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Girl Scouts to Honor Three ‘Women of Distinction’

This year's recipients are Laura Benson, Heather Georgakis and Victoria Strong

During its 16th annual Women of Distinction benefit to support Girl Scouts in Santa Barbara, volunteer members of the Santa Barbara community will honor three women — Laura Benson, Heather Georgakis and Victoria Strong — who have compassionately demonstrated altruism and leadership.

Laura Benson
Laura Benson

The reception will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 at the Montecito Country Club, 920 Summit Road in Santa Barbara. The event is open to the Santa Barbara community. The cost is $25 per person.

Benson is a vice president and private banking relationship manager for Northern Trust N.A. She is responsible for managing credit relationships with high net worth individuals and corporations/partnerships providing investment, credit and capital market services to Northern’s clients.

Before joining Northern Trust, Benson managed the Santa Barbara private banking office at Santa Barbara Bank & Trust. She held various private banking positions with Wells Fargo, First Security Van Kasper Investment Banking in California, and First Security Bank in Utah and Idaho.

Benson has more than 30 years in banking and more than 18 years in the private banking area. She received the Northern Trust 2010 Chairman’s Award for Diversity and Inclusion.

Benson received her bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University and now serves on its College of Business Advisory Council. She has been a Girl Scout member for 29 years, having served on the Utah Council from 1986 to 1992. There she was honored as the 1988 recipient of the “Girls to Women” award. She served as first vice president on the Tres Condados Girl Scout Board of Directors and was a member of the transition team for the council merger to Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.

Benson serves on the boards of the University Club of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Associates, and is an active member of the Santa Barbara Sunrise Rotary Club. She is also involved in the Special Sisters Program at Domestic Violence Solutions.

Heather Georgakis
Heather Georgakis

Georgakis is entering her 10th year as dean of the Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law, where she has taught law since 1987. She earned three degrees from UCLA. After earning her law degree, she worked in the governmental relations section of the law department of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. In 1980, she relocated to Santa Barbara to join the firm of Archbald & Spray, where she practiced law as an appellate attorney.

A founding member of the Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation, Georgakis served as its treasurer for many years. She also has served on the boards of the Northside Business Association, the William L. Gordon Inn of Court and the Santa Barbara County Bar Association, and has been a volunteer for numerous Santa Barbara organizations, including the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and the Patterson Area Neighborhood Association.

A mother of three, Georgakis enjoys quilting and attending the theater. She also has been an active volunteer with Girl Scouts, AYSO, the Santa Barbara Youth Theatre, and the PTAs at several Goleta schools. She organized a community service project for this year’s Girl Scout Day Camp, helping the girls finish 26 rainbow-colored kids’ quilts for donation to Transition House.

Victoria Strong with daughter Gwendolyn
Victoria Strong with daughter Gwendolyn

As the founder of the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation, Strong is dedicated to having a material impact on raising awareness of spinal muscular atrophy, the leading genetic killer of young children, and accelerating promising research toward a cure.

Strong and her husband founded the Gwendolyn Strong Foundation after their daughter, Gwendolyn, was diagnosed with SMA at 6 months old. Although not a household name, SMA kills more children than any other inherited disease. With increased awareness and adequate funding, SMA is expected to become a treatable disease in the near future.

Strong is determined to continue to elevate awareness of SMA at the national level and push groundbreaking cure-focused research to the finish line. Since its inception in August 2009, GSF has helped raise nearly $500,000, reached more than 2 million people globally with unique social media campaigns, created several programs to materially move SMA legislation forward, been honored by other national organizations for their efforts and, most importantly, made several targeted grants to promising research programs with the potential to cure SMA.

In addition to her work with GSF, Strong is a full-time mother and caregiver to Gwendolyn, who is now a feisty 2-year old.

The Sept. 23 reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. with appetizers and a no-host bar, followed by a Girl Scout flag ceremony and awards presentation at 6:15 p.m.

Click here to register.

— Tammy Gentry is the communications director for the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.

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