Each year Restoration and Remediation Magazine has the honor to formally celebrate women making strides within their organizations, and restoration overall for what is now the ninth consecutive year through our Women in Restoration Award. The award honors leading women in the industry based on journey and experience, job growth and future reach, industry and community involvement, and awards and certifications.

This year, like those nominated in past WIR award elections were outstanding women and one remarkable nominee rose to the top.


Meet 2024 Women in Restoration Award Winner Lori Jones…The First of Her Kind

Lori Jones

Lori Jones is the co-author of the RIA forensic guidelines, and one of the founding members of Biosheen Services located in Oklahoma City, OK. A central location that allows them to dispatch anywhere when duty calls. Lori became introduced to the restoration industry through her husband Jeff Jones’s family business Sani-Sheen, where she started out doing rug repairs then become a master rug cleaner. Later, Lori’s husband introduced her to the forensic restoration field, for which she grew a love and fascination.

“I just didn’t know how much of a difference I could make until I started working with him.”

Since making a career in the forensic restoration field, Lori has aided families for over 12 years involving a vast array of forensic restoration incident sites from infectious disease, homicide, suicide, accidental, natural and unattended death site remediation. 

Watch Lori’s Ask the Expert interview for her full story.

Her key accomplishments include:


  • Certified Forensic Operator. ®
  • Certified Master Rug Cleaner.
  • Certified Bio-Forensic Restoration Specialist. ®
  • High Risk / High Level Decontamination Specialist.
  • Master Trainer for the Microbial Warrior International Training and Certification Program.
  • Certified Search and rescue.
  • Certified Crime Scene Track Investigator.

For 15 years, Lori has been a driving force in the Forensic Restoration and Decontamination field, serving as a founding member of Biosheen Services and co-author of the RIA forensic guidelines. Moreover, Lori is the first female Bio Forensic Restoration Specialist, and the first woman in the restoration industry acknowledged in a British Scientific Journal.

As an ambassador for the restoration industry, Lori has traveled teaching in Europe, the Mediterranean, Canada and here in the U.S.A. She was also a presenter at the CBRN International Symposium in Dubrovnik, Croatia and voted as one of the Best Presentations.
 

Lori teaching new hires

Company and Industry Contributions

Lori's commitment to the industry is evident through her servant heart and meticulous attention to both detail and people. Lori has been instrumental in developing the Microbial Warrior System of Forensic Restoration and Decontamination, teaches it, and sits on the Board of Directors for The Microbial Warrior Academy.

“No one calls because they are having a good day. So, while it is important to be a good listener, it’s even more important that in a very polite and caring manner I obtain as much critical incident data as I can while also showing care, compassion, and concern for the client”.

Lori is dedicated to teaching other professionals, whether in remediation or not, how to safely navigate contaminated environments. This extends to the work she is doing with opioid remediation where she is teaching transit workers, police and EMS how to protect themselves while they do their job.


“There is no higher purpose than service to others.”

Lori describes her leadership style as being the “soft but firm” approach. “I make sure I make my point and they understand the direction I want. If they don’t follow the first time, I reiterate my instructions”.

Lori in full face shield

Bio-Forensic Cleaning is only one of Lori’s many skills. In the field of Bio-terrorism, it is not if a situation will happen but only a matter of when it happens. Lori and her husband are consistently consulting with doctors around the world as leaders in the restoration and remediation world. “Her focus is not just on the “now” but on the future of our lives.”

The services that we offer fill a very specialized and personal need for our client so that it truly is an honor to work for them. Lori says, what they do is truly a ministry.


Lori’s Advice to Fellow Women in Restoration

“Show up with a positive attitude, willing to work (sometimes outside the box), and if you do make a mistake, learn from it and move on. Get the best training. Do your research, not all training is the same.” Something that Lori has continued to do throughout her 15 years in the Forensic Restoration and Cleaning industry, and in her personal life.

Lori and a fellow restorer in full PPE

“First and foremost, I am a field operator. Once all your PPE is donned, what bathroom you go to has little bearing on your capability in Forensic Restoration and Decontamination work. Either you possess the knowledge and skillsets or you don’t. Some of the best Forensic Cleaners I have seen in the field were woman”.


In Her Spare Time

In our winner’s spare time, she says laughing is her favorite sport. Lori loves to travel, read, and keep her mind active. Lori also enjoys spending time with family and friends; she says, “They are my world”.

