Women’s Leadership group reconvenes after being sidelined during Covid

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 26 August 2022 at 11:18 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: The Orleans Women’s Leadership held its first meeting during the Covid pandemic on Wednesday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. Among those who attended are, clockwise from left front, Laura Olinger, Wendy Oakes Wilson, Gloria Brent, Kelly Schrader, Kelly Kiebala and (in foreground), Ann Fisher-Bale.

MEDINA – It was in 2018 when Skip Helfrich, director of Leadership Orleans, took notice that many business owners in Orleans County are women.

Helfrich was in the process of organizing the first class of Leadership Orleans, and while compiling a list of business people, he received the names of 127 women in business.

He shared that information with Kelly Kiebala, director of the Orleans County Job Development Agency; Laura Olinger, president and owner of Bentley Brothers; and Wendy Oakes Wilson, general manager of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery and LynOaken Farms.

“We formulated a group of local women leaders that became Orleans Women’s Leadership in 2019,” Helfrich said. “Those three women nurtured it to where it is today. I have a lot of passion for effective leadership, and Orleans County has many women making a difference every day in this county. I support their leadership efforts and all the great results they achieve.”

To date 75 women have been involved in the Leadership Orleans program, doing what they do in very diverse roles as leaders in Orleans County. OWL is just another network for bringing them together, Helfrich said.

At their first meeting in 2019, 39 women attended. OWL was barely getting started and had a year of programs planned when Covid hit in March 2020, resulting in the programs being canceled.

Wednesday was the return of what OWL hopes will be regular programming. The agenda for the evening was a social trivia event, compiled by Catherine Holland. Admission of $20 included a glass of wine and snacks.

Programs for the rest of the year are “Exploring Work-Life Balance” Sept. 20 at the Lockstone in Albion; “Dare to Leap” Oct. 19 at Zambistro’s Restaurant in Medina; and a Christmas social event Nov. 17 at Bent’s Opera House. All events run from 7 to 9 p.m.

To sign up or for more information, e-mail Holland at catherine@oakeswinery.com.

Susan Howard, left, Orleans County’s first assistant district attorney, and Ann Fisher-Bale chat with Skip Helfrich, head of Leadership Orleans and originator of the Orleans Women’s Leadership which had its first meeting I nearly three years on Wednesday evening.