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Urban Mission leader receives Athena Award

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WATERTOWN — Erika F. Flint wasted no time making an impression when she became the executive director of the Watertown Urban Mission in February 2011.

Mrs. Flint, who accepted the 2014 Athena Award on Thursday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown, led by example when she took the helm of the nonprofit, said Beverly A. Brown, a former president of the mission. Mrs. Brown, who nominated the 33-year-old for the award, said she was blown away by the young leader’s precocious ability to guide the organization.

“The deep insight that came from this little redhead’s mouth was astounding,” Mrs. Brown said during the ceremony, which was held by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. The Athena Award, introduced in 1991 in Jefferson County, honors women who strive toward the highest levels of professional accomplishment and have devoted their efforts to the community.

During her first year on the job, Mrs. Flint implemented the mission’s previously established strategic plan and set the goal of raising $2 million in a capital campaign, Mrs. Brown said. That fundraising mark was exceeded this year, leading to the full-scale renovation of the mission’s building at 247 Factory St. to better serve families in need. Mrs. Flint has also helped her employees seek and obtain more than $1 million in grants for mission programs.

Mrs. Flint’s leadership is fueled by her kindness and warmth toward others, Mrs. Brown said. She said her dedication to community efforts also makes her a shining example for younger women in the community to follow.

“She exemplifies the model of female leadership that is needed to inspire young women,” Mrs. Brown said. “Too often, male faces dominate our spectrum of leaders. Too often, young women look forward and only see impossibility.”

“Fortunately, our Northern New York community faces no such shortage of positive female role models. Diligent, humble and inspirational women like Erika Flint continue to transform our community, not only through their work, but also through their mentorship of young women, as well as young men,” she said.

During her speech, Mrs. Flint attributed her success to “the village” of people who have touched her life — family, friends and co-workers. The Croghan native, who was raised alone by her mother, Kathleen R. Bush, said she relied heavily on her extended family’s support as a young woman.

“I’ve never had a clear idea of how to make the world a little bit better, but it’s really come to me that it’s all of you who did it,” Mrs. Flint said. “I believe that if we recognize that it does take a village, the world may be a better place.”

Mrs. Flint resides in the town of Brownville with her husband, Travis J., and sons, Lukas B., 4, and Micah D., 2. She serves community organizations including North Country Family Health Center, Northern New York Community Foundation’s LEAD Council, Watertown Local Development Corp., Jefferson County Community Services, Greater Watertown Jaycees, WPBS-DT, Samaritan Medical Center Auxiliary and Watertown Noon Rotary, among others.

Mrs. Flint said she and her husband balance their family life by carving out time to attend fundraisers and community events.

“In our family’s case, other people in our community and the time spent on them brings us the most joy and is a top priority,” she said. “I believe that if we shift our time and focus just a little bit away from ourselves, and a little bit more toward others, the world might be a little bit better place.”

Event sponsors were First Niagara Bank, Timeless Frames and WWNY-TV7 News.

Previous Athena Award recipients are Rose E. Frattali, Michelle D. Pfaff, Janice L. Charles, Chandler M. Ralph, Lana Brown-Taylor, Cathy M. Pircsuk, Elizabeth C. Fipps, Deborah A. McGloine, Jayn M. Graves, Maria J. Roche, Margaret M. “Peg” Fargo, Ruth-Ellen Blodgett, Pamela B. Caswell, Jane G. Gendron, Mary M. Corriveau, Cindy F. Intschert, Katherine F. Fenlon, Donna M. Dutton, Jody R.A. LaLone, Pamela S. Beyor, Lisa A. Weber, Denise K. Young and Margaret B. “Peggy” Coe.

To watch Mrs. Flint’s Athena Award acceptance speech, go to: http://youtu.be/1AiH9TNeKic

Erika Flint’s 2014 Athena Award acceptance speech

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