Fresno non-profit leader Davena Witcher, who is working to build a health center for underserved residents of Mendota, was recognized Monday as a California Woman of the Year honoree in ceremonies at the state Capitol.
Each year, the state Legislature recognizes one woman in each district from across the state for serving their regional communities with distinction. Witcher, the Fresno-based Executive Director of AMOR – Alliance for Medical Outreach & Relief, was selected for the honor by state Sen. Andreas Borgeas.
Established Hospital in Afghanistan
Witcher joined AMOR in 2008 and played a key role in developing the organization’s cornerstone project, a 100-bed hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, offering maternal and child services in the war-torn country. She now leads the effort to establish a health and neighborhood resource center in Mendota, which will offer primary care, dental, youth and family services to the rural communities of western Fresno County.
“Here in the 8th Senate District, we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people who do impressive things for our community and for the world, Borgeas said. “Davena Witcher is an exceptional woman who has dedicated her time to transform and save babies’ lives.”
Witcher has a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a background in neonatal and transplant services. Under her leadership, AMOR has brought together numerous community service organizations and health partners to bridge service gaps in the Mendota area, which is impacted by highly concentrated poverty. The project is slated to break ground in May.
Joins Other Leading Women Honored by Legislators
Witcher joined other local honorees selected by area legislators, including:
- Misty Her, Instructional Superintendent for Fresno Unified, named by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula. Her was born in a POW camp in Laos and was 5 years old when her family came to the United States. As an adult, she became a pioneer in education, becoming the first vice principal of Hmong descent in Fresno Unified and then the first Hmong female principal in the United States. Today, she leads Fresno Unified’s improvement efforts in implementing curriculum, staff development, evaluations, and student assessments.
- Whitney Bunker, a foster child advocate who founded City Without Orphans, selected by Assemblyman Jim Patterson. The organization raises awareness and helps find loving homes for children in the foster care system.
- Barbara Jean Hill, Girl Scout leader and educator, named by Sen. Melissa Hurtado. Hill has worked in education and corrections and was co-founder of a women’s domestic violence shelter in Coalinga in 2003. She has also been recognized by the Girls Scouts organization as Leader of the Year.
- Sandy Sills, CEO of the Dinuba Chamber of Commerce, selected by Assemblyman Devon Mathis. Sills is chair of Dinuba’s Economic Development Commission and volunteers with several non-profit organizations in her community.
Californians with National Profiles Named Also
Also among the 2019 California Woman of the Year class were two recipients who are also well-known on the national level.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was named Woman of the Year by Palo Alto Assemblyman Marc Berman. Last year, Ford gave testimony in a highly-watched U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that she had been sexually assaulted by then U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Ford is a research psychologist at the Stanford School of Medicine. She is set to receive her award at a private event later this month.
The other high-profile recipient was and activist Kathy Griffin, selected by Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom. Griffin is a two-time Emmy and Grammy award-winning actor-comedian, writer, and producer. In a statement, Bloom noted Griffin has helped raise more than $5 million for HIV/AIDS services and LGBTQ causes and has performed for active military servicemen and women serving overseas.
Bloom credited Griffin with being “a fervent champion for First Amendment rights and a host of causes for which she has dedicated considerable energy and time.”