Lori's family
Lori and her husband, Jeff

 

Our Runners-Up

Runner-Up: Leanne Russo

Leanne Russo

Operations Manager at First Onsite

Leanne began her journey in the restoration industry 22 years ago when she joined Crawford and Company as an independent adjuster in 2002. This is where she got her first taste of what it was like to help people at their most vulnerable, in situations ranging from small water losses to devastating house fires. From there she moved on to Liberty Mutual, initially as an adjuster, which led to a spot on the countrywide continuous improvement team. There she learned that she enjoyed working with team members to help them identify and recognize problems, discover their root causes, and most satisfying to her, addressing them with appropriate countermeasures.

As the type of individual constantly on the lookout for the next challenge, as well as always looking to improve herself, she then took what she considered as the next step and joined the first Onsite team, initially as a Project Manager in the Long Island region. A decade ago, First Onsites operational team consisted of Leanne as the only Project Manager, working with and learning the ropes from the Regional Manager. Leanna currently runs her own energy efficiency consultancy. The territory covered was the whole of Long Island, as well as most of Brooklyn and Queens, over 100 miles of dense urban and suburban development.


Runner-Up: Amanda Blackwell

Amanda Blackwell 

Director of Internal Operations at First General Services Restoration 

Amanda Blackwell has 15+ years of diverse experience in the restoration industry. Before joining our First General Services Restoration team almost 3 years ago, Amanda worked for more than 10 years as a property claims adjuster. In addition, she oversaw 800+ residential properties for a large insurance carrier in Colorado. In 2020, Amanda led a Catastrophic Storm Recovery Team after Hurricane Laura destroyed parts of Louisiana. Her understanding of the complex aspects of insurance restoration and her wise stewardship are invaluable in her role as our FGS Director of Internal Operations.

Amanda Blackwell contributes to her organization and the restoration and remediation industry as a whole bringing the highest level of integrity to everything she does. Her knowledge, integrity and diverse experience allows her to understand the many nuances of construction/restoration and she sets a high bar for organizational fundamentals and quality of service.

 

Meet Our Judges

Judge: Debbie Bogar

Debbie Bogar

CFO at Woodard Cleaning & Restoration

Debbie is the CFO at Woodard Cleaning & Restoration in St. Louis, Missouri, where she’s been a part of the restoration industry for over 30 years. During her time at Woodard, in addition to her accounting work, she served for several years as its COO as well. She is a long-time board member, President, and Treasurer of Restoration Affiliates, a cooperative network of independent restoration companies across the United States. Debbie is also a former Treasurer and board member of the Restoration Industry Association. Debbie was also the 2023 Women in Restoration Award.

 

Judge: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

President of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba

Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMaster by Zaba, is a resilient entrepreneur who navigated the challenges of the 2008 recession and the 2020 pandemic. She transformed her franchise into one of Illinois's largest, specializing in disaster restoration. Diana's expertise includes franchising, human resources, real estate rehabbing, and business management. She strategically expanded her business, addressing the needs of the time during the pandemic and civil unrest.

Under her leadership, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba became a profitable disaster restoration company, assisting businesses locally and internationally. Diana's commitment to growth is evident in her acquisition and remodeling of a 30,000 sq. ft. facility, supporting certification programs in disaster restoration. Diana is also R&R’s 2022 Women in Restoration Award winner!

Apart from her entrepreneurial success, Diana is a vocal advocate for women in business, contributing to publications like Huffington Post and participating in the Forbes Business Council. She actively supports community organizations and serves on the Illinois State Comptrollers Advisory Collective. As a founding member of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Institute, she invests in the success of women-owned businesses through academic research and initiatives. She is currently a founding member for La Collective a nonprofit organization, whose mission is to create a community to empower, uplift, and celebrate the diverse voices of women.

 

Judge: Cara Driscoll

Cara Driscoll

Owner of Playing with Fire, Inc, an IICRC approved school, and Co-owner of Oceanside Labor & Demolition

Cara has worked in many facets of the restoration industry for the last 29 years, including sales and manufacturing, large-loss project management and business consulting.  She is an IICRC Triple Master: Master Water Restorer, Master Fire Restorer and Master Textile Cleaner.

Cara is an approved IICRC Instructor teaching six certification courses: Water Damage Restoration (WRT), Applied Structural Drying (ASD), Fire and Smoke Damage Restoration (FSRT), Odor Remediation (OCT), Mold Remediation (AMRT) and Trauma & Crime Scene Cleanup (TCST).

Currently, she serves as the IICRC Restoration vice Chair and Chair of the FSRT Technical Advisory Committee. Cara is the 2020 winner the prestigious Women in Restoration Award. She has a BS degree from Southern Wesleyan University and an MBA from Webster University.