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OUR FOUNDERS

AVOW (ADVANCING Voices of Women) was 

founded in early 2017 by four Fort Wayne 

women concerned about:

 

The decline in civility in politics

and the public square

 

The lack of women in elected positions

 

The need for women’s voices around

every table.

AVOW was formed as a call to action to

ALL women to become involved.

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Patti Hays became involved in politics when she ran for class president in fifth grade. The political spark was rekindled when she attended the January 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C.. AVOW sprang from the idea that the spark, created in D.C., should be continued in our community and into the future. A graduate of the first AVOW Campaign Institute, Patti ran for 4th district FW City Council in 2019. After winning her primary race, she lost by a respectable 307 votes. She was elected as a delegate to both the Indiana and National Democratic Conventions in 2020.
 

​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. She has been an active servant leader in the community since moving to Fort Wayne in 1990. Since 2015, Patti has been CEO of AWS Foundation. She serves as vice-chair of the Executive Board of the Allen County Department of Health and vice-chair of the Fort Wayne/Allen County Disability Advisory Council. 
 

​She and her husband, cardiologist Peter Hanley, have three adult children -- a daughter and two sons. 

MEET PATTI

MEET MARILYN

Marilyn Moran-Townsend is co-founder, chairman, and CEO at CVC Communications: The Business Storytellers. Her record of servant leadership is wide and deep; she has served on 40+ state and local organizations, boards, and councils. Her leadership roles include chairing the Indiana Chamber of Commerce (the first woman to hold this post), 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. 

 

In addition to co-founding AVOW, she was founding chair of Elevate Northeast Indiana, co-founding the Fortitude Fund to support entrepreneurs with community, mentors and money. 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 community. 

 

Marilyn and her husband, Bill Townsend, have two adult daughters and five grandchildren.
 

MEET RACHEL

Rachel Tobin-Smith has been active in public life her entire career. After getting her start in politics in college, she has worked on local, state, and national campaigns, including being a volunteer campaign manager for two candidates.

A graduate of the Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University, Rachel has served on more than 12 state and local commissions and boards, including Fort Wayne Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Arts United, and Wellspring Interfaith Social Services. 

Rachel was executive director of SCAN for 32 years, growing it from a two-employee nonprofit organization to a $17.5 million multiservice corporation serving 38 counties with 240 employees. Since stepping down in January 2017, Rachel helps nonprofits and executives through training, executive coaching, strategic planning, and problem analysis. She is a licensed clinical therapist in the State of Indiana. 

Rachel received the Sagamore of the Wabash, the governor’s highest award, in recognition of her contribution to her state and her community. She has two adult daughters.
 

MEET FAITH

Faith Van Gilder is Chief Officer, Marketing & Development, at Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana. 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. After attending the Women’s March in Washington in 2017, she became inspired to work to bring more women into politics.
 
Her career includes positions at the Dayton Journal Herald, U.S. News and World Report, Mortgage Bankers Association, The (Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel, Greater Fort Wayne Community Foundation, and Asher Agency. She serves on the boards of the National Peace Corps Association, Wellspring Interfaith Social Services, Friends of Cedar Creek, and is Peace Corps Advocacy Coordinator for Indiana. She is a graduate of Leadership Fort Wayne and Hoosier Women Forward.
 
Her husband, David, is an attorney in Fort Wayne, and they have two adult daughters and two dogs.