March is Women’s History Month, a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. At Nation’s Finest, we are fortunate to have many women leaders at the helm of our work supporting America’s military Veterans and their families. From Directors on our governing Board to women with boots on the ground, helping our Veterans directly with supportive services, our women leaders embody dedication, determination, boldness, humility, and passion.

We would be remiss this Women’s History Month not to honor ALL of the women at Nation’s Finest who continually give so much of themselves to help others. Despite various obstacles, they rise to the challenge of helping our Veterans in need live their fullest and happiest lives.

When asked what Women’s History Month means to them, here is how a small handful of our inspiring women leaders responded.

What Does Women’s History Month Mean to You?

Mary Nicholson, Board of Directors, Nation’s Finest

Mary Nicholson is an American Leadership Senior Fellow and serves on the Board of Directors for Nation’s Finest. She has been recognized as a leader in the areas of business, communications, community affairs and health and wellness. The most challenging job Mary thought she had was as a Caregiver to her husband who had pancreatic cancer. Then, the nob was dialed up a notch when she had a life-threatening brain aneurysm, stroke and grand mal seizure. Suddenly, just fighting for her life was her challenge. In response to her life-changing experiences, Mary started a non-profit agency called Healings in Motion to help survivors of stroke, traumatic brain injuries and neurological impairments.

“As women, and especially Black women, we’ve had to make some major decisions in history without giving up. We have a lot to be very proud of and to reflect on. In due respect, we have to recognize the trueness of our heroism that is possessed within us in our mothers, grandchildren, and in our own children. It goes back to the very beat of our spirit. The beat of hope instilled inside of the woman that’s within us.”

Mary Nicholson

Anne Fabiny, MD, Board of Directors, Nation’s Finest

Anne Fabiny, MD, serves as Treasurer on the Nation’s Finest Board of Directors. She is a geriatrician who, until recent retirement, served as the Associate Chief of Staff for Geriatrics, Palliative and Extended Care at the San Francisco VA Health Care System. She was also a Professor at the University of California – San Francisco. Dr. Fabiny has helped to establish a new model of primary care for newly-housed, older, chronically homeless Veterans. She also worked to improve the SFVAHCS’s care of complex for older Veterans as they move from one site of care to another.

“All history is Women’s History. Women have been a part of American Society from the very beginning of our history across all cultures and generations. I don’t believe that designating one month to recognize women’s contributions to our nation makes sense. Women are an integral part of our nation’s entire story.”

Lacey Szekely, Board of Directors, Nation’s Finest

Lacey Szekely serves on the Board of Directors for Nation’s Finest and started swët Fitness, a Veteran-owned company, from the ground up. She flew military aircraft and felt a healthy lifestyle was the key to a long, fruitful life. With a strong upbringing of honesty, hard work and compassion, combined with leadership skills she learned in the military, she developed the idea of swët Fitness to support members. Lacey is NASM-certified and has a passion for helping people gain health, wellness and confidence through fitness.

“Women’s History Month gives me the space to reflect on how far women have come since first being able to vote in 1920. When I started my aviation career, we had a couple female pilots in the company if we were lucky. Now, female pilots are popping up right and left, and it makes me so happy to see! As I reflect further on all the women I’ve encountered, I catch myself smiling. These women have set an example for generations to come, proving their resilience to hard work, dedication to service, and love for one another. Women today are fighters for what’s right and offer a helping hand to those who need it. This month, we thank all the women standing up to make this world a better place. We also remember all the people before us who paved the way, and are the shoulders upon which we stand to achieve new heights today.”

Lacey Szekely

Kendra Barter, Chief Programs Officer, Nation’s Finest

Kendra Barter is the Chief Programs Officer at Nation’s Finest, where she leads, manages, and coordinates the work of multiple program areas and is responsible for ensuring cross-coordination between program areas and with other departments.

“To me, Women’s History Month is about acknowledging those individuals who have fought for gender equality and rights, and recognizing just how far women have come in what seems to be a short amount of time. Without those women before who paved the way for me, I would not be where I am at Nation’s Finest. Females were not promoted to chief executive positions 20-30 years ago, and the numbers are still too low today. I appreciate the opportunity to advance in my career with Nation’s Finest and look forward to opening the door to more female executives in the future.”

Cynthia Crist-Stommel, Site Director, Nation’s Finest-Carson City

Cynthia Crist-Stommel is the lead Site Director for Nation’s Finest in Carson City, where she oversees the day-to-day operation of programs, services and staff to provide support to local Veterans and their families.

“Women’s History Month is a time I pay extra gratitude to all the women who came before me to pave the path that I am on today. My goal is to continue the hard work women of past generations have put in by performing the way they did, making an impact. To think of all the accomplishments that have transpired in the world and the impact of women is incredibly profound and astonishing, to say the least. To be but a strand of thread in the tapestry of women is truly something I do not take lightly.”

Cynthia Crist-Stommel

Jade Smith, Assistant Site Director, Nation’s Finest-Sacramento

Jade Smith oversees the community programs at Nation’s Finest in Sacramento. Since starting with the organization in 2017 on the front lines as an entry level case manager for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, she’s continued to grow in her career and has been promoted several times – from Lead SSVF Case Manager to Community Programs Manager and now Assistant Site Director.

“Women’s History Month is a time for me to reflect on, celebrate, and empower all the strong women in history and in my own life who have paved the way for me, a young woman of color, to navigate spaces I would otherwise not be welcome or have access to. I reflect on and acknowledge that without the hard work of women who have constantly stood up, spoken out, and taken up space where they were told they didn’t belong, I would not have had the privilege and opportunities to get an education, gain employment, and live independently in this world as I do today. I am forever grateful for the women who lived their lives out loud for me to do the same. It is so important for women to empower each other in all aspects of life — not only during Women’s History Month, but every day so that young girls and women who may have doubts about their place in this world, or in their place of work, know that we not only belong in these spaces, but that we can thrive in these spaces.”

Jade Smith

Thank you to ALL the incredible women at Nation’s Finest who are putting in the hard work to give our Veterans and their families the care they deserve!