There are countless outstanding women who call Stanislaus County home, but the County’s Commission for Women plans to pay tribute to 12 that stand out from the rest – four of which are from Turlock.
Anoopjot Bains and Shivani Thakur will be honored as Outstanding Young Women, while Mary Burton and Patricia Portwood will be recognized in the category of Outstanding Women at the SCCW’s 38th Annual Outstanding Women Awards.
The Outstanding Women Awards began as a way to honor women who have demonstrated exemplary service to the community in ways that relate to the SCCW’s objectives, which include promoting issues that concern women of all ages and backgrounds, promoting knowledge of women’s strengths, resources and choices, validating achievements of women throughout the Stanislaus County and supporting legislation that addresses the needs of all women and children. Over the course of nearly 40 years, the awards ceremony has honored countless individuals that represent what it means to be an outstanding woman.
“It’s important to recognize the gifts and talents of the different generations of women in our community, and how they’ve impacted and improved life for other women and children and families in our area,” said SCCW Vice President of Community Relations Marian Martino.
Burton and Portwood are two such women who exemplify those characteristics.
Burton has been a Turlock resident since 1998, where she has changed lives as both a volunteer and employee. Burton volunteers with children and adults at her Modesto church, Christian Love Baptist, where she teaches Sunday school and serves as a tutor and advocate for youth. She also volunteers and is employed at the Stanislaus Multi-Cultural Community Health Coalition West Modesto/King Kennedy Collaborative, and helps youth cope with problems they face in their everyday lives. She can often be found nurturing adult staff in various programs as they deal with problems brought to them by their clients as well. Along with her husband, Burton also annually spearheads and leads a tour for African American youth to visit historically black colleges.
Since 1987, Portwood has called Turlock home and has dedicated her life to learning. During her 35-year career as a teacher, principal and district administrator, which includes more than 20 years with Modesto City Schools, Portwood encouraged women to take on more leadership roles. Since retiring in 2010, she has taken an interest in promoting literacy and joined the Stanislaus Library Foundation in 2012, which raises funds for all 13 libraries in the County. Portwood became chairperson of the foundation in 2013, and has been instrumental in raising thousands of dollars each year to support library youth summer reading programs, which would otherwise not exist. She also raised funds for the Helen White Memorial Trail, which provides a safe walk-to-school route in west Modesto. Portwood continues to be active in the Turlock-Modesto branch of the American Association of University Women and the Tuesday Women’s Reading Club in Turlock, and also currently co-chairs the 2017 Save Stanislaus Libraries campaign.
Though Bains and Thakur are much younger than their counterparts who are to be honored as Outstanding Women, the Outstanding Young Women category allows the pair to receive recognition for the significant impact they’ve made on the Turlock community, and also includes a cash scholarship.
Bains, a Turlock High School senior, is active and involved at her school through academics, golf, the math club, the Medi-Careers Club, speech and debate, Mock Trial and the Science Olympiad. She has received awards as an Advanced Placement Scholar and an honorable mention as a National Merit Scholar, and recently spent a month at a Smith College pre-college science and engineering camp. Outside of school, Bains has volunteered as a classroom tutor at Julien Elementary School, serving three to four hours per week over the last three and a half years. She also coaches the Julien Science Olympiad team and volunteers with special education students, hoping to serve as a role model for all students, especially young girls, showing them that mastering science isn’t based on gender or culture. Bains also visits nursing homes often to play piano for the residents and paint their fingernails.
Turlock resident Thakur is a senior in the Modesto high School International Baccalaureate program, where she uses her academic skills to help other young women as part of the high school’s Tutoring Group. She also mentors and teaches junior high school girls about ways to improve their test scores through an organization she created, Valley ACT Academy. Thakur has a black belt in taekwondo and has taught courses for women’s self-defense, and has also raised funds for scholarship programs for girls throughout the County. Her latest self-directed project is Advocation for Vaccination, a program to increase vaccination awareness among families from disadvantaged backgrounds, for which she has created social media platforms in English and Spanish and hosted speaking engagements in in Stanislaus County.