01 Mar LO Spotlight: BPW/North Sarasota
Established (chartered) in:
Number of members:
1972 (see note below)
BPW/North Sarasota was chartered in September 1972 by the Sarasota Business & Professional Women’s Club whose membership was exclusively Caucasian. To reach the African American professional women in the north Sarasota community, BPW/North Sarasota was chartered. Its membership consisted of women who were nurses, educators and business owners. These women wanted to help change the conditions of and provide opportunities for working women in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Anne Weatherington was the Charter President and continues to be a member of the LO.
We are most proud of our member, the late Delores G. Dry, who was a trailblazer in the community and in BPW Florida. Dee, as she was known, was the first African American female to serve on the Sarasota City Commission and the first African American to serve as president of BPW/Florida.
What’s interesting or unique about your location for working women?
After our chartering club disbanded, BPW/North Sarasota became THE voice for working women in the Sarasota community. Sarasota’s diverse community looked to our LO to take the lead on issues of concern to working women, single parents and young girls in the community. For the past 48 years, BPW/North Sarasota has worked to provide members with professional development programs, networking opportunities, participation in grassroots activism and opportunities to support scholarships for high school girls in the community.
What are your meetings and networking activities like?
We have speakers to share with us on issues of concern to our membership and community, on such topics as home ownership, credit repair, health care, mental health and much more. Guests are invited which gives us an opportunity to network and collaborate.
What was your most popular or best-attended event in the past year? Do you have special events every year?
Our signature event is our “H’attitude Scholarship Luncheon and Hat Show” which we have sponsored for 13 years. 2020 would have been our fourteenth year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 125 women (and some men) attend this event and have an opportunity to come together for an afternoon of great food and friendship and, at the same, support our efforts to raise funds for our scholarships. We also recognize women who have made a difference in the community with our “Women of the Year” awards.
How does your organization participate in community-wide events?
BPW/North Sarasota has been called upon for many years to participate in community-wide events sponsored by other organizations and the community at large, volunteering as greeters and in any other capacity where needed. We collaborate with various groups and participate in their activities such as health fairs, career fairs and workshops for high school girls. We have collaborated with such organizations as Gulfcoast South Area Health Education Center, American Cancer Society, Newtown Wellness Community, Greatness Beyond Measure Summit for youth, J.H. Floyd Sunshine Manor for the elderly, Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center and the (former) Sarasota Family YMCA Achievers and HIPPY Programs, now known as Safe Children Coalition. Members volunteer on several advisory councils and committees.
What does your organization do to promote political awareness?
Over the years, we have hosted candidates’ forums where we invite candidates running for various offices in the community to share their platforms and ideas for making the community a better place to live. Our most recent forum was in October 2020.
What opportunities for personal and professional development do you offer?
In past years, members have participated in the Issues Management module sponsored by BPW/Florida by planning programs that focus on the criteria and initiatives for the current year. Our LO have been the recipient of many awards, including the Venita Garvin Valdez Weaving the Strands Award, Sheri McCandless Mentoring Award, and the Sacagawea Award to the LO with the best Women’s History Month Program. The Venita Garvin Valdez and the Sheri McCandless Awards included stipends and assisted us in funding our scholarships. Lastly, during National Business Women’s week, we have invited our employers to a dinner in their honor and presented a program that informed them what BPW is all about. This was a great opportunity for us to “shine and showcase” our talents in a professional manner and encourage bosses to pay the dues for their employees to be part of our LO. Many did!
How do you support scholarships locally?
We have maintained a scholarship fund and over the past 16 years, we have awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships to graduating senior girls in our community. We have also supported women re-connecting to the work force.
How do you reach potential new members in your community?
Facebook and other social media links. Word of mouth and through collaborating with other organizations.