YWCA Mankato has named the 2018 Women of Distinction Honorees.

Executive Director Barb Dorn said the organization is recognizing Dr. Caroline Baerg, Sue Keithahn, and Sarah Richards, “For all that they do to make this a better community for all.”

Baerg is the Division Chair of the Family Practice Department at Mankato Clinic. Born in central Nigeria, Dr. Baerg has a passion for educating immigrant families on health care. A leader for the clinic in racial equity, she has mentored, taught and spoken with staff and area high school students and parents about her experiences as an immigrant, woman of color and physician leader. Dr. Baerg has a passion for educating her team on the role equity and bias plays in patients’ satisfaction with their health care experience. She also was a Dream Weaver at the 2015 YWCA Mankato Women’s Leadership Conference.

Sue Keithahn, President and CEO of ProGrowth Bank, has been a staunch champion of YWCA Mankato for nearly ten years. Serving two terms on the Board of Directors and President in 2014, Keithahn lead the Power to Believe campaign raising more than $1.5 million in funds for expanding programming, including an endowed fund. Keithahn also serves on the Mankato Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, is a co-founder of the Greater Nicollet Area Community Foundation and continues to serve in numerous volunteer capacities.

Sarah Richards, President and CEO of Jones Metal, Inc., has always been a woman in a man’s world. Born and raised in Mankato, Richards left to become a PGA Pro and worked in the Twin Cities and Florida as a golf professional for nearly 30 years. Since returning to Mankato in 2008, she has been involved in many Mankato-area organizations and volunteer activities, including two terms on YWCA Mankato’s Board of Directors and becoming the Board President in 2015. Under her leadership, YWCA Mankato’s Racial Justice program area was developed and continues to thrive today. Richards also participated as a panelist for the 2017 Women’s Leadership Conference and is an advocate for girls and women pursuing STEM careers.

Two Young Women of Distinction, 11-year-old Chloe Aanenson and 30-year-old Melissa Bradley will also be honored for their early successes and contributions to the greater Mankato community. Dorn said, “Our Young Women of Distinction awards have really taken off in the last few years and we’re very excited this year, with Chloe and Melissa being honored as young women.”

Aanenson will be the youngest Women of Distinction ever awarded. At only 11, she has already been a Board Member and volunteer coach with the Miracle League of North Mankato, raising $3,000 for a new piece of playground equipment for the Fallenstein Playground. She is a leader in philanthropy at Dakota Meadows Middle School, serving on the student council, a member of the Builder’s Club, is in band and plays on the girls’ basketball team. Aaenenson is a former Girls on the Run participant with YWCA Mankato and now participates in the Heart & Sole program for girls in 6-8 grade.

Melissa Bradley, CFO of Snell Companies, leads the pack in an automotive industry dominated by male colleagues. She heads the accounting and office teams for Snell Motors, Snell Powersports & Equipment and Snell Auto Wash, overseeing daily operations of a $75 million company and leads more than 170 employees. Bradley has also served on the City Art Committee, volunteers with Greater Mankato Area United Way and was named “CFO of the Year” for medium private business by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

The Distinctive Difference Award will go to Pub 500, which Dorn called, “One of the most inclusive and welcoming places in this community, and we’re really excited to recognize them for the work that they are doing to make sure that people feel welcome there. They are extremely supportive of the nonprofit community and I think that they exemplify the mission of the YWCA really, really well.”

Dorn said the YWCA has been holding Women of Distinction events for more than 45 years and, “The continued recognition of the impact that women can have our community is really important,” and added, “We’re certain that the event will sell out, so we encourage people to get their tickets and tables early.”

The event and awards ceremony will be held on March 27th at the Verizon Center Grand Hall. Reception and silent auction begin at 4:30 p.m.  Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. with a program to follow. Single tickets are $75, tables of 8 are $550.