“This is such an exciting thing!” Voluntary Action Center executive director Cindy Mustard exclaimed upon receiving the ATHENA Award at the business Conference and Showcase, presented by Woman’s Network ATHENA Committee co-chair Ellen Roper.
When Cindy Mustard, executive director of the Voluntary Action Center, received the ATHENA Award during the Business Conference & Showcase luncheon Tuesday, she joined the ranks of 5,000 remarkable women around the world (congresswomen, ambassadors, human rights activists, entertainment executives) and in her home town (Muriel Battle, Vicky Riback Wilson, Wendy Libby, Richard Mendenhall) to be honored for making a difference in the lives of women. As part of an international ATHENA program, each year the Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Network chooses a businessperson who demonstrates professional excellence while helping women reach their leadership potential, recognizing the award recipient at an annual luncheon.
This year, preceding the announcement of the winner, luncheon attendees got to watch a suspense-building, hint-dropping video in which Columbia notables such as Image Technologies owner Lynda Baumgartner, Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs Manager Marie Hunter and film producer/daughter Katie Mustard recounted Cindy Mustard’s life, lauded her accomplishments, gushed about her big heart, and called her “an inspiration,” “a role model” and “a former hippie.”
A thunderous standing ovation ensued before an ebullient and misty-eyed Mustard thanked her supporters, quipped about her hippie days and concluded: “I think it’s good we’re honoring the not-for-profit world too. We are a business.”
For 15 years, Mustard has worked with the VAC, a non-profit organization providing emergency assistance and referral services for lowincome people in Boone County as well as programs offering help with school supplies, electric fans, Christmas gifts, summertime lunches and other necessities for low-income families.
Before joining the VAC team, Mustard worked as a training and program director for Camp Fire Boys & Girls in Kansas City and as the field director for the American Cancer Society in mid-Missouri. She is currently involved with local organizations such as the Commission on Cultural Affairs, the Missouri Association of Community Arts Agencies, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, First Presbyterian Church, Boys & Girls Club, Columbia Downtown Rotary Club, the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration Committee and King’s Daughters.
Though she has traveled throughout the world, visiting nearly every continent, Mustard is a Columbia native. Her family—including grandfather Sanford F. Conley—has lived here since the 1820s. She’s a graduate of the
University Laboratory School, Jefferson Junior High School, Hickman High School and the University of Missouri-Columbia. Though their daughter, Katie, is now a producer in Hollywood (and in the video proposed making a film about her mother’s life), Cindy and her husband of 38 years, antique dealer Marvin Mustard, nurture their deep local roots. They live in the house where Cindy grew up.