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Republican Women of Cape Coral Federated to honor Women of Distinction in Lee County

By Staff | Mar 15, 2018

The Republican Women of Cape Coral Federated will host its second annual Women of Distinction Awards Gala to honor Lee County’s Women of Distinction.

Beginning in 2016, the RWCCF has been a force to be reckoned with as it is comprised of some of the most vocal women in local politics. With a strong grassroots foundation, the RWCCF knows the power of organization in politics.

The RWCCF is organized outside of politics, as well. They raising money for local charities and the military, including veteran’s groups, “Adopt a Troop” in Afghanistan, and the Mayoral Scholarship Fund. Since the beginning of their organization in 2016, the RWCCF has hosted its event to honor distinguished Republican women all over Lee County.

“It’s not a political event, it’s a community event. So, anybody obviously can come and enjoy the event,” said Missi Lastra, the president of RWCCF. “Our vision is to recognize women in the community that step up into leadership roles that the average person doesn’t recognize.”

This year, the RWCCF will donate funds raised from the ceremony toward their new scholarship program which helps disadvantaged women seek an education.

“This year we are creating our own scholarship for women who are going back into the workforce and need to go back to school. It will be for women who have been out there, experienced challenges, needs to be re-educated and learn a new trade or craft,” said Lastra, who has experienced firsthand the trials as a single mother going back to school to get a better job. “It will help them get back to work and take care of their families.”

“This is for women who just want to do good and get back to work, and we want to help them do that.”

The scholarship is not for high school aged students, rather it focuses on women who need a leg up in the workforce.

“It’s going to go to someone who’s experienced hard times, who are maybe homeless or close to it, or are now suddenly single and struggling to support themselves. There’s going to be no rule they have to have children, but that can be part of it.”

The RWCCF aims to reach out to the community in ways that go beyond politics. You don’t have to be active in politics to qualify for the honorary award, but you do have to be a registered Republican woman living in Lee County, as a basic qualification.

“For obvious reasons, we are a Republican group. Our application process is clear about that,” said Lastra about the party affiliation requirement. “Sometimes people don’t know who the person’s party affiliation is when they nominate them, but we are kind about it. We encourage people to nominate themselves although women just don’t do that, it just doesn’t happen.”

Lastra believes it’s because women are so humble about their accomplishments.

“I think that when they told me when I was nominated, I was very humbled by that. I didn’t expect it. It was quite a surprise,” said humanitarian nominee Judy Petrulavage, who is a former foster parent and the current Vice President for the Veterans Museum of Cape Coral. Petrulavage has fostered more than 200 children from infancy to 5 years old, and has helped approximately 80 percent of the children she’s fostered reunite with their parents.

“The ones that weren’t reunited were adopted by tremendous families,” Petrulavage stated of the numerous families she’s aided.

“Some stayed in touch for a couple of years after the fact, but it’s difficult for people to be reminded of a past problem or an emotional rollercoaster ride so you sort of take the back door and understand the people still care about us, but we were part of a bad chapter in their lives.”

Petrulavage felt emotionally attached to the children, but she overcame the painful goodbyes with the peace that the children went into better situations than where they started.

Additionally, Petruvalage and her husband had created a daycare for at-risk children during her time in Cape Coral.

“Some of these children were not able to sit still, to learn in that kind of environment, so we started a school where they could stand up any time they wanted to. They could walk around room, shout if they needed to. It helped them understand self-restraint.”

Petruvalage offered an alternative environment of learning that allowed children to test their limits.

“When you’re allowed to do it doesn’t feel so necessary to do it.”

Petruvalage is not a war veteran, but her entire family are in the military. Impassioned to help others, she started volunteering 60 free hours a week at the Military Museum of Cape Coral more than 10 years ago. Now, she is the vice president of the museum.

“With the veterans, I’m no longer with small children, but I’m working with career war vets, WWII heros, I’m thinking to myself ‘this is amazing,’ some of the stories that these people relay to us. It’s just amazing what they went through.”

Impassioned for helping people, Petruvalage’s team at the museum not only helps veterans, but they help the homeless and anybody who may be in need.

“We may not be able to give you exactly what you need right then and there, but we can show you the avenue.”

One of Petruvalage’s humanitarian qualities is that she believes that everyone needs a shoulder to lean on at one point or another.

“If we even do one small thing, if one person did one thing for the other person every day, and you multiply that by thousands, can you imagine how many lives would be touched?”

The 2017 Woman of the Year winner was Connie Ramos Williams with CONRIC PR, who will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 ceremony. There are six categories of distinction for nomination, including political, business, healthcare, humanitarian, creative arts, business, and education. Out of the top six, the 2018 woman of the year will be chosen.

The Women of Distinction Awards Gala will be held at 6 pm on Friday, April 6, at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, FL. 33904. Tickets are $50 and will include heavy appetizers, a silent Auction, and items for raffle at the event.

All are welcome. Tickets can be purchased at republicanwomenofcapecoral.com or by calling (786) 339-5790.