The Greater Phoenix Chamber announced the 2019 ATHENA private sector, public sector and young professional award recipients during its 32nd Annual ATHENA Awards Luncheon Nov. 15 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge. 

Cindy Dach, CEO, Changing Hands Bookstore, & Co-Founder MADE art boutique and Roosevelt Row, was awarded the 2019 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award in the private sector. Sherri Collins, Executive Director, Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, earned the 2019 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award in the public sector. Reyna Montoya, CEO and Founder, Aliento, took home the 2019 ATHENA Young Professional Award.

“We are incredibly proud to celebrate an inspiring group of leaders as this year’s recipients of the Greater Phoenix Chamber’s ATHENA Awards,” said Todd Sanders, president & CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber. “These influential women are dedicated to building a brighter future and ensuring our community remains strong. They embody the best of the Arizona business community and we look forward to seeing how they will carry on the legacy of ATHENA through their work.” 

The ATHENA Awards, named after the Greek goddess of courage and wisdom, is a program of ATHENA International, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating leadership opportunities for women. 

“The ATHENA Awards empower and connect a network of impactful women who are shaping the future,” said Cindy Dach, 2019 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award recipient in the private sector. “As leaders it is important for all of us to simultaneously link arms and hold out our hands. We must lead with kindness because kindness creates hope. And hope brings us to our next task at hand, to listen, and then ask how can we help?” 

As CEO of Changing Hands Bookstore, Cindy Dach has set a national standard for successfully operating and elevating the art of being an independent bookstore. During her nearly 20 years at Changing Hands, she has transformed the business by curating an elite speaker series, fostering community connections through events, and increasing annual sales by $5 million. 

In addition to her work establishing diverse and innovative revenue streams for her business, Dach has dedicated herself to breathing life into Phoenix’s arts and culture scene. Her focus on arts and community was instrumental in the creation of Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, which she helped establish. From business to community service to mentoring other bookstore operators, she is forging a path for a business that serves the bottom line and the community.

When asked what advice she would give women who are just beginning their career, Dach said, “Be humble and confident. Listen. And be fearless.”              

“The ATHENA Award is a special recognition. And, I’m so honored to have been selected as a candidate. I am just humbled to have been considered for this award. I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to return the favor through my career,” said Sherri Collins, 2019 ATHENA Businesswoman of the Year Award recipient in the public sector. “I wish every woman could benefit from the ATHENA Award as I have. The ATHENA network, connecting with women across the valley, and industries. It creates a stronger community across the valley.” 

As a lifelong advocate for her community, Sherri Collins has moved mountains to raise awareness for the deaf and hard of hearing. Leading the way as a changemaker, Collins serves as the Executive Director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, a position she has held for more than a decade.

In addition to her local leadership, Collins serves as the President of the Board for the National Association of State Agencies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  Throughout her life, and her career, she has broken barriers and led by example for other individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. She is proud to recognize herself as the first and only registered deaf lobbyist in the country. In this capacity, she has championed regulatory changes to improve the lives of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Every day, Collins magnifies her reach and positive community impact. 

When asked what this award means to her, Collins said, “This is a recognition of the hard work I’ve done in the community. I hope that with this recognition that I can be a community partner with everybody to remove barriers and improve quality of life.”

“As I walk away from this stage, I hope that you remember my story—that you remember the contributions, creativity and humanity of all immigrants,” said Reyna Montoya, the 2019 ATHENA Young Professional Award recipient. “I hope that you remember that we have a choice to nurture, to serve, and to lead with love in so much darkness. You have a voice to be a light.” 

Reyna Montoya is a fierce advocate for justice in her community. As a dedicated social entrepreneur, she founded Aliento in 2016, an Arizona community organization that harnesses resources to educate, and empower immigrants. 

A former Teach for America corps member, Montoya leveraged her personal experiences as an undocumented student to help her students thrive. After serving in the classroom, she wanted to expand her reach and impact. From boots-on-the-ground work assisting immigrants to employing trauma-informed models at Aliento, Montoya is redefining what it means to fight for social justice. Through Aliento, she uses her experience to convene communities to develop collaborative solutions and create a space that supports immigrant students and their families. Named a 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneur, Montoya is opening doors for other young women to take risks, while propelling communities forward. 

When asked what she sees as the key to continued success, Montoya said, “[b]eing able to stay true to your values and being able to share your gifts with others.” 

Dach, Collins and Montoya were chosen from among 11 ATHENA finalists, who were selected from a large group of nominees. The following is a complete list of the 2019 ATHENA finalists:

Our Young Professionals:

• Yassamin Ansari, Policy Advisor for the Climate Action Summit Team, Executive Office of the Secretary General, United Nations

Reyna Montoya, CEO & Founder, Aliento

Jennifer Yee, Attorney, Snell & Wilmer

From the Public Sector:

Sherri Collins, Executive Director, Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing

Marchelle Franklin, Human Services Director, City of Phoenix

Angela Johnson, Co-founder, Arizona Apparel Foundation

Lisa Scarpinato, CEO, Kitchen on the Street

From the Private Sector:

Cindy Dach, CEO, Changing Hands Bookstore, & Co-Founder MADE art boutique and Roosevelt Row

Sarika Desai, D.O., CEO & Physician, Arizona Heart 360

Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier, Partner, Snell & Wilmer

Liz Shabaker, CEO, Versant Capital Management