By Marianne E. Weaver | Photos by Dawn Gardner
When Prince William Living launched its first Influential Women Awards six years ago, we quickly realized that this topic resonated with readers. Entries poured in, and the issue announcing the inaugural winners was one of our most read to date.
As in years past, choosing just five women from the impressive entries was no easy task for our judges, all
past winners themselves.
Although Prince William is home to many women who give their time and talent to improving their
neighborhoods, schools and communities, these five women stand out from the crowd and serve as an
inspiration to others: Lori Bauckman-Moore, Uma Beepat, Paige Meade, Kristina Nohe and Robin
Congratulations to these Influential Women!
From sunup to sundown, Lori Bauckman-Moore is working hard to make Prince William a better place for everyone — residents, school children and even dogs, according to Bryanna Altman.
“Lori begins her day early, starting with Mechanix Auto Repair, then she’s off to Old Bridge Elementary School for her job as cafeteria hostess (since 2004),” said Altman. “But wait, that’s not all! A few days a week she leaves school and heads to work as a dental tech for Niles Dental in Woodbridge (since 1980) and in between it all, she takes and delivers orders for her Mary Kay customers (since 1982).”
She is the vice president of the Prince William Public Library System Foundation (since 2012), vice president of the Occoquan Lake Ridge Civic Associations and has worked tirelessly to bring a trail system to the eastern end of Prince William.
“She’s always volunteering to help make something good happen for someone or a nonprofit, such as the Prince William Conservation Alliance, Potomac Nationals Booster Club, Special Olympics, Girl Scouts, and Woodbridge Little League,” said Altman. “She even crochets beautiful scarves that she sells and/or donates to nonprofits to raise proceeds at fundraisers.”
Bauckman-Moore was instrumental in the launch of the library system’s first annual reading program. In 2016, when the foundation was asked to fully fund a new annual reading program called “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” for all libraries, she acted as the program ambassador, talking up the program to parents with young children. In 2018, more than 1 million books were checked out by parents, grandparents and care givers.
She is also the founder of the K9 Gunner Dog Park.
“Prince William County furry babies needed a place to run,” she said. “I used to play softball on that field back in the day.”
Altman said numerous requests for a dog park were coming into the county while Bauckman-Moore was serving on the Park Authority Board.
“She tracked down the owner and scheduled meetings between the property owner and the county park director to settle upon an agreement. But there was no funding,” said Altman. “Lori reached out to friends, neighbors and scouts to help raise money and organize crews to keep the park clean.”
Bauckman-Moore said, “I love my community and its kids — both fury and nonfurry.”
Uma Alexandra Beepat wears many hats: CEO of Lotus Wellness Center, CEO of The Lotus and The Light Metaphysical Center, President of the Manassas Holistic Chamber of Commerce and Elite doTERRA Wellness Advocate. She’s a member of the Leadership Prince William class of 2020 and the Chamber
of Commerce, where she has an active role in the Women’s Council and the Health and Wellness Council.
“Uma doesn’t see the wrongness in people; she only sees our strengths and works to make us see those strengths too,” said nominator Rob Pritchard. “Uma has owned Lotus Wellness center for 10 years and in those 10 years she has worked on close to 10,000 people (she is short by 75). She works tirelessly and quietly in healing people’s pains, helping them to understand their issues and showing them their potential.”
Beepat moved from West Palm Beach, Florida to Manassas in 2008 with her then-husband who is from the Manassas area. Even though they divorced, she stayed because she said she loves the change of seasons and the community she found in Manassas.
“I serve my community by healing the people in my care,” she said. “These people find their joy and desire for living again and in turn they bless their households with their happiness, which in turn blesses their community, their town, their county and their country. We spread peace and joy throughout all our interactions by first finding the joy within ourselves.”
She said she has been a servant to mankind all of her life.
“I grew up in a third-world country, but I was blessed to come from a good household. When I was given my allowance, I would send it to the orphanages. I didn’t have a need, my needs were taken care of and so I felt the need to take care of those who didn’t have,” she said. “When much is given to you, you build larger tables for people to join you, not larger fences. We are all here to take care of each other, so why wouldn’t I give back to my community? We are family.”
