Skip to main content

2016 Jefferson Award Recipients

Cathy Battle, Jefferson Award Winner

Cathy Battle

Respiratory therapist, Respiratory Care Department, Forbes Regional Hospital, Allegheny Health Network

Working with her husband, Pastor Phillip Battle Jr., Cathy is active in the community through their ministry, located in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. She believes that one who has been blessed in life should help and encourage less fortunate people, especially families with children and seniors that are living on the fringes of society.

Cathy and her husband started the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank in 2012 after learning that 1 in 3 American families struggle to provide diapers for their babies. In three years, the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank has supplied 180,000 diapers to more than 35 agencies. These agencies have distributed their supplies to 1,400 families in need, which included 2,290 children in 2015 alone.

Cathy's mission is to raise the public's awareness of the diaper crisis throughout Western Pennsylvania, ensuring that every child and senior citizen has an adequate supply of diapers to remain clean, healthy and dry.

Linda Dallago, Jefferson Award Winner

Linda Dallago

Associate benefit coder, Highmark Inc.

Linda has been a champion for children's causes and extracurricular activities for more than 20 years. She realized when her children started elementary school that public education would not provide the extras young students need to excel and that traditional public education funding lags behind the actual needs of students. As a leader in parent-teacher organizations, a coordinator of extracurricular activities and a school board director for the Central Dauphin School District, she knew that an education foundation would be necessary to sustain activities in the school district. With Linda's help, The Panther Ram Foundation evolved into a fundraising means to help education achieve broader goals.

Linda also learned that young children in the district were going hungry. After being introduced to the NutriPack Program, a nutritional weekend backpack program, Linda partnered with creator Amy to help sustain its presence. Since then, the program has grown from 100 to more than 800 children served, with an annual budget of more than $75,000. In addition, NutriPack helps struggling parents become more engaged in their child's education.

Hector Gonzalez, Jefferson Award Winner

Hector Gonzalez

Territory director, Visionworks, HVHC Inc.

Hector has been feeding the homeless for more than 25 years, following words of wisdom from his father on a trip to New York City in 1989. Since then, it has become a life passion and mission for Hector. He began feeding the homeless weekly, out of his own pocket, but he had a dream to feed many more. After winning a Jefferson Award in 2010, Hector used his reward money to start an organization called Hope for the Homeless through his church.

Today, Hope for the Homeless is a non-profit corporation, working to provide food, clothing, guidance and eventually a shelter for the homeless in the streets of Miami. It feeds over 700 homeless once a week and provides them with clothing, blankets and toiletries. Hope for the Homeless is also connected to many facilities that provide shelter and guide the homeless to vacancies as they become available, and it organizes many church events to raise funds for its mission, with the goal to eventually open up a shelter where all homeless are welcome for the night. Currently, there are about 50 people volunteering their time to Hope for the Homeless.

Myla Granadino, Jefferson Award Winner

Myla Granadino

Capability manager, Government Markets, Highmark Inc.

Growing up, Myla always had the desire to be of service to others and to her community. She often led her school's outreach programs in the Philippines. Her aspiration to create a positive impact continued when she moved to Pittsburgh in 1996.

For the past 15 years, Myla has volunteered for numerous community events in Pittsburgh, such as the United Way Cleaning Drive, the Soaringwords' Quilt Decorations, the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival and the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community. In 2013, she spearheaded a fundraising effort called "Feast for a Cause" to benefit the Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines. With the help of family and friends, she raised more than $4,000.

Additionally, for the past four years, Myla has volunteered with Pennsylvania Women Work (PAWW), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women in career transition and helping them achieve economic self-sufficiency. She is a member of the organization's Corporate Advisory Committee and is a mentor in their 3 Cups of Coffee® program. Myla also helps coordinate events that raise much-needed funds that allow PAWW to continue to serve hundreds of women each year.

Meggan Hostuttler, Jefferson Award Winner

Meggan Hostuttler

Supervisor, Senior Markets, Highmark West Virginia

Meggan's charitable causes are a way to honor the life of her warrior — her big brother, Matthew — who is at the end of his battle with stage IV liver cancer. In honor of Matt, Meggan ran the 2015 NYC Marathon with the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, a foundation that she cares deeply about.

For several years, Meggan has also volunteered her time to community health initiatives and children's programs, including an adult women's softball league that empowers women to get moving, local food drives, youth basketball leagues and the promotion of safe after school programs for physical fitness through the WV Legislature. These fitness programs are driven by her passion to share her own fitness journey, having lost 90 pounds through clean nutrition and exercise. Meggan and her youngest son, Jaxson, have also created an annual Blessing Bag Project, through which they have donated over 200 bags filled with hats, gloves, socks, snacks and hygiene supplies to homeless shelters and underprivileged children.

