The Heroines

Arneatha Martin

is honored with a Brick from Soroptimist International of Wichita, Ks, Inc.

Arneatha Martin was selected as the 1999 recipient of the Soroptimist International of Wichita, Inc.'s Women of Distinction Recognition Award. The award is presented to a person who has made an outstanding contribution for at least ten years in the service areas of health, economic and social development, human rights/status of women, and/or international goodwill and understanding. The person selected must be recognized as a person of exemplary character and integrity with outstanding ability and demonstrated leadership -- a person who would be an ideal role model for other women.

The following application nomating Arneatha for the award was prepared by Louanna Honeycutt Burress. The narrative truly demonstrates why Arneatha Martin was selected for the Women of Distinction Recognition Award and later honored by Soroptimist International of Wichita, Inc. in the Plaza of Heroines at Wichita State University.

While there are numerous women in our community we may consider for the Soroptimist International Wichita, Inc.'s Recognition Award for Women of Distinction, Arneatha possesses all the qualities that this designation represents.

Born in Arkansas, Arneatha has been a resident of Wichita from an early age and has spent most of her personal and professional life right here in Sedgwick County, tenaciously striving to improve the health and well-being of those who can least help themselves. While she draws a salary, one might think of her as a volunteer because there aren't enough resources in the near northeast community to adequately pay for the services she has generated.

Far from being privileged herself, Arneatha, nonetheless, is an advocate for any and all of us who need medical attention whether we can pay for it or not. The color of skin doesn't matter; the stability of intellect or emotion doesn't matter. What matters are the people:
* Little babies and young children, living in the world's richest country that don't get enough to eat or the inoculations that would give them a chance to grow into healthy adults.
* Scared pregnant teenagers who haven't sought prenatal care because they simply don't know which way to turn or that such care is critical to both themselves and their unborn children.
* People of all ages experiencing the agony and isolation of AIDS with no one caring enough to urge them off the street for minimal routine screening and the help they need to survive.
* Women, suffering alone with breast cancer, lacking a support system and unaware of available options.

Arneatha confronts these every day and works from sunup to sundown, tirelessly addressing this plethora of needs, and many more.

She began working in the medical field at age 18 as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). As she matured in this tumultuous society, she realized that the community needed a medical facility for the poor and forgotten. Her instincts told her that such a facility must be located where the people in need are. Some say, "build it and they will come." Arneatha would say, "they won't come if they can't get here." Her vision was to build a facility that would open its doors to people in need, regardless of income or other real and artificial barriers. Almost single-handedly, she took the challenge to build with bricks and mortar what others said wasn't feasible or, in fact, really needed. She begged, pleaded and bargained with anyone or any agency that had the power to make her dream a reality.

Arneatha's achievement has not gone unnoticed as anyone who reads her resume can easily discern. In 1975 she received a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Wichita State University, and in 1980 she received her master's in nursing degree, also from Wichita State University. She has held professional membership in the national and local Black Nurses Association. She has been skilled in recruiting support from foundations and religious and financial institutions (Cessna, Raytheon, Kansas Health Foundation, Gates Enterprises Inc., Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Tabernacle Baptist Church, St. James Baptist Church, Wichita Black Nurses Association) to support her vision.

The almost endless list of honors to her credit include: Martin Luther King, Jr. Recognition Award; WSU Nursing Distinguished Alumna Award; Leadership Kansas, Class of 1998; and the Wichita State University Alumni Association 1998 Achievement Award. Along the way, she attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve, serving in Desert Storm. Undoubtedly, the distinction that counts most to her is serving as co-president, along with Walter E. "Bud" Gates, and chief executive officer of the Center for Health and Wellness Inc. in Wichita.

Arneatha is and has been much more than most of us can even imagine. She is a woman of vision, passion, humanity, compassion and, I believe, love. Arneatha doesn't care more about the poor and the sick than the rest of us; she just decided it was up to her to do something about it.

She is the person I would like to be, the one we should all want to be. Need we look further than within our own organization to find the person to honor as this year's Woman of Distinction? I think not.