Press Release

Senator Min Honors Six Women of Distinction to Celebrate Women’s History Month

2024 Women of Distinction Honorees(COSTA MESA, CA) — Today, Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) announced the honorees for the 2024 Women of Distinction Awards, which recognizes the outstanding service and accomplishments of women leaders throughout California's 37th Senate District. A celebration of Women’s History Month, these six honorees represent the very best in their respective fields. From social justice to community organizing, each leader serves as a role model and inspiration for the greater Orange County community.

"I am so proud to celebrate Women's History Month by announcing the 2024 Women of Distinction Awards here in California’s 37th Senate District,” said Senator Dave Min. “Women's History Month is not just about honoring women who came before us, but honoring those who continue to challenge the status quo and make history every single day. Orange County is home to incredible women leaders whose impact has transformed our communities and our ability to address some of the most challenging issues of our time. I am proud to recognize an outstanding group of women in Orange County who inspire and motivate all of us to build a better future for this generation and the next.”

The 2024 Women of Distinction honorees include:

Alison Lehmann Edwards - Chief Executive Officer at Groundswell

Alison is the CEO of the nonprofit organization Groundswell, formerly known as Orange County Human Relations. Her tenure at Groundswell began in 1998, serving as the Director for the BRIDGES Safe and Respectful Schools Program, then Deputy Director of the organization before becoming CEO in 2018. Responsible for publishing the annual Hate Crime Activity Report in Orange County, Groundswell tracks and reports hate activity for the County while also working to bring diverse communities together to create a more equitable future.

Pamela Estes Chief Executive Officer at Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

Pamela has led the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach as CEO since 2008, serving families throughout South Orange County in Laguna Beach, and the greater Saddleback Valley. Over Pamela’s tenure, she has led the Club to exponential growth, with the organization now annually serving 4,000 youth. Pamela leads a team of over 60 staff and 20 board members to provide child care, after school services, summer programs, and sports leagues at reduced fees for low income families.

Xiaoyan "Luna" Lu - Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center

Luna is a mental health clinician by trade and a mental health advocate in her heart. For over a decade, she has been actively engaged in various capacities and settings to promote multicultural and bilingual education on mental health. Luna joined the Asian American Senior Citizens Service Center in 2021 and regularly hosts multilingual seminars and workshops, culturally responsive groups, community engagements, and other creative activities throughout Orange County. Luna has a Masters in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marital and Family Therapy, and is currently a Psy.D. Candidate in Applied Clinical Psychology.

Jennifer Friend, J.D. Chief Executive Officer at Project Hope Alliance

After serving on the Board of Directors at the Project Hope Alliance (PHA), Jennifer became CEO and now oversees the nonprofit’s efforts to end the cycle of youth homelessness. The PHA applies a long-term, site-based model of providing whole-person and trauma-informed care for youth in Orange County. Under Jennifer’s leadership, PHA has grown from serving 65 kids at one school, to serving students in 47 schools. Having built a nationally recognized model to end homelessness, PHA serves three school districts whose students achieve a high school graduation rate more than 30% above the national average. Jennifer’s personal experience as a homeless child in Orange County fuels her deep rooted passion and commitment to children and youth experiencing homelessness.

Rebeca Gilad Founder Community Bridge Builders

Born and raised in Mexico City, Rebeca is the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants who fled Eastern Europe in fear of their lives during the Holocaust. Rebeca began organizing Laguna Woods residents in 2022 to unite its diverse communities in a direct response to the rise in anti-Semitic hate incidents, as well as the mass shooting at the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church that devastated both Laguna Woods and the larger Orange County community. Rebecca then founded Community Bridge Builders in 2023, formalizing the organization’s role to combat hate and prejudice through education, advocacy, and sharing of cultural experiences. With over 250 members, Rebeca has worked to unite the retirement community with regular meetings and opportunities to create a dialogue and strengthen bonds of community.

Paulette Lombardi-Fries President at Travel Costa Mesa

A hospitality veteran of over 25 years, Paulette joined Travel Costa Mesa as President in August 2010, where she leads and directs operations, strategic planning, media relations, government relations, policy development, and corporate partnerships. Paulette is dedicated to building a solid foundation to increase tourism in Costa Mesa through dynamic destination marketing and consistent messaging. She also serves on the Orange County Sports Commission, Orange County Visitors Association, and Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

Brooke Weitzman – Executive Director at Elder Law and Disability Rights Center

As a civil rights attorney, Brooke serves as Executive Director at the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center (ELDR Center) where she represents communities that would otherwise not have access to a lawyer. Since founding the ELDR Center, she works to fill the justice gap with a unique approach to legal services. Committed to ending barriers to housing, Brooke’s litigation has forced local governments to rethink their approach to the housing crisis and prioritize evidence-based solutions. In addition to her work at the ELDR Center, she sits on the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.


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