Additionally, Meggan and her family give back to the community through a scholarship, which will be awarded to three graduating seniors in 2016.

Rhonda Moore Johnson, Jefferson Award Winner

Rhonda Moore Johnson

Senior medical director, Health Equity & Quality Services, Highmark Inc.

Dr. Johnson is a champion for health care for the underserved at home and abroad. She has authored hundreds of articles for minority media outlets in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and is the immediate past president of the Gateway Medical Society, whose mission is the elimination of health care disparities. Abroad, Dr. Johnson provides pediatric care on international missions, having served the Pima Indians of the Sierra Mountains of Mexico and most recently the children in the mountains of Haiti. Mission work is not her only tie to the global community – she has hosted youth from Mexico, Columbia, Turkey, France, Germany, Paraguay, Uzbekistan and South Korea in her home.

A devoted member of Triumph Church, she is active in health care ministry, sings in two choirs and cares for the sick and shut in by providing homemade soups and meals.

Dr. Johnson is a lifetime member of the Pittsburgh Chapter of Jack and Jill of Pittsburgh, where she has served as an age group leader, a senior teen advisor and corresponding secretary. Additionally, Dr. Johnson has mentored and advised countless individuals.

Carley Kimmell, Jefferson Award Winner

Carley Kimmell

Associate compliance analyst, Highmark Inc.

There is nothing more unfair than a childhood stripped of innocence due to illness. Many times, these children find themselves confined to their bedrooms. Special Spaces is an organization determined to brighten these four walls along with the resilient spirits of these little fighters!

Carley has worked with the Southwestern Pennsylvania chapter of Special Spaces for four years and has helped make over the bedrooms of six extremely deserving children. Initially motivated by an "I want to make a difference attitude," Carley quickly fell in love with the amazed, grateful reactions of the children during bedroom reveals. As the organization runs solely on raised funds, she has dedicated significant time to recognizing, organizing and carrying out fundraising events and opportunities for Special Spaces.

As the organization gains recognition and momentum in the area, Carley is enthusiastic about future opportunities to brighten the lives of many more brave kids. She cannot wait to see the smiling, happy face of the next, very deserving recipient.

Megan Livingston-Garcia, Jefferson Award Winner

Megan Livingston

Senior instructional designer, Talent Development, Highmark Health

Ten years ago, after seeing the need at the high school where her mother taught, Megan decided to create a prom dress project for girls in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania area. As a result, the Johnstown Cinderella Project has provided over 1,000 dresses, shoes and accessories free of charge to girls across five counties and more than 30 school districts. The project also aims to build self-esteem and show teens that there are women in their community that care. Assisting with the project is a team of volunteers that Megan coordinates and calls her "fairy godmothers." The project also works with programs like Tim Tebow's A Night to Shine, Special Outstanding Young Women, local high school theater programs, local nursing homes for senior proms, camps for children with cancer and even a mission in Haiti. All donated dresses find a home!

Additionally, Megan volunteers her time as a youth mentor, as founder and advisor of the Young Professionals of the Alleghenies, as a Walk to End Alzheimer's committee member, as a Clara Barton Forum speaker, as a social media coordinator for Lift Johnstown and Richland Community Days and as coordinator of the Johnstown Family Service Club.

Mevla Mila Mujdzic-Celic, Jefferson Award Winner

Mevla Mila Mujdzic-Celic

Third key eyewear specialist, Visonworks, HVHC Inc.

Mevla has lived out her heart's desire of assisting those in need for more than 20 years. A survivor of abuse in war-torn Bosnia, Mevla uses her pain as motivation to help the under-privileged. For 16 years, Mevla has also served Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in Concordia, Missouri as a peace ambassador.

Mevla helps women, teenagers and children displaced from their homes, wandering the streets and who are involved with prostitution and drug use. Mevla has sheltered 130 women and children by feeding, clothing and reading the gospel to them in her apartment. Fluent in five languages, Mevla guides adults towards citizenship and teaches ESL classes. Mevla's vision is to open her own property as a shelter where she can foster an environment to provide services needed for families and pets.

Additionally, Mevla volunteers for the War Trauma Recovery Project as an ambassador, St. John's Mercy Neighborhood Heath Center as an educator and health care consultant, Christian Friends of New Americans as an ambassador and translator, and The International Institute, Catholic Charities, La Clinica, Metro HIV, March of Dimes, Children's Miracle Network and Children's Hope Support Organization in Africa.

