A Lansing school board member and local business owner is this year's recipient of the Athena Award.

A Lansing school board member and local business owner is this year's recipient of the Athena Award.

The award was presented Tuesday to Debbie Deere, owner and executive director of A Deere Place child care center.

Deere received the award during a luncheon in Leavenworth that featured Miss Kansas Theresa Vail as the guest speaker.

The Athena Award is presented by the Women's Division of the Leavenworth-Lansing Chamber of Commerce and recognizes women for professional excellence, community service and assistance to other women in attaining professional excellence and leadership skills.

"It makes me feel very special," Deere said after she was presented the award.

Deere said she feels lucky to be able to do something she loves.

"Every day is not perfect, but I don't know what else I would love to do," she said.

She said it's been exciting and rewarding to work with people in the community.

"I don't think we're done yet," she said.

Deere has been operating A Deere Place since 1993. She started the business out of her garage. It later was moved to Lansing Elementary School. It's now operated in a building at the Lansing Business Center.

Deere had not been told ahead of time that she would be receiving the award Tuesday.

"This is a very nice surprise," she said.

Debbie Terrell, president of the Women's Division, said nominations are submitted for the award. And the nominations are sent to other Chambers for evaluation.

"They're chosen solely for their accomplishments," Terrell said of the award recipients.

Florence Larkin, who received the Athena Award in 1989, said it was "an extreme honor."

"Women weren't as dominant in the workplace as they are today," she said.

During her remarks, Vail talked about having been bullied as a child.

When she was 17, she chose three words she wanted to be known for ― strength, leadership and compassion.

Because she was bullied, Vail said she now has compassion and understanding for people who go through the same thing.

A Leavenworth High School graduate, Vail is a member of the National Guard. She competed in the Miss America pageant earlier this year.

Vail's platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers.

Vail said she wants to talk to other women, particularly women her age. She wants them to be aware of the stereotypes they face.