STEUBENVILLE — Twice delayed, the Ohio Valley Business and Professional Women are ready to put their best foot forward and host a memorable evening that celebrates six special area residents up for Woman of the Year honors.
“We had it all planned two years ago, and we are finally up and ready to go with our annual Wine and Shoe Extravaganza,” commented Phyllis Riccadonna, president of the OVBPW, in referring to how the 2020 and 2021 installments of the fundraiser were not held because of the pandemic.
The Wine and Shoe Extravaganza will be held April 28 at St. Francis Centre, located at 805 Lee Road, Follansbee. Doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and are available by contacting Julie Decker at (740) 632-9972 or [email protected] or Riccadonna at (740) 317-3868 or [email protected]
“This event represents our largest fundraiser of the year in order to present area students with scholarships,” Riccadonna explained.
“The evening will be a sell-out so there will be no walk-ins at the door. The $25 ticket represents your entrance to the event for heavy hors d’ouevres, wine and other beverages,” she added.
“The shoe contest is always a big hit that anyone can enter,” she continued, referring to the Best in Shoe contest where attendees are encouraged to wear their “most fabulous shoes to win prizes.”
A ballot at the door allows everyone to vote for Woman of the Year, and their choice of the best shoes. “Tables are available for $200 for eight people, so get your tickets and enjoy a fun and unique event,” Riccadonna said.
“This is going to be a spectacular night honoring six accomplished Ohio Valley women,” she noted of the roster that includes Mary Lou Jones, Kathy Santoro, Kelli Sarlo, Jeannine Sawon, Maureen Taggart and Nanci Walker.
An alphabetical look at the nominees follows with information the honorees provided:
MARY LOU JONES
Mary Lou Jones was born and raised in Steubenville, the daughter of a school teacher and a homemaker. She is a graduate of Catholic Central High School, attended the former College of Steubenville and earned a degree in radio and television performance and production from Ohio University, Zanesville campus.
Her radio career began in the spring of 1978 with a guest DJ contest at the former WSTV-AM Radio. “Three of us were chosen to each host a half-hour music program, and afterward, people called the station to vote for their favorite DJ,” Jones recalled. “I think I asked everyone I knew to call in and vote for me!” Jones won the contest and later in the week hosted an entire evening on the station.
“That sealed it; I knew local radio was where I wanted to be.”
For the past 40 years, Jones has worked in radio throughout the Ohio Valley, playing music, hosting talk shows and engineering local football and baseball games. When Froggy 103.5 in downtown Steubenville closed in the summer of 2016, Jones would move on to become traffic manager at WCDK (106.3 The River), and River Talk 94.9/100.9. She also writes and produces commercials and reports the news on weekday afternoons. “Whenever I give a station tour or speak at a Franciscan University of Steubenville class, I encourage young people to learn everything they can about their chosen profession; the more you know, the more employable you’ll be.”
Jones also works at Jo-Ann Fabrics in the Hollywood Plaza in Steubenville, where she has been helping customers since the early 1990s. “I learned to sew when I was 11 years old. I’ve sewn my own clothes and created all the window treatments in my home. I love speaking to young people at the store about their own projects,” she said. “The hand-tied blankets are a fabulous way for people who say they have no talent to surprise themselves.”
Jones serves as the president of the GFWC/Jefferson County Women’s Club, a community service organization. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, look out your window, and you’ll see a need, from hungry children to domestic violence to arts education.” The club’s most recent projects include working with local schools to collect personal care items for service personnel overseas and the Urban Mission Ministries’ homeless shelters, and coordinating a book drive for donation to the Schiappa Branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
She also is secretary of the Ohio Valley Business and Professional Women’s Club, where she has served on the annual political forum and Wine and Shoes Extravaganza committees.
Jones has donated her time to the Jefferson County Fourth Street Health Center (now the Ohio Valley Health Center), coordinating the publicity for the its annual fund-raising gala. She also worked with the high school-age Young Ambassadors’ fund-raising efforts and presented the Young Ambassadors at the gala.
