Each year, Whatcom Women in Business (WWIB) celebrates a new crop of nominees for Professional Woman of the Year at its awards banquet and gala—and while doing so, raises money for scholarships awarded to local women pursuing higher education in business.
This year’s event—the organization’s 37th—took place October 11 at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, where Lynn Giuliani, founder and president of Progressions, Inc., was named Professional Woman of the Year. The evening was packed with wonderful auction items, fundraising games, the Community Legacy Award announcement, words from a previous WWIB scholarship recipient, a dessert dash, and more.
The 2019 Professional Woman of the Year finalists, alongside Giuliani, were Alyssa Springs of Flow Motion Massage & Yoga Studio, Pam Brady with BP, Teresa Dalton of The FireHouse Arts and Events Center, and Teresa Taylor with the Lummi Indian Business Council.
Community Legacy Award Recipient
Early in the evening’s program, Abby Franklin of Loving Space School was honored with the organization’s inaugural Community Legacy Award, which honors extraordinary cumulative contributions of local women who’ve made lasting impacts on our community through decades of dedication.
Franklin opened Bellingham’s Loving Space School in 1993, which serves preschool and kindergarten students and strives to create joyful experiences for children and their families, while creating a place where children are seen, heard, valued and delighted in.
“My team and I work hard every day to help raise up kind, confident, creative-thinking people who care about the world and the way that they show up in it,” Franklin said in her acceptance speech. “If my legacy is that I spread some joy and positively impacted the lives of the children I’ve worked with, then that’s something I’m incredibly proud of and I will display this award on my wall for all to see.”
Professional Woman of the Year
When Lynn Giuliani’s name was called at the end of the evening, she couldn’t quite believe it.
“It was actually surreal,” she says. “I’ve gone over that in my mind several times and it was like, ‘Did they really just say my name?’”
A professional speaker and trainer, Giuliana laughs as she recounts the response, later, from a close friend who attended the gala. Heather Othmer said she’d never heard Lynn at a loss for words. “But I was,” Giuliana says. “I was so surprised and so taken aback—I was truly speechless. To be honored by this group is an honor.”
Giuliana had not prepared a speech, and so in her overwhelm simply thanked Whatcom Women in Business and the attendees in the room. When we spoke afterward, she stressed that she’d felt privileged to be included with the entire group of women—and is grateful to have met them all through this process.
“I was amongst four other fantastically qualified women and made four new friends that I hope to stay in contact with for years to come. They’re wonderful women.”
Days later, the initial response lingered. “I’m still basking in all the glow,” she says. “It was such a dream come true.”
2019 Scholarship Recipients
This year’s WWIB scholarship recipients were also announced at the gala. Alivia Jelinski, Heather Ludwig, Aislinn Knight and Rosemary Hickman each received awards to put toward their higher education expenses.
Previous scholarship recipient, Morgan Paris Lanza, spoke to the crowd about her experience and an earlier awardee and says that receiving a WWIB scholarship helped her a lot while she was in school, developing and honing her skills as an entrepreneur and community arts organizer.
“I owe a lot of my success to the mentorship I received through the years from people and organizations like WWIB,” says Lanza. “And now I’m in the position of being able to give back and serve as a mentor in my role at Bellingham Girls Rock Camp.”
Through funds raised at the auction and events at the gala, WWIB raised an impressive amount from generous supporters of the organization.
“We believe this was our best year yet, [raising] over $60,000,” says Whatcom Women In Business Banquet Chair Jamie Smeall. “The board believes that, with that amount, we’ll be able to expand our scholarship program for next year.”
Smeall stresses that WWIB is grateful to the business communities of Blaine, Ferndale, Bellingham, and Lynden—and most of all the guests who attended the gala and auction. “It’s all because of them that this event was possible.”