Dr. Lauren Simko, Pharm.D., Jefferson Award Winner

Dr. Lauren Simko, Pharm.D.

Director of pharmacy sales, Highmark Inc.

Lauren graduated with her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Duquesne University in 2000, after receiving much support and guidance from her parents. Lauren's father encouraged her to pursue this profession, leaving articles around their home about pharmacists and finding ways to discuss this profession with his daughter. During graduation, Lauren took the Pharmacist's Oath, which requires her to advocate for improved patient care. Lauren took this professional oath to heart on a personal level when she lost her father to melanoma in May 2010 and vowed to improve education and research for this life-threatening but misunderstood cancer. Lauren's vow is that no one should suffer or watch a loved one die due to one of the few cancers that can be detected early and even prevented.

Following the loss of her father, Lauren co-founded The Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation, a charity that brings life-saving awareness while providing funds for important melanoma research. Last year, $20,000 was donated to Dr. Howard Edington of Allegheny Health Network for melanoma research, and a total of $80,000 has been donated to date. The charity's fundraisers vary from small, intimate events that are therapeutic for those that have lost a loved one or have survived treatment, to large events, such as the "Sunscreen Open" golf outing, held annually and dedicated to someone who has survived or lost their life to melanoma. An annual 5K family walk/run is also held every summer and now brings in close to 1,000 attendees.

Heather Snyder, Jefferson Award Winner

Heather Snyder

Provider data management, United Concordia Companies Inc.

The common theme in Heather's life and in her quest to help others is "hope."

At age 9 Heather lost her father to pulmonary fibrosis (PF) and was then diagnosed with the same deadly disease at age 37. As neither a cure nor a treatment exists for PF, Heather's only option was a life-saving double lung transplant, which she received in 2011. Since then, her personal mission has been to give other patients hope that one day PF will not be a death sentence.

As a result, Heather became a national speaker with a powerful message. She has spoken to thousands of physicians through the American Thoracic Society, advocated on Capitol Hill for additional research funding and was asked to present her story at a FDA Patient-Focused Drug Development Workshop. With her help, the FDA approved the very first medications in the United States for patients living with PF in 2014, and the NIH received an additional $6 million for research in 2015.

Robert T. White, Jefferson Award Winner

Robert T. White

Lead business technical analyst, Highmark Inc.

Bob and Cindy started a youth group in their church that empowers children in third through fifth grade to make a positive difference in the lives of others by volunteering their time in service to them. The services performed by the group, known as the No Mission Impossible Club (NoMIC), include packing lunches for the homeless in the Pittsburgh area, hosting Halloween and Christmas parties for residence in assisted living centers, participating in the Feed My Starving Children meal pack events, partnering with the Military Connections organization to collect and send presents to our military personnel overseas, building ramps for wheel chair bound individuals and hosting an annual Easter egg hunt with games, activities and dinner for North Hills Community Outreach families.

By training children and adults on the value and delight of volunteering their time to help others, Bob and Cindy hope to promote peace within the community, the nation and the world. An estimated 400 children and 100 adults have been members of NoMIC over the past 15 years. After leaving the club, many have continued volunteering their time in other mission outreach ministries within and outside of the church.

Cynthia White, Jefferson Award Winner

Cynthia White

Business technical analyst consultant, HM Health Solutions Inc.

Bob and Cindy started a youth group in their church that empowers children in third through fifth grade to make a positive difference in the lives of others by volunteering their time in service to them. The services performed by the group, known as the No Mission Impossible Club (NoMIC), include packing lunches for the homeless in the Pittsburgh area, hosting Halloween and Christmas parties for residence in assisted living centers, participating in the Feed My Starving Children meal pack events, partnering with the Military Connections organization to collect and send presents to our military personnel overseas, building ramps for wheel chair bound individuals and hosting an annual Easter egg hunt with games, activities and dinner for North Hills Community Outreach families.

By training children and adults on the value and delight of volunteering their time to help others, Bob and Cindy hope to promote peace within the community, the nation and the world. An estimated 400 children and 100 adults have been members of NoMIC over the past 15 years. After leaving the club, many have continued volunteering their time in other mission outreach ministries within and outside of the church.

See all 2016 Press Releases

Contact us for more information or to arrange an interview:

David Misner
Highmark Health
717-302-3638
david.misner@highmarkhealth.org

VISIT US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

Press Kit

Media Coverage

Media Coverage

Fact Sheets & Reports

Fact Sheets & Reports

Leadership Team & Bios

Leadership Team & Bios

Historical Timeline

Historical Timeline

Awards & Recognition

Awards & Recognition

About Us

About Us