Sonoma County Spirit Award Project
The Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women has been awarding 5 winners of the Sonoma County Spirit Award annually since 2021. This award was created to honor people in our community who uplift, empower, and support women and girls in Sonoma County.
The Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is proud to announce our third annual Sonoma County Spirit Award! We are excited to recognize five outstanding leaders in 2023 and continue to highlight people improving the lives of women and girls for years to come.
Our theme this year is "Building Bridges - Forging Unity." Our judges will highlight people actively working to build bridges across divides of race, gender, class and politics to deepen empathy and understanding, inspiring collective action to make concrete changes in our community to achieve greater equity and inclusion, particularly for women and girls. Award winners will be people who consistently leverage their own power, privilege, influence and/or position to lift up and amplify the voices of those in our community who are marginalized, setting a clear example of cultural humility and respect.
Ad hoc members: Commissioner Gina Fortino-Dickson, Angie Dillon-Shore and Former Commissioner Caitlin Quinn
2023 Spirit Award Recipients:
District 1: Maite Iturri
The District 1 awardee is Maite Iturri. Maite is a natural and passionate leader who truly believes that leadership is our duty and we can never do enough. A lifelong educator, she dedicated her career to ensuring all students have access to resources and opportunity. She served as a role model and a catalyst to others entering the field of education or inspired to give back to the community. And if that wasn’t enough, in response to the pandemic she co-founded Food for All/Comida para todos which provided nutritious and culturally relevant food to disenfranchised families and farmworkers in Sonoma Valley reaching into the county. For these reasons and so much more, we would like to recognize Maite Iturri as District 1 Spirit Award Winner for 2023.
District 2: Dra. Mariana G. Martinez
Dra. Martinez builds bridges and forges unity through her leadership as an SRJC Trustee, as a researcher and consultant around increasing access to education and as a personal mentor to many first-generation Latina college students in our community. The individual that nominated Dra. Martinez said, “I have personally observed how she consistently leverages her own power, privilege, and influence to uplift and amplify the voices of those in our community who are marginalized. She understands at a personal level what it takes to connect people with the resources they need and offers her unconditional support. She has also created a scholarship in her son's honor to support other Elsie Allen High School students to be able to afford a college education. I can attest that Dra. Martinez is someone that "walks the walk" not just "talks the talk"!
District 3: Alegria De La Cruz
Alegría De La Cruz is deeply committed to equity and justice for marginalized people. Her nominator says, “Her focus through a racial justice lens benefits women and girls because the mechanisms of patriarchal oppression are deeply rooted in white supremacy. She follows in the footsteps of her Latina grandmother and white mother who were both fierce and brave labor organizers fighting on the front lines of the farmworker justice movement. By illuminating the intersections of oppression and inspiring humility and unity, Alegria is making meaningful change from within our local government and the community at large. She and her team at the County’s Office of Equity are rooting out racial inequity in county government — crafting policy about how services are delivered to end the perpetuation of racial disparities. As co-lead for the County's American Rescue Plan Act program, she drove an equity-centered funding process for community projects to help our most marginalized residents recover from the pandemic. Her bold, unstoppable compassion led to the founding of the Secure Families Collaborative, a legal aid initiative that protects immigrant families, and is right now, in real time, showing us what lifting the voices of the silenced looks like as a trustee for SRCS.”
District 4: Letitia Hanke
Nominated for her dedication to expanding horizons for youths, especially female youth of color, access to traditionally male dominated careers.
Letitia is the owner of ARS Roofing company and founder of the Lime Foundation and, which hosts trainings for youth in the trades. The foundation recently hosted an all female class to encourage a dynamic that allows girls to excel and bridge the divide of access to all careers. As a construction professional in the roofing trade and a BIPOC woman, Letitia has served as a role model to other women and women of color to enter the trades and to enter the management of ownership of trades-related businesses. She recently hosted an all-female youth trades academy. She lives the message and serves not only as a role model but a mentor. She is dedicated, inginuitive, and passionate
Letitia serves a niche that is missing in most non-profits. She continues to forge the way for women and women of color to reach their goals.
District 5: MaDonna Feather-Cruz
Since a young age, MaDonna has advocated for herself and others. There was a time when her high school tried to stop MaDonna from wearing her traditional Lakota regalia to a school event. She wore her regalia anyway and later attended a school board meeting to defend her right to wear her culture's dress. Every year after that, the school began teaching about Native culture, allowing students to learn the Native language.
Her purpose in showing up, speaking up, and bringing challenging topics to the table, particularly the issues that are uncomfortable to talk about, are not to divide people but to make them understand that this is the path to bring us together and form unity which is what will create change within a community. Madonna has emerged as a dynamic Native American leader in Sonoma County who works hard to interface with local politicians. schools and colleges to create accurate visibility for the California tribes in Sonoma County. This was an erased ethnic population that is just emerging from the California genocides.
As a woman of color, she has advocated for communities of color first and definitely for our sisters, including our white sisters. It is an interconnection and intersectional understanding of POCs and women’s oppression. MaDonna serves on many Boards to create an articulate voice for the needs and history of Indigenous Californians and to help create a clear path to healing including Raizes Collective, KBBF, Disability Services & Legal Center and the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County.