Roof shingles — lots of them — bring South Florida woman national honors

Jun 27, 2011

The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on June 25, 2011:

Roof shingles – lots of them – bring South Florida woman national honors

By Phillippe Buteau

A local woman is being recognized nationally for the hundreds of hours she has dedicated to building homes for less fortunate people.

Alicia Ewen, 38, of Coconut Creek, is one of 18 winners of the 2011 Jefferson Award, a national prize for public service. Ewen is one of two people who won the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis award, open to winners of the Jefferson Award, for service benefiting local communities. Both the Jefferson and Onassis awards are gold medallions.


Ewen, who works in Allstate’s Miami office fighting insurance fraud, received her awards for the 850 hours she spent building homes for Habitat for Humanity in South Florida, other parts of the country and Thailand.

Separate from the national awards, Allstate recognized Ewen as their “Volunteer of the Year” and awarded her $5,000 last week in Washington, D.C.

“I’m surprised I was selected as one of Allstate’s nominees out of about 25,000 employees it has, who I’m sure are all doing great work,” said Ewen, a native of Portage, Ind.

Born and raised on a farm, Ewen has done remodeling work throughout her life, she said, so her work with Habitat isn’t new to her.

Of all her tasks, her favorite is roofing, because of the teaching she’s able to do.

“Everyone has painted,” Ewen said. “But such a small number of people have done roofing that being able to teach people how to lay down shingles is what I love.”

Her love of teaching fits Ewen’s current position within Habitat. Two years after she started with the group in 2005, Ewen became a volunteer leader who directs unskilled workers to complete construction tasks.

Susan Deyoung, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Broward Restore, said Ewen’s award recognizes Habitat for Humanity overall.

“We have so many volunteers who are so hard-working and so dedicated, this is not actually surprising,” Deyoung said.

Mary Lou Bowman Cubbin, director of construction for the Broward Habitat chapter, has worked with Ewen for six years. Their relationship has moved beyond a first-name basis.

“We call her ‘Lish,'” said Bowman Cubbin. She said Ewen’s friendly and outgoing personality has won the adoration of those she’s worked with and helped.

“All of our volunteers and homeowners love her,” Bowman Cubbin said.

Onassis co-founded the Jefferson Award in 1972. Other winners of this year’s award include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; actress Marlo Thomas; owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls Jerry M. Reinsdorf, and NFL running back Warrick Dunn.

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