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OVBPW kicks off meeting year

MEETING MOMENTS — The Ohio Valley Business and Professional Women held their 2019-20 kickoff meeting on Sept. 17 at the YWCA of Steubenville where Phyllis Riccadonna, left, welcomed Stephanie Bridwell, region president. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio Valley Business and Professional Women will continue their calendar year of monthly meetings, moving toward a regular meeting this month instead of a political forum as has been past practice for October.

With meeting locations changing each month, the group will gather Oct. 15 at the Red Knights Hall at 206 N. Fourth St., Toronto, for a dinner and business session. Registration and socializing begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner served at 6 p.m. Those planning to attend should RSVP to Phyllis Riccadonna, president, at (740) 317-3868. The dinner cost will be $15.

“Getting to Know You” continues as the theme of program presentations with members of the group taking turns sharing about themselves and their work. Among the two presenters will be Beth Rupert-Warren, who works for Coleman Professional Services.

October’s meeting coincides with National Business and Professional Women’s Week. Aside from the October meeting, the other event of the month is the 40th-annual ecumenical gathering of the BPW Pennsylvania and Ohio BPW, which will be held Oct. 20, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Doubletree by Wyndham in Washington, Pa. The theme will be “Reach Beyond the Stars.”

The OVBPW kicked off their 2019-20 meeting year on Sept. 17 at the YWCA of Steubenville, with member Cookie West addressing a theme of “Resilience.”

Guests included members of Steubenville High School’s Nike Club, which the BPW mentors. Katrina Morrow, beginning her sixth year as Nike Club adviser, described it as “the daughter organization” of the OVBPW, its function to get Nike Club members involved in the community and linked with business women as part of their journey to becoming professional young adults.

Riccadonna introduced guest Stephanie Bridwell of Zanesville, BPW Region 3 president, who said the local club is the largest and most active of the four in the region.

Other guests included Marcy Ryan, guest of Riccadonna.

Diane Pastoric led in opening exercises, and the invocation was given by Barri Vazquez-Muhs of the Salvation Army of Steubenville.

Prior to the business meeting, Riccadonna read “The 19th Amendment and the War of the Roses,” the story of how women finally earned the right to vote.

Reports were given by Julie Decker, treasurer; Mary Lou Jones, secretary; and Nicole Adamski, vice president.

In contemplating what to share with the audience, West said the word resilience came to mind — “a quality of being able to adapt to stressful life changes and bouncing back from hardships.”

West, who is community/employment navigator at the Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities and habilitation specialist, said her life “changed dramatically” eight years ago. “I was in a relationship for 20 years that all of a sudden broke up, and I had a father who was passing away slowly from an illness that had overtaken his life, and so within six months, I was going through some dramatic and traumatic situations because it wasn’t just me, it was me and my three children who were going through this hardship,” she said.

“Jesus help me” she said she asked, having a scripture placed on her heart. It was Romans 8:28. “We know that all things work together for our good for all those who love God and are called upon according to his purpose.”

“When I heard that scripture, it just exploded in me, and I felt like, no matter what happened, everything was going to work together for my good,” she said. As she said she embraced that passage of scripture, West made a decision to pursue her master’s degree. “Even though I was in debt, even though I was a single mom now, even though I was facing hardship with my father being ill, I felt like I am going to go back and get my master’s so I started that and got that all in process and I was really like, yes everything is working together, working out great,” she recalled.

Grieving her father’s death, West looked ahead to classes beginning Jan. 14, bringing adjustments but confidence in the future.

“Then came Jan. 31,” she said of that day in 2012 when her house burned, claiming the life of her 15-year-old son Lee.

“I realized that even though it was devastating, horrible, I can’t even express the kind of pain that you feel when something like that happens, but I really truly believe that God gave me that scripture for me to embody it so that when this situation did happen that I truly would have that,” she said. “I knew that I was going to be OK, that I knew I had to cry myself through, walk myself through, push myself through, crawl myself through, whatever I needed to do I knew I had the ability to bounce back from this situation,” she added.

“I knew when I decided to trust God I was going to be able to trust God and have what I needed to finish,” she said.

West explained that the Lee Alexander West Spiritual Movement established after her son’s death was created to help people in the community in ways Lee would have wanted.

“We do events to support the community in many different ways,” she explained, through scholarship funding, for example, and hosting a teacher impact award and community recognition awards for leaders in the community “who connect with youth and go out of their way and above and beyond to help kids.

“With that being said, I know that at times in life, we face things in life that we think we aren’t able to overcome, but I want to encourage you if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, that you open your heart to give him an opportunity to come in and to help you because there are going to be times that you don’t know what’s going to happen in life.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of BPW, the mission of which “is to achieve equity for all women in the workplace through advocacy, education and information.” Objectives include elevating the standards of women in business and in professions; promoting the interest of business and professional women; bringing about a spirit of cooperation about business and professional women of the United States; and extending opportunities to business and professional women through education along the lines of industrial, scientific and vocational activities.”

Membership in the OVBPW is open to area women interested in joining. Annual dues are $40.

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