Suzanne Craig named 2024 ATHENA Award recipient; H.L. Neblett receives Legacy

Suzanne Craig receives the 2024 ATHENA Award from Girls Inc. at the 26th annual ATHENA Luncheon.

Suzanne Craig, Public Health Administrator at Green River District Health Department, was awarded the 2024 ATHENA Award by Girl’s Inc. on Tuesday for her service to young women in and outside the community. The annual Legacy Award — which honors a woman posthumously for her contributions to society — was awarded to the late Hattie Louise Neblett and a special honor for the AAUW.

Craig’s nomination form described her as “a skillful business and professional woman, but a nurturer, a trusted mentor to many and a trailblazer in advocacy, support and empowerment of women.”

“I’m really humbled. I didn’t prepare a speech, but I’m so humbled today. I remember a quote saying, ‘If ever I’ve succeeded, even a little, it is because I’ve stood on the backs of giants.’ There are so many people, even a single client in my room, who mentored me, loved me, and supported me as a friend in the health department, my co-workers, and my family who believed in me all the way along the way,” Craig said.

Craig has held numerous positions throughout her career, all related to health care. At Green River, she serves as Program Manager for Community Access Projects and leads an all-female staff that oversees seven programs in a five-county area.

She and her staff have secured over $12 million in grants for the region to support public health and programming and an additional $92 million in donated medical and prescription services.

In the past, Craig has been a counselor and case manager for the Kentucky Impact Plus Program, focusing on women and children and counseling for sexual assault victims through New Beginnings Sexual Assault Services. She also worked at the Green River District Health Department for 17 years.

Craig has mentored 65 student interns and 26 family medicine residents throughout her career. She has also received the Health Emerging Leadership Fellowship. ZeroV, the former Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, honored her with the Sherry Currens Award for lifetime advocacy excellence. Craig is also an ordained minister who volunteers with support groups, grief ministry, and community outreach projects.

Outside of work, Craig is the Board President for the Community Dental Clinic, a board member for OASIS Women’s Shelter, and other places throughout the community.

“Our honoree is a real dynamo who has devoted her life to help those in need. Her motto has been “strive for good, better, best,” Kirk Kirkpatrick read from her nomination letter.

Girls Inc. also honored Hattie Louise Neblett, who died in 1993, as the Legacy Award recipient.

Neblett and her husband, Dr. Reginald Neblett, came to Owensboro for Reginald’s medical practice and within 15 minutes, they had already helped respond to a youth being shot and killed. They both knew they needed to provide a safe space for African American youth in the community from those moments.

“[This was] a need Mrs. Neblett tackled with unwavering passion and tenacity. She opened the basement of her home as a place for boys and girls to gather, learn and grow in a safe, loving environment,” Chair of ATHENA Sue Napper read.

By 1936, the H.L. Neblett Community Center had opened its doors with Hattie Louise at the helm, a position she would hold until 1973. Yet, it wasn’t until 1940 that they opened their West 5th Street building. In 1978, the Nebletts received the Jane Addams Medal, recognizing them as “outstanding leaders in the service of humanity.”

Executive Director of the H.L. Neblett Center Martiza Meeks accepted the award in her honor.

As a recipient of the Legacy Award, Hattie Louise’s name will be engraved on a plaque at Girls Inc. as a reminder of her contributions to the community.

Girls Inc. honored the American Association of University Women for their 70 years of service in the Owensboro area.

“They have been a kinship of women who for the past 7 decades have broken through social, educational, political and economic barriers, working to help ensure that all women and girls have a fair opportunity,” they read.

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