April 5, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Women of Wisdom bring leadership to Bonner County

Patty Hutchens

How to nominate

To nominate a local woman for Women of Wisdom, send your nomination to Women Honoring Women, P.O. Box 159, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864. The nomination must include the name of the nominee, her address and phone number, as well as the name and phone numbers of the person making the nomination. A letter of recommendation should be submitted that includes the nominee’s background and her overall achievements in Bonner County, and any supporting documentation for the nomination. All nominations are due April 10.

Role models. The term often conjures up an image of young boys longing to grow up to be the next Brett Favre, Michael Jordan or LeBron James. But role models are not just for children.

For women who live in Sandpoint, there are many role models residing right here in their small community. She may be a next door neighbor, co-worker, friend’s mother or a volunteer for one of the many local charitable organizations. The truth is that there are many Sandpoint women who give their time and talent to make a difference in the lives of those around them.

Since it first formed in 1999, the local group – Women Honoring Women – has made it an annual tradition to recognize area women who have contributed to the betterment of the community through volunteer work and leadership, and whose dedication has inspired others to give back to the community in which they live. The women who receive this honor are called Women of Wisdom.

The idea to honor local women first came to Sandpoint resident Marsha Ogilvie in 1999, when she witnessed a group of local women volunteers caring for disabled adults. She was touched and knew that there were many volunteers in this community who give their time – and often with little recognition. From Community Assistance League, Pend Oreille Arts Council, Kinderhaven and many more nonprofit groups, there are many women who do much to improve the quality of life for Sandpoint residents.

Driven by a strong desire to recognize these valuable members of the community, Ogilvie enlisted the help of her friends and before she knew it, Women Honoring Women was off and running.

Now in its 11th year, Women Honoring Women was never intended to be an annual event.

“It was to be a one-time event,” said Kathy Chambers, president of Sandpoint’s Women Honoring Women. “But when the next year rolled around, Marsha had people calling her and asking if she was going to do it again. They all had someone they wanted to nominate.”

Chambers, who took over the position as president this year from founder Ogilvie, is thrilled to be part of such an amazing group.

Her mother-in-law, Marilyn Chambers, was honored as a Woman of Wisdom in 2004.

“My mother-in-law said this (the award) was the most wonderful thing that she has had happen to her,” said Chambers. “It made me realize what an impact the award has on everyone who receives it.”

Each year, nominations are solicited from the community, followed by a committee of 19 women conducting in-depth reviews of each nominee’s qualities.

“We have a voting system and a grading system,” said Chambers.

There are typically four or five recipients each year, some of whom are well known in the community and others who do their volunteer work behind the scenes.

Once the committee reaches its decision on the recipients, a committee member is assigned to spend time with a specific recipient. Whether they take them to lunch, meet with the recipient’s family and friends or just have a casual conversation, the purpose is to get to know the recipient as well as possible. That committee member presents the Woman of Wisdom with her award at the luncheon.

“I call it Queen for a Day,” said Chambers.

This year the luncheon will take place June 13 at Panhandle State Bank in downtown Sandpoint.

To be considered, nominees must be residents of Bonner County and at least 65 years of age. Nominees should possess vision and strive to achieve goals through collaboration with others. Additionally, a Woman of Wisdom must possess a love of learning and exhibit leadership qualities. Through her service to those in Bonner County, a Woman of Wisdom must have demonstrated a positive impact on areas such as art, music, theater, education, sports and service. Chambers adds that women can be nominated and honored posthumously.

And while the group looks to the contributions an individual has made to the community, the committee recognizes that the gifts each woman brings to the community may alter the lives of only a few.

According to Chambers, the group has never had a shortage of nominees in its 11 years. “The depth of women in this area is amazing,” she said.

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