Women join to better the community
One week is set aside every October to recognize women in our community who use their time and talent for the greater good of mankind (Woman of the Year). I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but you might be surprised of the impact women have, for instance, in our local economy.
“Over 60 percent of the work force in St. Tammany Parish is women and women-owned businesses,” says Karen Hymel,West St.Tammany Business and Professional Women president.
That’s a pretty impressive number. Many of these working women aren’t just out to make a buck. They also take time out of their busy schedules to make our community a better place to live.
The 115 members of the West St.Tammany BPW meet at Beau Chene Country Club each month. The meetings are designed to give members and guests an opportunity to network with other businesswomen.
“I need to be able to pick up the phone and call someone in BPW because they know me and I know them and we take care of each other. And that’s what it’s all about,” says member Leslie Welliver with Paychex in Abita Springs.
As a first-time business owner, I decided to join BPW when I moved back to St.Tammany after Hurricane Katrina. It only took one meeting to realize how beneficial the business knowledge and experience of other members could be to my business.
I was also impressed that the monthly luncheons are used to come up with ways to help women in our community. BPW donates muscle and money to nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity’s Women’s Build, Children’s Advocacy Center’s Hope House and Women Building Forces, which helps military women make a smooth transition back into the work force.
“These are not just women who lunch,” says BPW member Katie Champagne-Reynolds with Rainbow Title in Mandeville. “This is where hard
work meets good intention, and the result is a better community to live in.”
For the past 10 years, the West St.Tammany Parish BPW has held a Woman of the Year banquet to honor women making a difference through their jobs or volunteer work. Recipients include Dorothy Garcia for her work as director of the Children’s Advocacy Center, a place where abused children can seek refuge and counseling; and Anne Dale of Anne Dale Jeweler for donating $200,000 of jewelry proceeds to Katrina recovery efforts.
Nearly 20 women have been recognized at BPW Woman of the Year banquets and this year’s nominees and winner will be equally deserving of the honor.
What makes the banquet even more significant is that the money raised goes to the chapter’s scholarship fund. Last year $10,000 in scholarship money was
awarded to St.Tammany residents.
“Many are amazed that we offer scholarships to non-traditional roles, not just kids who are graduating from high school, but also women who are furthering their career or perusing a degree maybe for the first time,” says Champagne-Reynolds.When Louisiana State University Chancellor Sean O’Keefe heard about the chapter’s scholarship efforts, he agreed to be this year’s guest speaker.
You don’t have to be a member of BPW to attend the Woman of the Year banquet. The event, which also includes a silent auction, will be held Oct. 18 at Vintage Court in Covington. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $50 a person.To purchase tickets or to learn more about BPW, visit www.bpw-wst.org.
Stephanie Boswell, owner of Boswell
Business Consultants LLC in Mandeville,
can be reached at (504) 388-2076 or at