at Town Hall.

The categories and honorees were:

Arts & Entertainment: Rachel Blackburn, the choral music director at Hempstead High School, where she directs the Hempstead Select Chorale. She is also the founder and artistic director of the Voices of Virtue, a nonprofit community-based choir.

Arts & Entertainment (posthumous): Beth King Young of Wantagh, who died in 2012, shared her love of dance and fitness with youngsters for more than 25 years. She taught in the Freeport and East Meadow school districts and at ACDS, a Plainview school for special needs children.

Business: Sheryl Taylor of Baldwin is director of human resources at EPIC Long Island, which is dedicated to providing treatment, care and education to people with epilepsy, developmental disabilities and emotional challenges. She is also an expert in labor relations.

Community Affairs: Susan Helsinger of East Meadow lost her son Jason, 15, to a rare heart disease and has worked tirelessly to raise money, heighten awareness and prevent other children from succumbing to the disease through the Jason F. Gruen Research Foundation.

Education: Meredith Brosnan, assistant superintendent for business for Valley Stream School District 13, supervises physical education teachers, plans physical fitness programs and works closely with the Interschool PTA.

Health Services: Beth Watras of Garden City is senior occupational therapist at The Hagedorn Little Village School in Seaford, where she aids in educational and therapeutic programs for students with developmental disabilities.

High School Senior: Fiona Allain of Baldwin, a student at Oceanside High School, has volunteered more than 2,000 community service hours. Most of that time over the past 15 months has been dedicated to aiding superstorm Sandy victims across the South Shore.

Humanitarian: Ele Ruth Melendez is the outreach director of the Parish Social Ministry Office at St. Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh and has transformed the office into a model for Long Island.

Town Employee: Kim Matthews Merrick, known by her colleagues as the "heart and soul" of the town's animal shelter.

Volunteer: Debra Kirsh of East Meadow has been a volunteer PTA officer locally and countywide, was a local school district trustee, Kiwanis president, and is a volunteer with other community groups.

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