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AVOW and WANE TV presents: A House Divided

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Check back for an updated schedule of our Civil Conversations!


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The mission of AVOW is to Advance Voices of Women in public life, the community square and civil conversations. What unifies us is our passion to inspire and train women for public life and engage women in important public policy issues. 

This pillar includes seminars and classes to help prepare women for active involvement in public life, from joining boards and commissions to running for office, helping candidates and /or managing campaigns.

Paul Helmke School for Women in Public Life


 Civil Conversations are guided discussions with other women about issues facing women, our community,  and our country. The outcomes are understanding and, when possible, finding common ground. Civil Conversations are made possible by a generous donation from the Journal Gazette Foundation.

Engaging in Civil Conversations


This is a joint project with the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette to author and publish thoughtful, well-researched and civil opinion
from women about crucial topics.  Columns appear on Sundays in the publication.

Women's Opinion in the Journal Gazette


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Patti has always been involved in politics, starting with running for class president in 5th grade!  The political spark was rekindled when she attended the January 2017 Women's March in Washington, DC.  Joining friends and relatives of different generations, and friends yet to be made, she joined her first protest march.  AVOW sprung from the idea that the spark created in DC should be continued in our community and into the future.

Patti has a BSN from West Virginia Wesleyan and MN from LSU Medical Center. She is a nurse by training with 40+ years of experience in Nursing Education, Nursing and Hospital Administration dealing with a variety of healthcare issues and market development. She has been an active member of the community serving on numerous nonprofit boards and is currently on the Allen County Board of Health and the City/County Disability Council.   Patricia now devotes her time as the CEO of the AWS Foundation.
She is an extremely proud mother of three: a bright and empowered daughter and two sons with the ability to be supportive of successful women as well.  Her husband is Peter Hanley, a cardiologist in FW with his own history of political action



Marilyn is co-founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CVC Communications – Business Storytellers(SM).  Marilyn “works to feed her civic habit.” Her record of servant leadership is wide and deep, having served 40-plus state and local organizations, boards and councils.  Her leadership roles include chairing the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (the first woman to hold this post); and additionally, chairing the Indiana Chamber Foundation, Parkview Hospital Board, United Way of Allen County, Indiana Higher Education Commission, YWCA Circle of Women, BBB Charitable and Educational Foundation of Northern Indiana, and the Great Lakes Women Business Enterprise Forum of Northern Indiana.  Her current passions include co-founding AVOW:  Advancing Voices of Women and serving as Founding Chair of Elevate Northeast Indiana.  She is also an adult Sunday school teacher. Marilyn is a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, the Governor’s highest award, in recognition of her contribution to her State and her community. 

MOST importantly, she’s the spouse of Bill Townsend, one of the world’s greatest husbands and role model servant leader; Mom to Allison and Julie, the two most incredible young women on the planet; and now Marilyn’s favorite role is GG…Glorious Grandma, Gorgeous Grandma, Goofy Grandma, Generous Grandma…to grandsons Nathan and Francisco; and granddaughters Jasmine, Natalie and Kate.  


Rachel Tobin-Smith has been active in public life her entire career. She has served on more than 10 state and local commissions and boards. Rachel is currently on the Planning Commission for the City of Fort Wayne and The State of Indiana Children’s Trust Fund Board.  Rachel is a recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, the Governor’s highest award, in recognition of her contribution to her State and her community. 


She was the CEO at SCAN, Inc. for 33 years growing SCAN from a small two-person non-profit helping to prevent child abuse to a $17.5 multi service nonprofit corporation serving 34 Indiana counties with over 240 staff impacting the lives of over 5000 families annually. Under her leadership SCAN won numerous awards for excellence.


Since stepping down from SCAN, Rachel has been providing help to non-profit organizations through training, executive coaching, strategic planning and problem analysis. She is a licensed clinical therapist in the State of Indiana. Rachel has two wonderful accomplished adult daughters both who have become servant leaders in their communities. Rachel has a bachelors from The Ohio State University and a Masters from Virginia Commonwealth University.