Her metaphysical wellness centers offer classes in spiritual development, meditation, healing and intuitive development. Beepat and her team of holistic practitioners offer services in energy healing, life coaching, hypnosis, reflexology and many other modalities under one roof.
“What the world needs now is peace and unconditional love,” she said. “So much healing can come from acceptance and inner peace. We can stop the violence, the suicides, the addictions, the rage, the fear and the lack by providing the path to inner peace and stillness. I know this firsthand and from my own experiences, I know we can heal our world.”
Beepat said her goal for 2020 is to find more opportunities to serve. Her next undertaking currently in the works is serving the businesswomen in the community.
“I am creating a Women’s Business Conference in May 2020 for Prince William County with several other powerful women leaders in our area,” she said. “There is no time to rest, only time to contribute valuable work to better our community.”
In 1992, Paige Meade was the victim of sexual assault. For 17 years, she didn’t talk about it. Her rapist was caught and sentenced to two life sentences, plus 20 years. He was eligible for parole in 2008.
“It was suggested that I find a community-based group for sexual assault survivors to help me get through it,” she said. “I reached out to ACTS (then called SAVAS), and I was welcomed into an amazing group of women who helped me resolve long buried trauma and get through that first parole hearing.”
After making peace with her own issues, Meade said she felt the need to give back. She contacted ACTS in 2017 and completed the training to become a hospital victim advocate.
“This was particularly important to me because when I was assaulted in 1992, these services were not offered or available,” she said. “It was frightening to be a 19-year old in crisis with no support.”
Terry Swirchak, who nominated Meade, said as an ACTS Sexual Assault Victim Advocate, Meade provides more than 1,250 yearly hours of on-call, community-based victim advocate services. She is also a group facilitator in the Prince William Adult Detention Center women’s unit, where she created a trauma-informed curriculum and provides more than 105 yearly hours to facilitate a weekly women’s group, which provides peer crisis counseling with group sessions geared toward sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors.
She also works with the Virginia Department of Corrections to explain the impact that sexual violence has on the lives of victims, their families and the community.
“Her goal is to help individuals who have experienced sexual violence to establish healthy skills and discover paths to healing through understanding, peer interaction and education,” said Swirchak. “She also works with inmates to explain the impact that sexual violence has on the lives of victims, their families and
Meade said she strives to open a dialogue with the offenders. And, although her main message is to make sure the offenders realize their actions leave victims scarred and sometimes broken, she has discovered many offenders come from scarred and broken places too.
“People often ask me about forgiveness. I don’t really know what it means to forgive a serial rapist,” she said. “All I know is that when I was in need, I was supported by other survivors right here in my community. Through terrible events and trauma in 1992, I was given the gift of strength and courage. If I can share that
gift with another person, I feel like it balances out the terrible things that happened so many years ago. In the end, maybe that’s what forgiveness is about for me — balancing out bad actions with good works.”
Kristina Nohe’s blog, BeTheGreySquirrel.com, bears the tagline: “Be Brave. Be Creative. Be Tenacious. And when all else fails, fluff up your tail and jump.”
“When squirrels jump from branch to branch, they don’t fear falling, because they are focused on what’s ahead of them and not the empty space under them,” she said. “I would like to be more like that.”
According to Heather Steele, who nominated Nohe, she is just that. “Kris is an example of someone who paints her own canvas with the colors of her ideas, and then isn’t afraid to put that canvas on display for public discussion and dissection,” said Steele. “Others might be too fearful to share opinions where there may be loud disagreement in response, but Kristina Nohe is never afraid. For that, she has an incredible positive impact on her friends, her family and the women in her community, who look to her example for the strength to also stand up and speak out, on topics from racism, to global warming, to sexual assault, to human trafficking, to the functioning of our federal, state and local governments.”
Nohe’s father was in the Navy, and her family moved often: Virginia to Puerto Rico to Rhode Island to Pensacola, then back to Virginia.
“Each move was a masterclass in culture shock and adaptation,” she said. “But, as I grew up, I learned that the important things are constants: family, true friendships and values. When nothing around me was familiar, these were the tethers that held me fast to who I was.”
She made Prince William her permanent home in 2001, when she moved back and took a job as the Public Relations Specialist for PRTC.