For the past 10 years, Jones has been the announcer for the Catholic Central High School Crusader Marching Band, earning her the nickname “the voice of the Crusaders” by band parents. She started announcing when her niece joined the Marching Crusaders 10 years ago, and she enjoys it too much to stop. “I’ve traveled all over with the band and visited dozens of press boxes. Everyone involved with high school sports is always gracious and helpful and happy to see you.” Jones announces for the band’s annual Varsity Show and emcees the annual band banquet as well.
Since 1973, Jones has sung in the adult choir at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Steubenville, one of the great joys of her life, she said. “I love sacred music and the history of the music of the church. When I was a grade-school student at St. Peter’s, I couldn’t wait to join the choir.”
In her free time, she enjoys sewing and reading, supporting and attending local theater and concert events and spending time with friends and with her niece Katherine and her nephew Evan. She lives in Steubenville with her two cats, Melanie and Winnie.
A lifelong resident of Follansbee, the former Kathy Householder attended Jefferson Elementary School and graduated from Follansbee High School. She completed courses at Weirton Business School and then training a few years later at TWA in St. Louis, Mo.
“While in high school, I was employed during the summer at the Follansbee Park. My first full-time job was at the Hub where I worked on the floor until I moved up to a floor assistant manager. Travel was my dream,” she noted in her bio. “I was employed first with Tour Travel Unlimited in Cadiz, then Creative Travel in Steubenville and finally McGowan Travel until my retirement. It was a dream job to help people confirm their business or family vacations to fascinating destinations.”
Santoro noted she has had the pleasure of serving her hometown as 3rd Ward council representative for the past 26 years. “I have experienced the highs and lows that happen. I have made decisions for the betterment of the citizens and the future of Follansbee. I also serve on the West Virginia Board of Directors for the West Virginia Municipal League that makes decisions for the municipalities and work with our delegates and state senators. I presently serve and have for the past 10 years,” she continued.
She also served on the Brooke/Hancock County RSVP for decisions on senior programs. “I am now serving on the Committee of Aging for our senior citizens.”
During the late 1970s through the 1980s, she volunteered as a Follansbee Blue Wave Cheering coach and was a member of Follansbee’s 20th Century Club. “Presently I am a member of the Moose, TREA National Auxiliary, AARP, NAUS, National Home Gardening Club and Smithsonian Institution.
Santoro, along with Bill Secrist, is “very proud to be the co-founder/co-chairperson for Follansbee’s Christmas in the Park. “Over the past 17 years, we have been able to raise almost $90,000 which we have given 100 percent to sponsor three charities each year. Each October we bring a large craft show to Follansbee Park for all to enjoy, and helping those in need means so much to me.”
Santoro, a breast cancer survivor, and her husband, Santo Santoro, were married for 50 years before his death in July 2018 from pancreatic cancer. They have two children, Kimberly Miller and Kevin Santoro, and five grandchildren – Kayley Miller, Kamryn Miller, Karringtyn Miller, Sophia Santoro and Santo Santoro.
“I am a member of Impact Church in Weirton, and I truly believe that helping others is a key to life,” Santoro noted. “A random act of kindness is worth its weight in gold. You never know if even that smile you give or a simple hello can change a person’s day. We are here to make a positive gesture to others. Life is short — be that someone who can make a difference and cares. Always be kind,” she wrote.
For the past 29 years, Kelli Sarlo has been a certified nail technician, which she describes as a way to connect with people and encourage them.
Over the years, Sarlo has worked as a model for the Dochery Agency, a flight attendant for U.S. Air and a local decorator. She is currently an internationally licensed esthetician and co-owner of Iacovissi Spa in Steubenville.
When asked what the most important thing in her life is she quickly answers her relationship with Jesus Christ and notes it is her faith that guides and leads her. Being able to shine a light in this world of chaos is an honor, according to Sarlo, and something she said she never takes for granted.
