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2020-2021 Women In Leadership Awards

CONGRATULATIONS to the WIL 2020-2021 Annual Award recipients!

Pinnacle Award for Lifetime Achievement  Kristen Berchtold
Woman Leader of the Year – Allison Vershaw
Career Leader of the Year – Lindsey Kerr
Community Leader of the Year – Michelle Nielsen Ott
Outstanding New Leader of the Year – Holly Edwin

 Scholarship Recipient– Erica Litzsey 

Each year, Women In Leadership of Central Illinois recognizes members at the Awards Luncheon. WIL members are invited to nominate themselves or other members during the spring nominations. The WIL Awards Committee receives the nominations and award submissions. After award submissions are received, they are given to a panel of judges. Awards are then presented at the Annual Awards Luncheon in June.

The Woman of the Year award recognizes Betsy Bladel for her outstanding professionalism, her community service, and her leadership and participation as a WIL member.

This year’s recipient is currently active in not only Women In Leadership but also Junior League of Peoria, Sustainer Advisor to the Board of Directors, Strategic Planning and Peoria Park District Advisory Committee Chair, OSF Healthcare Women’s Advisory Council, OSF Foundation, Women Empowered, Align Peoria/Peoria Public Schools Summer Reading Events, Women’s Fund Advisory Board, and Women’s Fund Development Committee.  As you can see from this long list, this amazing woman definitely has no time to sleep!

This year’s recipient followed from her parent’s example of their involvement in their volunteer groups.  She became a volunteer at the young age while in primary school for the Red Cross and then also in High School doing St. Jude candy sales.  As an adult, she became the youngest member of 175 on the Proctor Hospital Auxiliary Board.  Later in her years as she grew older, she always found time to start a community project or share her love of hobbies such as gardening where she is one of the founders of the West Peoria Garden Club.

This amazing woman furthered her education and finished college with two degrees along while staying involved with her volunteering obligations.  Her first degree was an Applied Science degree in Library Technology from ICC.  Her love of reading and research while obtaining that degree landed her a position at libraries in the evenings and a project for volunteers at the Peoria Public Library on Main during the summer.  She then moved on to eventually become a teacher’s aide at Eureka College and a reading tutor for Peoria Public Schools.  After finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership in 20 months, earning both the “Those Who Excel In Education” award and 25 Women In Leadership award, she became the Director of Lifelong Learning where she oversaw the recruiting of non-traditional students for Organizational Leadership and Special Ed Approval courses for teachers.  As an Academic Organizational Adviser at Common Place, her job was to see that the organization is keeping tutors, adult literacy director, and executive director on track to the best information and academic improvements for adults to succeed in today’s society.  She also was involved with reviewing and promoting training, assisting in program planning such as Jobs for Life, and fundraising opportunities, and lastly working on the annual Love in Action fundraiser and Community Leadership School project. 

his year’s recipient is not only receiving the Woman of the Year Award today, but she also was nominated and voted on by the WIL Board to receive the Pinnacle Award this year.  For those of you that are not familiar with this award, the Pinnacle Award was created two years ago by the WIL Board to recognize one extraordinary individual for her inspiration, dedication, and significant contribution to the advancement of women in leadership positions or career.  This award not only acknowledges inspiring leaders and mentors, but those leaders who are creating a legacy by passing on their vision to women of the future.  In order to qualify for the award the individual must be a member who is currently active in WIL for a minimum of 5 years, received one other WIL Award (which she had back in 2012-13), and maintains active in organizations outside WIL and also received awards and recognition for leadership outside of WIL.  It was a unanimous vote by the board that this individual was more than deserving of the Pinnacle Award this year.  So without further ado, I would like to congratulate Betsy Bladel on earning the Woman Leader of the Year and Pinnacle Award for 2018-2019.

The Career Leader of the Year award recognizes Trista Westhafer for her outstanding leadership in her business or profession, her professional organizations, and her WIL participation.

Trista is a CPA and a Director at CLA focusing on the financial institution industry.  She assists with training our new associates and senior associates at CLA and is a Career Coach to three individuals.  As a career coach, she meets regularly with her coaches and focuses on helping them set and achieve their short term and long term goals.

Trista has dedicated 4 years to Women in Leadership and has served on the board for 2 years as Treasurer, has been an Ambassador to our new members, and has been active on the Annual Conference committee for three years.

Trista was raised on a farm and went to a school in a small town.  She has always had a small community mentality and believes the best towns are built by strong volunteers.  Trista's other volunteer endeavors include various events with the Illinois CancerCare Foundation, Junior Achievement, Methodist Childcare Center Parent Steering Committee, Midstate College Tutoring, Bradley University, CLA Foundation, and more.

It is my honor to present this year's Women in Leadership Career Leader of the Year Award to Trista Westhafer!

The Community Leader of the Year award recognizes Hiral Hudson for her outstanding community service and leadership.

Hiral Hudson has dedicated herself to both professionally and philanthropically making Peoria a better place to live, work, play and raise a family. She was born in to a volunteering family, so it runs deep in her blood. In her youth, she volunteered mainly in church and the local hospital.

Now as Junior League Sustainer of 9 years, she has helped with everything from Board decisions to many individual fundraisers. Her contributions to the Easter Seals over the last three years are many and this year helped them net over $170,000. 

She runs the silent auction for the Peoria PlayHouse Hopscotch Fundraiser and this year, as an ArtsPartners Board Member she coordinated personal concierges for each visiting artist and re-vamped the Employee Handbook. 

While she has accomplished much in helping our community she has also raised a family. Hiral is mom to Juliana and Charlie, no doubt her greatest contributions to our community and her inspiration to serve and make Peoria a better place to live, work, play and raise all of our families. 

Please join me in congratulating our 2019 Community Leader of the Year Award winner… Hiral Hudson!

Chosen by the women in leadership board of directors, the Outstanding New Leader award recognizes Yvonne Long as a member who has made a noteworthy contribution to WIL over the last two years and has actively demonstrated her commitment and enthusiasm to the organization and our membership.

This year’s award winner not only accomplishes all of the award criteria, she does it with passion, enthusiasm and encouragement of others. She rarely misses a WIL luncheon and from the beginning has invited guests and made visitors and members alike feel welcome and engaged. 

This year’s winner began her WIL experience at our annual women’s leadership conference, where she approached me about being a part of the conference committee. As neither a member of WIL nor NAWBO, we quickly encouraged her to become a member. We had no idea what a gem we were getting, when Yvonne Long submitted her WIL membership application.

Yvonne served on the Pathways conference committee in her first year of membership, taking on the important logistics role, in addition to bringing in sponsorship, vendors and advertising. Her long list of potential sponsors was instrumental in the success of the conference.  Yvonne also supported others in their roles and put her hand up again and again to help. It was Yvonne’s natural leadership that was apparent from the beginning. Her supportive demeanor, engaging attitude and thoughtful, yet confident management style made her the ideal candidate to take on the role of the conference co-chair for the 2019 conference. It is a testament to Yvonne’s commitment to this organization that she accepted this rewarding challenge. 

Yvonne is a mother, a community volunteer, full time employee with a growing company, yet she still makes her commitment to WIL a priority. It is her leadership that will help WIL’s largest community outreach event, the Pathways leadership conference, be a success. 

I am privileged to have met Yvonne less than two years ago, work with her on the conference, and call her a friend. Please join me in congratulating the 2019 Women in Leadership, Outstanding New Leader of the Year, Yvonne Long. 

Contact Us: Peoria.WILCI.membership@peoriawomeninleadership.com

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PO Box 1521
Peoria, IL 61655

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