No one could have predicted this year. Most of us began the year with high hopes and big dreams. Then came a global pandemic—the last thing anyone expected. Resilience and adaptability seem to be recurring words as the year winds down. As we take a moment to reflect on the past, those two words have defined WIN (Women in Networking) Cleveland through the years.
WIN was founded in 1997 by Barbara Baxter. The mission is to enable continuous professional growth through sharing ideas, resources, and providing business support through opportunities for women to network, learn, and thrive. Local women helping local women is the core foundation and each year a local women’s charity is earmarked to receive support.
Ms. Baxter passed the torch to Michelle Peace who served as president from 2010 through 2012. Unexpectedly, Mrs. Peace died one month before the annual holiday party. The members, 74 strong, were determined to carry on despite suffering great loss. Their tenacity paid off. At the December 3 Annual Event, two $750 awards were presented to that year’s charity recipients: Girls with Sole and Women Safe.
Many things have changed over the years, but WIN’s commitment to helping women succeed has remained the same. In 2018, the WIN Cleveland Business Major Scholarship was established. This need-based scholarship is awarded to a female Junior or Senior attending Ursuline College in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business.
Current President Liz Shapiro’s focus on building and strengthening community was put to the test this year when in person meetings came to a screeching halt. Realizing the need to provide support, encouragement and professional training to her members during these very challenging times, virtual meetings were launched in mid-March including a new weekly lunch and learn program. Even though the scholarship fund is supported by the two in-person monthly meetings and various special events, the board unanimously voted to make all virtual events free to both members and guests through the end of the year. Over 1,500 women and men have benefited from these efforts.
Despite what some may have considered a setback, WIN Cleveland was able to thrive during adversity thanks to the WIN Board under Ms. Shapiro’s leadership, donations, and the generous support of renewing and new WIN members. Four $1,250 scholarships were awarded to Ursuline College students again this year. Melissa Filous, Grace Juergens, Jillian Koutis, and Kelsey Metlesitz were surprised with their personally delivered checks. The event was broadcast via Facebook Live to the WIN community on November 11 and 12. In addition, hundreds of dollars in art supplies were given to the Special Focus In-Kind recipient the Red Tulip Project. Donations are currently being accepted for the 2020-2021 year In-Kind recipient Norma Herr Women’s Center.
Incoming President, Yolanda Albergottie, is excited for the future. “I have assembled an amazing board of dynamic, supportive women who share my passion for carrying on the legacy of local women helping local women. Each brings unique talents and gifts to the table. We look forward to continuing to add value to our members and serve our community with premier educational programming and results-focused opportunities that allow women to network, learn, and thrive.”
For more information about programming, volunteering, and donor opportunities, visit the website: www.wincleveland.org.