Sarlo is a member of Crossroads Christian Church in Wintersville and is active in small group Bible studies. She serves as a board member for Refuge for Women, Ohio Valley and is passionate about serving women who are rescued from human trafficking.
She is involved and volunteers in the community through Catholic Central High School and the Jefferson County Joint Vocational School.
She is married to Jim Sarlo and lives in Weirton.
Jeannine Sawon was born and raised in Mingo Junction, attended St. Agnes Grade School and graduated from Mingo High School. She also attended Wheeling Barber College and continued classes in the barbering industry.
“My first business endeavor was at the age of 12 as a papergirl for the Herald-Star with more than 100 customers in the Georges Run and Dean Dale areas. My home base was at the old Zenith Store in Mingo Junction,” she began.
After barber college, she opened and operated the Hairuhm, a salon in downtown Mingo Junction where she was a hairdresser for 27 years.
“For six years I was the downtown manager for the Village of Mingo Junction. Then I went into sales for Comcast Cable and worked my way up to regional manager,” she wrote.
In 2016, Sawon started her current business, Transmart USA, in Cleveland with two vehicles.
“After a long winter and many miles of traveling, I decided to bring it home to the Ohio Valley, and I reopened in Mingo Junction. I then started networking. Along the way I have met amazing people, some of whom now work with me. I recently moved to Brilliant just off Route 7 and have 26 vehicles and 38 employees and work in three states,” she noted.
Transmart USA is a nonemergency medical transportation company. “Our transportation services are fully committed to providing transportation to the elderly, disabled population and the general public. We are transportation you can trust,” she wrote.
Sawon said she has and continues to volunteer for various nonprofit organizations and helps the homeless and needy. She is a member of the St. Agnes Church Council, Catholic Women’s Club, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Association and the VFW as a social member.
She and her husband, Alan Sawon, have two daughters, Ashly and Abby, who are involved in the business as well.
“I have always believed in the quote from John F. Kennedy — ‘The hope shall live, and the dream will never die.’”
She identifies her favorite saying as “Strong women aren’t simply born; they are made by the storms they walk through. From the pain, mistakes and the heartache we achieve pride and strength. This is what encouraged me to move forward always,” she noted, expressing appreciation for being nominated as a candidate for the Woman of the Year award.
“It is truly an honor, and I am looking forward to meeting all the businesswomen candidates,” she added.
Maureen Rebecca Taggart is the superintendent of the Toronto City School District, a position she has held since 2017.
Taggart, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational administration from Franciscan University of Steubenville, has been employed by the Toronto City School District for 30 years. She previously served as the director of special programs, high school principal, middle school principal, elementary principal and technology coordinator.
Trailblazing in Toronto City Schools has been synonymous with Taggart’s career as she has the distinction of being the first female high school principal and superintendent in the history of Toronto City Schools.
Of the many assets Taggart brings to Toronto City Schools, her most prolific may be her fundraising abilities as her grant writing has secured millions of dollars in funding for school district. She began this fete as the district’s technology coordinator when she successfully wrote 18 competitive grant proposals.
Her journey with Toronto City Schools has fostered “imperative and lasting impacts.” As the elementary school principal, she raised $30,000 to build a new playground for the S.C. Dennis Elementary building. As the high school principal, Taggart was an instrumental part of the bond committee for the construction of the junior-senior high school where she was able to serve as the building’s first principal.
Some of her greatest achievements, she noted, have been as the district’s first female superintendent. In five years she managed the construction of Toronto Elementary School, established the first school-based health center in Jefferson County, created an on-campus associate’s degree program at Toronto Junior-Senior High School, implemented a $500,000 distance learning and telemedicine project and oversaw the renovation of the Knight Baseball complex and the Toronto High School football stadium.
Taggart attributes her success to “the amazing team of professionals with whom she has had the pleasure of working with” at Toronto City Schools.