“I have lived all over the country, but Prince William County is the first place that I could truly call home,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to sink my roots in deep here as I married a hometown boy, and we started raising our kids. The longer I lived here, the more pride I took in being from Prince William County, and the more invested my family and I became in its future.”
Nohe is a cofounder and board member of the Woodbridge Homeschool Co-op, which was started to give homeschoolers in Prince William a place for a diversified education. She taught American History, Government, Philosophy and Movies as Literature.
She is also on the board of the Hylton Performing Arts Center and serves on the governance and education committees. She is the former vice chair of the Prince William Arts Council, served on the arts grant selection panel and judged the Seefeldt Awards. She served on two strategic planning committees for
Prince William County and has managed or counseled several political campaigns throughout the state. She also runs her own communications consulting business, NGD Consulting.
“A teacher once asked me, after one of my youthful crusades, ‘Does it always have to be you? Must you always be the one to say something?’ I remember answering, ‘If it needs to be said, then why shouldn’t I say it?’” said Nohe. “Over the past several decades, I’ve learned to temper my approach and, now that I have a house full of teenagers myself, I also appreciate the restraint that my teacher must have been exhibiting when attempting to curb my take-no-prisoners approach. Nonetheless, I am still the type of person who is not going to simply sit around and assume that someone else will deal with something that is happening in my community.”
Robin Conrad Sturm
Robin Conrad Sturm and her late husband have taught dance to generations of Prince William residents. Although she was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland, the couple chose Prince
William for their first home 40 years ago.
“This area has become my home, and the fact that I have taught so many people here, and now teach their children, shows that we all still have something to give, no matter how long we have been doing it. I am still learning, and I get to pass it on,” she said. “Speaking through the arts is one of the most effective, as well as beautiful, ways to communicate, and the arts are setting Prince William apart as a burgeoning mecca of artistic opportunities. I LOVE being a part of that.”
Strum founded and has directed the Northern Virginia Dance Academy since 1991. She co-founded and has directed the Asaph Dance Ensemble, a Manassas-based company of highly trained, classical dancers who use their talent to honor God through performances in the mainstream arts world, since 1984. She also
teaches master classes in a business relationship with Charles Colgan High School for the Performing Arts.
“The only way to raise healthy, ambitious young people to have goals and visions for the future is to teach them that they have to be able to raise healthy ambitious young people to have goals and visions for the future. That’s one’s legacy, and it teaches to believe in your convictions and to always maintain your integrity,” she said. “It also teaches them that life is full of speed bumps, and life’s bumpy roads cannot keep them from continuing to move forward. The bumps and oppositions make us stronger, and those goals never disappear.”
Rebecca Voulgarakis, who nominated Sturm, moved to Northern Virginia to join the Asaph Dance Ensemble.
“After college, I did not expect to enjoy ballet for much longer. Thanks to Ms. Sturm’s influence, I am in the best shape of my life and love this art form more than I ever have,” she said. “My evening classes and rehearsals offer a welcome break from the mundanity I sometimes feel in my office job. I am frequently
moved to tears backstage as I reflect on the depth and beauty of our work, the skill of my peers and the encouragement from Ms. Sturm that got us there.”
Unlike other dance companies that often charge a tuition for apprentices and trainees, Voulgarakis said Sturm insisted that all company members, regardless of age or rank, be paid. Classes and rehearsals are held at night so dancers can attend college or hold down day jobs.
“Ms. Sturm has created profound opportunities for young artists in greater Prince William,” said Voulgarakis. “In an art form frequently dismissed as frivolous, the Asaph Dance Ensemble’s programs proclaim the beauty of nature, the impermanence of suffering and the true meaning of Christmas — ideas that cut to the core of our humanity and performances that move dancer and onlooker alike.”
In addition to its “home” stage at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, the company performs at the Fairmont and Paramount senior living facilities in Manassas four to eight times annually.
“I feel that the residents at these facilities for the aging are often a forgotten part of the community. They often feel that they have lost the respect and their significance to younger generations,” said Sturm. “Through our choreography and explanations that go with each piece, they are not just entertained, but they see that we love them and VALUE what they have brought to the world when they were younger and what they STILL bring to the world with their wisdom and experience.”
Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.