Spartanburg, SC – The Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands will honor two Spartanburg-area women at its Annual Women of Distinction Awards Celebration: Boots and Pearls on Thursday, October 19, 2017 at Converse College beginning with a reception in Barnet Room at 5:30 p.m. Michelle Hunt has been appointed as the event’s chair. The evening pays tribute to women who exemplify excellence in service, leadership, community visibility, and professionalism.
This year’s honorees are: Representative Rita Allison, South Carolina House of Representatives and Robyn Hussa Farrell, Founder/co-Founder of Transport Group Theatre Company in New York City, Mental Fitness national nonprofit, White Elephant Enterprises and Resiliency Technologies.
After attending John Robert Powers School of Fashion, Rita Allison spent many years teaching self-development and self-improvement. A business owner for some 15 years gave her skills to use in the political arena. As Special Programs Director for Springs Industry-Lyman she worked with ages three through retirees in all types of educational and recreational areas for some 30 years. This gave her a real feel for the needs of all ages.
Ask her what her biggest blessings have been other than her faith, family and friends, she will tell you the opportunities to be of service to others.
A former member of the District Five School Board of Trustees for eight years, President of the South Carolina and United States Jaycee Auxiliaries, South Carolina Outstanding PTA President, Board of Directors for Miss South Carolina Pageant for over 30 years, official traveling companion for Miss South Carolina to the Miss America Pageant for 28 years, and Board Member for R.D. Anderson Vocational School for 8 years are all among her accomplishments.
As a member of the State Speakers Bureau she enjoyed speaking to schools, churches and civic organizations on current issues and positive direction in life.
She is married to Ron Allison, former President of Tri-State Chemical Company and they have one daughter, Katina Allison Degler, son-in-law Ron and three grandsons, Nichols, Jacob and Wren. She and her family are members of Wellford Baptist Church.
She served in the South Carolina House of Representatives (1993-2002). It was an opportunity she was dedicated to and thankful to fulfill. She served on the House Ways and Means Committee and Chaired the K-12 and Special Schools Sub-committee. She also served as Vice Chair of House Operations and Management Committee, the Joint Legislative Committee for Families and Children, and in 1994-96 she served as Chair of the General Assembly's Women's Caucus (which she founded during her tenure). She has also served as Chair of the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation, and was Assistant Majority Leader in the S.C. House of Representatives. She was an active Board Member of the Middle Tyger Community Center in Lyman and the Board of the J. Verne Smith Human Resource Center in Greer, S.C. She serves on the Greer Development Board, the S. C. Commission of the Blind Foundation Board and the Board for Senior Centers.
Rep. Allison has sponsored legislation for Education, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse (served on Ad Hoc Committee to strengthen the Children's Code), Tax Reform (served on Ad Hoc Committee to study tax reform), School Choice (served on Ad Hoc Committee to study school choice), Retirement Systems review and Economic Development issues.
She sponsored the Partial Birth Abortion legislation that passed in South Carolina, and Character Education Legislation and Health Issues for the young and elderly.
She was awarded "Legislator of the Year" Award by the National Foundation of the Blind of South Carolina for her work with access technology for the blind and impaired community, as well as her work to bring the Visually Impaired Curriculum to USC-S. She also has been presented the "Legislator of the Year" Award by the S.C. Victim's Right Group, South Carolina School Board Association, S.C. Adult Education Association and the S.C. Vocational School Association for her work with each group. She was honored by the Spartanburg Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPW) and Breakfast Club as their "Career Woman of the Year for 2000", which allowed her to compete and receive the State BPW “Career Woman of the Year.”
Rep. Allison was presented the “Miss South Carolina Woman of Achievement Award.” She was nominated by Victoria Wilson, Miss Camden, who is from Lexington, S.C
After an unsuccessful campaign for Lt. Governor for the great state of South Carolina, Rita served as one of eight people on Governor Mark Sanford’s Transition Team. In January of 2003, she took a position with the administration as one of Governor Sanford’s Education Advisors and later served as the Governor’s Legislative Director. She was awarded the first Terry Haskin’s Legislative Leadership Award for outstanding service to our state and the prestigious “Order of the Palmetto”, the highest honor given by the State of South Carolina.
Currently, she serves District 36 in Spartanburg County in the SC House of Representatives. Upon her return to the House, she initially served as a member of the House Education and Public Works Committee. She was then assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired the Committee on Regulations and was elected to the House Operations and Management Committee.
She is now Chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee--the committee’s first female chair. In 2015, Speaker of the House Jay Lucas appointed her as Chair of the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force in response to the state supreme court’s decision in the Abbeville case.
Rita is a member of First Baptist Church of Lyman. She continues to work for education, a fair tax structure, economic development and more jobs, healthcare reform and small business incentives.
Robyn Hussa Farrell is Founder/co-Founder of four companies: Transport Group Theatre Company in New York City, Mental Fitness national nonprofit, White Elephant Enterprises and Resiliency Technologies – a high-growth South Carolina woman-owned business. Beginning her career as co-Founder/Executive Director of the Drama Desk and Obie award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company, Transport Group, Robyn found her passion and role shifted after spending years collaborating with researchers, state agencies and educators to produce evidence-based multi-media programs that build resilience in teen girls – it culminated in the launch of Resiliency Tech through the Iron Yard digital health accelerator.
In Spartanburg, Robyn and her husband Tim co-Directed the Video Village exhibit in Highland – one of 9 installations for the Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light project supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. When the exhibit ended, Hussa and Farrell launched Innovation Village – a technology hub offering coding classes, and other innovation skills to Spartanburg residents. Other collaborative community projects include documentary films for Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville, Northside Initiative and the sharpenWARRIOR app for Upstate Warrior Solution – focusing on the mental health needs of military veterans and their families. For their efforts creating the above programs Hussa and Farrell were nominated for the Mary L. Thomas Award for Civic Leadership and Community Change, and are finalists for the 2017 InnoVISION Award for Community Service and are Invited Presenters and Entrepreneur Advisors for the 2017 Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship for the Kauffman Foundation.
Robyn is Invited Panelist for the StartME – Spartanburg project for the Purposebuilt Communities Annual Conference in Nebraska, and an Invited Presenter for the 2017 Southeastern Council for Foundations Annual Meeting in Florida, led by Kathy Dunleavy and Samantha Overton of the Mary Black Foundation and Way To Wellville – Spartanburg
Robyn holds an MFA-Acting from the University of Virginia, is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), the International Association for Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP), and is an E-RYT Certified Yoga Teacher and Continuing Education Provider with the Yoga Alliance. She is a published author and has been involved in research publications for major medical journals. She has presented at over 50 national medical and educational conferences on the topics of disordered eating prevention and mindfulness based stress reduction. Robyn is a 2017 Finalist for the SC InnoVision awards, recipient of the 2014 Peace Award from Converse College / Westgate Family Therapy Institute, 2010 Champion in Women’s Health award from First Lady of Wisconsin, Ms. Sue Ann Thompson, and 2007 Drama Desk award winner for Transport Group’s breadth of vision and challenging productions. She proudly lives in downtown Spartanburg and serves on the Behavioral Health Task force for The United Way of the Piedmont, and is passionately involved with the Compassionate Schools initiative, created by Dr. Jennifer Parker.
WSPA-TV is the Media Sponsor for the October 19, 2017 Women of Distinction Awards.