A Message From The President

June 2022

“As a result of the hardship I suffered in my childhood and then my father’s death, I was diagnosed with PTSD, clinical depression, and anxiety.  However, there was one very dear friend with whom I share mutual support. If not for her and my mother’s support, I doubt I would have lived to see 2022.” – Annetta Hawkins, 2022 Phyllis Marshall Career Assistance Grants Recipient

When Athena leaders met last summer to select Athena’s focus for the year, they made it clear: Let’s not rush headlong to improve mental health and emotional wellness until we educate ourselves first.  As a result, Athena:

  • Solicited expert insights and support resources on relevant topics from domestic abuse to grief

  • Shared members’ stories and struggles, encouraging vulnerability and transparency

  • Presented powerful programs with calls to action for personal growth or community engagement

  • Designed practical bonuses to improve our workplaces, cultural interaction, and bonds

  • Incorporated mental wellness gifts into hospitality events

  • Encouraged Young Women of Promise recipients to share what stress management tools they developed during the pandemic

  • Lobbied legislators and school boards for change relative to voter redistricting and the skyrocketing number of children taken to mental health facilities under the Baker Act

All culminating this month with the award of Athena’s Career Assistance Grants, enhanced by exceptional fundraising.

“My father asked if I would take care of him since he was dying.  I had to make a choice and drop out of college to take care of him.  My father wanted to move to Florida to set my mom up before he died.  I made a promise to my father that I would go on this journey with him and be there by his side until he passes.” – Crystal Doria, 2022 Phyllis Marshall Career Assistance Grants Recipient.

Annetta Hawkins and Crystal Doria are two of four women chosen this year to receive Athena’s Career Assistance Grants, which will be presented with the start of school in September.  Crystal is a 40-year-old single mom of two girls, pursuing a degree in cybersecurity:

“After my father’s passing, I was upset and bitter because I found out the truth about my father’s misdiagnoses, that the doctor that was taking care of my father was using his father’s credentials and was a fake.  I still can remember when the doctor was on the stand, and he looked at my father and said, `I am sorry that I have caused you all this pain and suffering to you and that you will not be able to see your kids grow up.’  I was devastated by the loss of my father.”

Under Mary Scriven’s leadership, the Career Assistance Grants committee added a special question to the application: “The theme this year for The Athena Society is to promote mental health and emotional wellness for ourselves and our community.  What has this concept meant in your life or how will your expected future endeavors further this objective?”  Annetta responded:

“Dealing with repressed trauma due to the accessibility of health care providers was not an option prior to 2020 and has still become difficult in recent months.  Treatment can be expensive and copays that include paying for medications after a visit add up.  Thankfully, after my twenty-sixth birthday I was able to remain on my mother’s insurance plan as my health condition was documented and established a disability.  My mental health impacts every facet of my daily life, and sometimes functionality seems to be a far-fetched daily task.  Finding the proper balance of medication and therapy has been invaluable to my continued existence.”  

For this and so many other reasons, Jessica Muroff’s Philanthropy Committee galvanized Athena members to donate more than $10,000, including a matching $5,000 grant from past president Jeanne Tate, for recipients’ living expenses such as rent and therapy.   Annetta Hawkins says the struggle to afford stable living conditions furthers her sense of isolation:

“I realize that the narrative surrounding mental health has only started gaining more attention since 2020.  Now, I recognize mental health is becoming a much more open topic of conversation than it has been. I am grateful for those who pushed the boundaries.”

How much change can Athena affect in a year?  There will always be women suffering, women helping, and a dance between the two as we exchange robes and roles.  However, with the award of Athena’s Career Assistance Grants, plus gifts to strengthen women’s wellbeing, we come full circle.  These, and all of Athena’s work this year, epitomize what we wanted – what we wrote – last summer and in our founding summer of 1976.  This is what Athena means.  Moreover, it is what and how much we mean to each other.