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Program Offers Area Women Chance to Network and Share Experiences

The new organization Women L.E.A.D. was introduced to the community Monday at a press conference at the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance office in Kenton.

The Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance wants to assist professional women in the community through a new program unveiled Monday. Women L.E.A.D. was founded by co-chairmen Christina Cross, a local business attorney and educator and Jesse Purcell, Community Manager for the American Cancer Society. They hope to bring opportunities to women in the area to network, collaborate and meet other successful women through a series of events.

During a press conference in the Alliance conference room, Cross and Purcell said they had discussed the need for an organization in which women of all ages and experiences could encourage and support each other in a professional setting. They worked through the Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance to create Women L.E.A.D. “Women Leading Women Forward.”

The L.E.A.D. stands for “Leadership through actions; Embracing and encouraging personal growth; Advancing career opportunities and Developing strategic relationships.” The new logo, designed by Ohio Northern University student Rebecca Carman, was presented during the conference.

The organization’s first public gathering will be its kick-off event on Sept. 30 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Stephen McCullough Conference Room at Hardin Memorial Hospital. The guest speaker will be Tracy Stuck, vice president of student life at The Ohio State University.

Any woman member of the Alliance is automatically a member of Women L.E.A.D. This concept is new to Hardin County, but is not a new idea, said Chris Burns-DiBiasio, director of community relations at ONU and member of the Alliance board. “The conditions and times were right (for this organization),” Burns-DiBiasio said. There are many talented women in Hardin County and many are in leadership roles within the community, she said. Women L.E.A.D will give those women an avenue to network resources, share experiences and broaden discussions which might never happen outside that environment. “This is a chance for women to connect and that is something that women do really well,” Burns-DiBiasio said. “This is an idea that is ripe for this time.”

Women L.E.A.D. can be used as an educational tool, added Stephanie Jolliff, ag teacher at Ridgemont High School. Many high school girls think there are no professional opportunities for them in Hardin County. This organization will open communications to encourage them in their chosen fields, she said. “This program could serve as an open door,” said Jolliff. “It can have a ripple effect for years to come.”

“Any woman can be a mentor to other women,” said Cross. “We want to reach out to women of all ages.”

New friendships and partnerships will be formed through the organization, she said. It is up to the leaders of Women L.E.A.D. to make sure those relationships take place.

“We want to help women become innovators and leaders of the community,” said Wendy Rodenberger of Hardin Memorial Hospital.

Hardin County Chamber and Business Alliance Director Jon Cross noted there are already many women in business throughout Kenton and Hardin County. This new program is a way to assist them professionally.

Prior to the press conference, Cross announced, Women L.E.A.D. had been endorsed by Jenny Craig. The founder of Jenny Craig, Inc., issued a statement in support of the new organization. “As one who has promoted the advancement of women both in health and business my whole life, I applaud your efforts at bringing women together in support of each other,” wrote Craig. 

“Women are the hardest working people on the planet,” Cross said. “The diversity we need in Hardin County starts with a group like this. Hardin County would not be who we are today without women leaders of all ages.”