It’s an honor that every woman who has received it sees as very special.
It’s the YWCA of Kitsap County’s Women of Achievement award.
And the YWCA is getting set to make those honors for the 25th time.
“We’ve been doing this now for 25 years,” said Linda Joyce, executive director of the YWCA. “Over the years so many women have been nominated and we’ve honored so many women that the program just needs a little bit of a boost.”
In many cases, Joyce said, someone will think of someone to nominate, but will assume she’s already being nominated. Or maybe, she’s already achieved the honor.
“We need to remember how important this honor is,” Joyce said. “This is an honor that tells everyone that these women are someone special in our community.”
Jackie Brown, director of the YWCA’s ALIVE shelter, was one of the honorees last year.
“It was amazing,” she said. “To be included in the group of women who have received this award, it just meant so much.”
Receiving it also encouraged her to do more.
“It made me think about what else is out there that needs to be done, what else can I do to help out?” she said.
The honors are a special way to thank women in the community, she said.
“It’s a way to encourage each other and a way of supporting each other,” Brown said.
Another 2013 honoree, Shannon Childs, said the honor left her almost speechless. She is a senior vice president and marketing director for Kitsap Bank.
“When I got the news, I was flabbergasted,” she said. “I have attended the Women of Achievement luncheons for a number of years and never failed to be thoroughly impressed by the honored women. They had such inspirational stories and were so accomplished and connected to their communities. To hear that my name was being added to their ranks was truly humbling.”
The honor also made her want to keep giving to help the community.
“Still today, every time I look at that distinctive plaque I was given, it reminds me that I want to continue to grow as a mentor and friend. I want to be a contributor, and to emulate those amazing women I have so admired.”
Honoree Wendy Miles, who was named a Woman of Achievement in 2012, was surprised when she was named to the list.
“I was awe-struck,” she said. “I’d been attending these luncheon for years, and to be in the same group as the women who came before me, that was just very humbling.”
The fact that the honor came from the YWCA also meant a lot to her.
“It’s an organization that I admire so much,” she said. “It was like a double benefit.”
The program began in 1989 when the YWCA honored just one woman, local artist Amy Burnett.
“She kept our doors open that year,” said Joyce. “She sold some of her art work so that we would have the money to continue to be there for women who needed us.”
That year, the honor was titled “Woman of Distinction.” But to coincide with other YWCAs across the county, the name was changed to Women of Achievement.
“The important thing to remember is that it’s not about someone who does everything,” Joyce said. “It’s about honoring women who have made an impact, even if it’s only affected a few people.”
Those who have been honored — more than 300 thus far — have ranged in age from 15 to 99. They come from all walks of life, are all ethnicities and they represent every socio-economic category there is, she said.
But one thing is the same about all of them, Joyce said.
“They are all surprised when I call them to tell them that they’re getting the award,” she said. “Most of them cry. They are all very humble and often they think they aren’t deserving of it. That’s because these women contribute because they believe in what they’re doing, not because they’re out to win awards.”
Categories for nominees include: “She Who Has Overcome the Odds,” Government/Political, Business/Professional, Education, Human Services, Community Activist/Volunteer, and the Arts.
A group of about five to seven women who are affiliated with the YWCA in some way go through all the nominations and make the selections. Joyce said most years they begin with anywhere from 35 to 50 nominees.
“We’re looking for everything from someone who is an educator, to that little old lady who knits stockings for the babies that come home from the hospital,” Joyce said. “We honor philanthropists to those with very limited incomes.”
They also look to have honorees from all areas of the county. And nominees can be new to the area, as long as their accomplishments warrant the award.
When the final work is done, the group announces a list of about seven nominees to the public. Then, those women are honored at a luncheon where each gets to speak.
“The first years we had about 75 people attend,” she said. “Now it’s grown top 400 to 450 people. We have it at the Kitsap Convention Center because its the only place big enough for the event.”
Joyce joined the YWCA as director in 1994, and that year, they didn’t have a Women of Achievement program. She said it was a re-building year. And when the event was held in 1995, attendance went from 75 to 297 people.
Having accomplished the honor herself, Joyce knows its something that’s recognized throughout the county.
“Receiving this honor means something,” she said. “I get excited about it every year because it is an affirmation of women as leaders in the community. We are blessed to be surrounded by so many of them who contribute so much and who are mentors to all of us.
“These women care so deeply about their communities that they are willing to sacrifice so much time and energy, and money, to help others.”
Deadline for nominations is March 5 at noon. Applications are online at YWCAKitsap.org. The application asks for a description of the nominee’s attributes and accomplishments that make her a role model in the community. Nominees must either reside or work in Kitsap County. Email nominations to email@example.com, or mail to YWCA of Kitsap County, P.O. Box 559, Bremerton, WA, 98337.