An environmental advocate. A president of a local NAACP chapter. A reverend who advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.
Those are just a few of the individuals who received this year’s “Congressional Women of the Year Award,” announced by U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, Wednesday.
The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall of Los Osos, Dee Lacey of Paso Robles, Barbara Levenson of Pismo Beach, Lawanda Lyons-Pruitt of Santa Maria, Linda Tyler-Ryles of Buellton and Sigrid Wright of Goleta are the six women who earned the distinction.
The Congressional Women of the Year Award honors those who make positive impacts across the 24th Congressional District. This is the fifth year the recognition has been awarded, according to a news release.
“The recipients of this year’s Women of the Year Award are all doing outstanding work to make the Central Coast an even better place to live, often without the recognition or compensation they deserve,” Rep. Carbajal said. “I am honored to recognize these remarkable, trailblazing women for their indelible contributions to our community.”
Tributes for each of the six women will be written into the official Congressional Record, and an award ceremony will be held at a later date.
Ms. Lyons-Pruitt is the president of the NAACP of Santa Maria and Lompoc, sending out near-daily information about events and community involvement opportunities. She is retired from the public defender’s office.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave Ms. Lyons-Pruitt a drive to advocate for the safety of vaccines, particularly in minority communities. She also serves as a record-keeper for stories of black families in the county and organizes black history events.
A literary advocate, Ms. Tyler-Ryles has helped elementary school readers in the Buellton Library as well as adults who are learning English. She advises undergraduate members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, of which she is a member, and is an active volunteer in various capacities within her church.
Additionally, Ms. Tyler-Ryles is a former president and recording secretary of Endowment for Youth, a treasurer and longtime member of the George Washington Carver Scholarship Club, a member of the Santa Maria NAACP and an advisory board member of Santa Barbara’s Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, where she encourages students to participate in a poetry and essay contest. Ms. Tyler-Ryles is retired from the Santa Barbara Research Center and as a Raytheon business manager.
The CEO of the Community Environment Council and co-founder of the Central Coast Climate Justice Network, Ms. Wright is known throughout the community for her work on environmental and climate advocacy. She is also a member of the Food Action Network advisory board and the Santa Barbara Foundation’s Collaboration for Social Impact.
Ms. Wright has authored more than one dozen policy documents, including the Santa Barbara County Regional Energy Blueprint. She has led the annual Earth Day Festival production team for nearly two decades.
Dr. Hall is a founding director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for San Luis Obispo, a founding organizer of Los Osos Cares and a founding member of Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice — not to mention the bevy of other groups she is involved with to help the community.
She volunteers with the National Estuary Program, Sierra Club and ECOSLO; organizes the Los Osos winter warming center; and is a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, social justice, animals, children and people experiencing homelessness.
Ms. Lacy has a venerable background in cattle ranching and has helped found the Paso Robles Library Foundation as well as the Paso Children’s Museum. Additionally, she served on the Paso Robles School Board for 20 years as well as the Cuesta College Board of Trustees.
She is a former president of the Cattlewoman’s Association and has served with the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau board of directors and with the Cattlemen’s Association. Ms. Lacy is a former Cattleman of the Year and Cattlewoman of the Year in San Luis Obispo County as well as a Paso Robles Citizen of the Year, among other awards.
Ms. Levenson had a nearly three-decade career at Atascadero State Hospital and would dedicate her time off to working in the city’s Wellness Kitchen. She has also worked with the Flying Samaritans to provide free medical care around the world.
Now retired, Ms. Levenson chairs the San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Board, volunteers at the Arroyo Grande Library and reviews scholarship applications for the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo. She is also a member of the Central Coast Friendship Bridgem which helps Guatemalan women and is a member of the San Luis Obispo County Diversity Coalition.
More on the honorees can be found at carbajal.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=1058.