Katie Wood, from left, Molly Dodge and Darleen Connolly are the recipients of this year’s Girls Inc. “She Knows Where She’s Going” awards. They were honored at a luncheon Tuesday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Katie Wood, from left, Molly Dodge and Darleen Connolly are the recipients of this year’s Girls Inc. “She Knows Where She’s Going” awards. They were honored at a luncheon Tuesday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Three women who have had an impact on the lives of others through their volunteerism and work in Jefferson County received recognition for their efforts Tuesday.

Girls Inc. of Jefferson County honored Katie Wood, Molly Dodge and Darleen Connolly during the 11th annual "She Knows Where She's Going" luncheon at the Livery Stable.

The women, through their different careers and organizations, have helped to better the community while living the Girls Inc. motto of being "strong, smart and bold," Girls Inc. Executive Director Susan Stahl said.

"There's a lot of wonderful women doing great things," Stahl said, yet the three honorees this year stood out to the nonprofit organization's board for their contributions.

Katie Wood

Wood, a Madison native, dreamed of being a rock star as a young girl. Like many others, her aspirations changed over the years.

Wood attended Indiana Wesleyan University, majoring in international and community development with a minor in intercultural studies. By the time she graduated college, Wood hoped to become a missionary in a foreign country.

"I've never been one to feel like I know where I'm going," the 27-year-old honoree said.

After college, Wood began work at the Lide White Boys & Girls Club as a resource development assistant and was an AmeriCorps member.

She currently serves as the events and marketing manager at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I thought I'd be overseas somewhere in a hut feeding orphans. But I'm not," she said. "Life has taken me down a different path and I find myself back here in Madison where it all began."

Even though her current job isn't in the missions field - or in a foreign country - Wood continues to give back to her community and to her international community as well.

In Madison, Wood has served as a Big Sister in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and as a mentor at the Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility. She and her husband continue to do reach out and change the international community through the Madison Ulster Project and the International Ulster organization.

"You don't have to know exactly where you're going in order to arrive at the destination," she said. "Sometimes it's the side trips along the way that have the most significant impact on your life."

Molly Dodge

Dodge never imagined she would help coordinate a project with a scope like the Jefferson County Clearinghouse, even though she has an undergraduate degree from Hanover College and two master's degrees - one in philanthropic studies and another in nonprofit management - from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"The Clearinghouse project was not at all any sort of a project or work-related responsibility that I thought I would ever have," the Pendleton native said.

Yet, the project has been a major part of her job since joining River Valley Resources in 2007. Dodge also serves as the director of the Adult Basic Education program for six southeastern Indiana counties.

Since the project began seven years ago, Dodge has directed the coordination of church food pantries into one location that will eventually house other social service programs in the community. The House of Hope food pantry opened last year, and eight social service groups are expected to open in the space after renovations are completed in May.

A quote that has given Dodge the courage to continue with the large-scale task was one she passed on to the audience and Girls Inc. participants.

"Alone, you can go a lot faster," she said. "But you can go a lot farther as a team."

She also told Girls Inc. participants to find their passion in life and work hard to achieve their goals.

"When you find something that you're passionate about, whether it be in your professional life or in your personal life, that you give it as much energy and effort as you possibly can," she said.

Darleen Connolly

Connolly, a native of Canaan, has given back in many different ways to the county where she grew up - from starting the Hanover College Office of Alumni Relations in 1991 and retiring as a campaign associate for the college's Office of Development to her community service as a United Way board member and serving as a guardian ad litem with Southeastern Indiana Voices for Children.

Yet even with her list of achievements, she's still not sure she really knows where she's going.

"I will tell you that even though this luncheon recognizes me as someone who knows where she's going, my husband of 44 years will tell you that frequently I do not know where I'm going," she said, noting she often misplaces car keys and other items.

Looking back on her life, Connolly's definition of success has changed over the years, she said. In her 20s, success was her family life. Later on, it meant her career and volunteer work - which her husband has supported. Now in her 60s, her definition of success has changed again.

"It changes because of your progression through life and the things that become important to you as time goes on, and you want to be successful in different ways," she said. "Be open to that change."

She also encouraged girls to embrace the career opportunities that have opened up to women over the decades.

"You have many, many more opportunities than women had in the past. Not so long ago, the greatest career opportunity that women strove for was to marry well," she told Girls Inc. participants. "As you define your own success and decide what it is that you want to do with your life...take advantage of the opportunities that have not always been out there for women in the past."