Her devotion to service, meanwhile, extends to the community of Toronto. She is a board member and secretary for the Helping Hands Food Pantry, a member of the Toronto High School Alumni Association board of directors and the first female member of the Toronto Kiwanis Club. Her professional affiliations include the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Association for Curriculum and Supervision and the Ohio Beta Alpha Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an honorary sorority for women educators.
Taggart was a recipient of the Joseph and Anna Marie Karaffa Award for Excellence in Education and the 2019 recipient of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators Exemplary Leadership Award.
She and her husband, Fred, reside in Toronto where they raised their daughter, Erin, a graduate of Ohio University where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work.
Nanci Walker was born and raised in Wellsburg, daughter of the late Frances and John Canestraro. She and her husband, Greg Walker, have been married for 45 years, and their daughter Dana Walker Bronsord and son-in-law William Bronsord reside in Fort Myers Beach, Fla.
Walker noted it was at a very young age that she learned the importance of giving back, working as a team and utilizing all resources to make things happen.
When reflecting on her upbringing, she commented, “My mother was the matriarch of our family. Our father died when I was 7 years old, and our mother persevered by putting family first, always finding a way to provide for us, while surrounding us with the love of family and friends,” she said of her family that included her identical twin and four older siblings. “Because of my mother, I learned the importance of hard work, positive involvement in your community and giving back through faith, friendship and happiness. As my mother always said, ‘You can’t get to heaven on your knees alone.’”
In her volunteer life, Walker said she lives by this life’s motto, trying to give back to family, friends and the community to help others succeed.
Walker graduated in 1970 from Brooke High School and went to West Liberty State College where she was an active member of Alpha Xi Delta, the chair of its social committee and earned Greek Goddess in 1973. She graduated in 1975 with a bachelor of arts degree in education.
She began her professional career as an office manager for an OB/GYN practice in Wheeling. After several years, her role grew to help recruit and establish medical practices, and she used her leadership and networking skills to help develop and grow medical practices in the Upper Ohio Valley.
During her years in the professional world, she wanted to give back to the community in the way that people gave to her, Walker noted. In the hopes of influencing others with the same impactful manner, she began to volunteer in many community activities as part of being a “Vol-un-pre-neur” for the betterment of Wellsburg and the Ohio Valley.
The definition of that is “an entrepreneur who freely offers her time to organize and/or operate a business, project or task, taking on greater than normal risks, for the betterment of others; a business woman who ‘makes it happen’ without a personal financial benefit, and a working woman who humbly makes a tremendous difference and shapes a community for the better.”
Walker noted, “Volunteering is what makes a community. It is a responsibility that cannot be bought with any amount of money — it is bought with time.”
Her involvement during the past few decades has been varied and includes having been the first and only female in the Wellsburg Lions Club; distributing coats for children in the community; serving on the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce’s board for 25 years and as its vice president for two years; being recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as the 2019 Outstanding Board Member of the Year; chair for the Wellsburg Chamber dinner; membership on the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee and in the Rotary Club; championing Bernie’s Coats for Kids Christmas campaign for 10 years; being a member of the Wellsburg Applefest Committee for 12 years; a medical liaison between the physicians and the community for 12 years; an Ohio Valley Medical Center board member for 10 years; vice president of the OVMC Auxiliary for three years and chair of its gala for four years; a member of the Brooke County Economical Development Association for years; a board presence with the Upper Ohio Valley Regional Tourism Group for two years; and a member of Trinity Health System’s Patient Experience Board for six years.
On “volunpreneurship” as her career path, Walker noted, “I have gained such a special perspective on life. There is no better way to understand your blessings than to help people in need. I love Wellsburg. I love the Ohio Valley. I love our little community. Seeing how our community comes together brings joy to me. I get to see how the contribution of those we all support makes a difference. The thought really doesn’t cross my mind not to jump in and just do it.”