Inaugural Women In Leadership Luncheon Celebrates Women of Southwest Vermont

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Women gather around President Walker of Bennington College at the Women’s Luncheon:

Vermont Business Magazine The Southwest Vermont Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Berkshire Bank, presented the inaugural Women In Leadership Luncheon at Wilson House in Dorset, Vermont on Wednesday, May 11 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Eighty ticket holders, many of them women, enjoyed a rich afternoon of networking, conversations, lunch, awards and celebration.

The luncheon highlighted the many women leaders in the southwestern Vermont region, while building connections, partnerships, and networking opportunities with those in attendance. Lunch was provided by Wilson House and included light appetizers, salad, chicken and salmon, rice pilaf and peas and blueberry pie.

Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Chamber, welcomed attendees before passing the microphone to Lori Kiely, Vermont Regional President of Berkshire Bank.

Kiely welcomed the group of business, non-profit and community leaders who presented on the many women-focused initiatives currently underway at Berkshire Bank.

“Providing women with opportunities for financial, physical and emotional well-being is a priority at Berkshire Bank, so we are delighted to help make this gathering possible,” Kiely added.

Following the welcome, Laura Walker, President of Bennington College, delivered the keynote address. President Walker, who before Bennington College led NYPR’s transformation from two city-owned local stations to the nation’s largest group of independent, nonprofit public radio stations, regaled attendees with stories about NPR, the big bird, his mother, and being a female leader in a competitive New York environment.

Presented at the end of lunch, the Chamber and Berkshire Bank presented four awards.

The first prize was the Young woman in leadership award given to a young woman between the ages of 21 and 40 for her outstanding leadership and service and who is considered by her peers to be a woman on the rise.

This award was given to Kaiya Kirk of couch and cork, the Better Bennington Corporation and the Bennington Bookshop.

Harrington added: “Having studied Theater and Black Studies at Bennington College and graduated in 2020, she chose to stay at Bennington and we are so lucky as a community that she did. One candidate said this about her: she is a force for positive change and an example of leadership, service and citizenship; is energetic, enthusiastic and compassionate.

The second prize was awarded to Woman of the Year for his outstanding leadership and service to his organization, his community and his career. This prize was awarded to Susan Plaisance of the Bennington Banner and the Manchester Journal.

“This woman has worked tirelessly for her home community and the region for over 30 years. One of the nominators said, “She is a connector, a supporter and a friend to many.” I will also add a mentor to many who have been through this and decided to settle in the Shires,” Harrington commented before the award was presented.

The third prize was for Lifetime Achievement and was rewarded to a woman who throughout her life has made outstanding contributions to leading businesses/non-profit organizations in her community, while inspiring other women through mentorship and support.

This award was given to Carolyn Blitz who founded Old Mill Road Media, publisher of Stratton Magazine, Vermont Magazine, Vermont News Guide, Berkshire Magazine and Manchester Life. Blitz has also served as Chairman of the Board of the Carlos Otis Stratton Mountain Clinic, Chairman of the Board of the Stratton Community Foundation, and Chairman of the Board of the Mountain School at Winhall. She is a founding member of the Manchester Business Association and has served on the boards of the Southern Vermont Arts Center, the Bennington Museum and the Manchester Music Festival.

A final award was presented by The Wilson House, host of the event, to a woman in recovery.

This award was presented to Rep. Kathleen James who was unable to attend due to the current legislative session, but was able to accept the award via video.

“After the past few weeks that we’ve all been through, even though we didn’t plan it that way, I think it was the perfect time to celebrate the power of women in our lives.” Harrington said of the event. “This event was meant to celebrate the many great women in the region and the sacrifices they have all made for their careers, their families and their communities. It is time to celebrate the extraordinary women of our region and the wealth of knowledge, talent and insight they bring to our businesses and organizations. Our mission in the Chamber is to promote, lead and defend a unified effort on behalf of our members. I think this must also include marginalized, underrepresented and minority members. We were thrilled to bring together the best of the best in the region today; a day full of sunshine, celebrations and new connections.”

Berkshire Bank and the Chamber would also like to thank the many sponsors of this event, including the Shires Young Professionals, the Bennington Banner, KW Vermont Brenda Jones Real Estate Group, Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning, VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region, United Counseling Service, Coggins Auto Group, Park-McCullough Historic Governor’s Mansion, At Home Senior Care, Lundgren Subaru of Bennington, Bennington College and event host, The Wilson House.

Additional thanks to GNAT-TV for filming and distributing the event. Coverage of the event will air on GNAT-TV’s Comcast Cable channels and on GNAT-TV’s website gnat-tv.org.

Photos courtesy of Southwestern Vermont Chamber and Lorianna Weathers Photography

Kaiya Kirk receiving the Young Woman in Leadership Award, with Lori Kiely, Vermont Regional President of Berkshire Bank (left) and Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber (right):

Carolyn Blitz receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, with Lori Kiely, Vermont Regional President of Berkshire Bank (left) and Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber (right):

Susan Plaisance receiving the Woman of the Year award, with Lori Kiely, Vermont Regional President of Berkshire Bank (left) and Matt Harrington, Executive Director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber (right):

President Laura Walker of Bennington College delivers the Women In Leadership luncheon keynote:

(Dorset, VT) The Southwest Vermont Chamber of Commerce 5.12.2022.

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