Faith Van Gilder is an Account Supervisor at Asher Agency in Fort Wayne. A native of Defiance, Ohio, she earned a Bachelor of Science in journalism cum laude at Bowling Green State University and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana.


She previously worked at the Dayton Journal Herald, U.S. News and World Report, Mortgage Bankers Association, The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel and Greater Fort Wayne Community Foundation. She is a Peace Corps Advocacy Coordinator for the State of Indiana and on
numerous nonprofit boards, including Wellspring Interfaith Social Services, Creative Women of the World, Friends of Cedar Creek and Friends of the Parks of Allen County.


Her husband, David, is an attorney in Fort Wayne, and they have two grown daughters and two dogs. Faith is an avid reader, traveler, feminist and activist.

I believe that AVOW is making a real difference in public life, in the community square, and in civil conversations.  If the rest of the world could learn what AVOW women are learning...and sharing with others...I am convinced our government, our public institutions and our private organizations would make better decisions while building stronger relationships.  

—  Marilyn Moran-Townsend, AVOW Co-Founder


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The life lived in the dash

Your actions will determine the legacy of leadership you leave

Denita Washington

Leadership is the act of making things better for others.”

– Andrew Thorn


Most people explore legacy and leadership when they have experienced tragedy and loss. It causes you to view life from a different perspective.

On May 4, 2015, everything that I once knew and had ever known was destroyed in a house fire – leaving me with nothing but a black bag to my name. It was not until my house caught on fire and I was stripped of my possessions, people and memories that I started looking at the legacy of leadership.

I thought my legacy would be the creation of Fort Wayne Girlz Rock, but as I read Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou's conversation, I came to realize that “you have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do every day, every life you've touched. Feel everything with love because every moment you are building your legacy.”

Many try to figure out what the Obamas did differently in their leadership that drew people to them and their vision for the world. It wasn't race; it wasn't Obamacare; it wasn't Michelle's amazing arms. It was the manner in which they saw a room when they entered it.

A lot of times we speak or think about how we enter a room: our smile, body posture and where we position ourselves.

Leadership is not always about accolades or being in the limelight. Leadership should not be used for self-glorification but for others to see themselves and reflect on what they can do to press toward their own destiny of purpose.

Leadership has no face, identity, race or gender. Leadership looks like a rhythm of champion when it comes to the legacy of leadership in your community.

Pain has the ability to birth purpose, but oftentimes we fear the pain and we miss out on the purpose. Leaders must see the lost, lonely and hurting when they are in public service.

As a public servant, this is how I honor those who are less fortunate: equipping, empowering and encouraging others to have hope and to know that they have a voice at the table they otherwise would not have been invited to.

 “Sometimes you read a book at the perfect time. It's the same thing when you encounter others.”

 – unknown


My definition for legacy of leadership is looking to reward others instead of receiving awards. I believe it is imperative for younger generations to learn the power of legacy and leadership. The family of Fort Wayne holds the capacity to encourage and enhance the lives of young people, to equip them with the purpose for which they have been designed. To the parent like my mother, who allowed silence to be her loudest noise in leadership, to the man of God like my pastor, who not only spoke leadership from a biblical perspective but also lived it, leadership is not about the title that you hold or the lack thereof. The action defines true leadership.

When your eulogy is written, what will people say about you? Will they be able to stand in truth and say he or she was a person who led with love? Will your children's children reap the benefits of your leadership? Not just monetarily but the way that you touched, spoke and handled others. To see the rest of this op ed go the journal gazette at http://journalgazette by using the button below.


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Journal Gazette Foundation
Journal Gazette Foundation

Civil Conversations are made possible through generous donations from the Journal Gazette Foundation.

Want to assure AVOW continues? It is easy!

Click below to donate through the Community Foundation!





In the “Please Indicate” section, check "other."

Then, type in "AVOW"  as the fund.