Club Celebrates 40 Years

Club Celebrates 40 Years

Herndon's professional women look back.

When it comes to raising money for scholarships, the Herndon Business and Professional Women's Club hasn't changed much over the last 40 years.

"For fund-raisers we catered weddings and were making food," said Mary Ann Cerick, current Herndon Business and Professional Women's Club (BPW) treasurer. "Now we're selling concessions at the Herndon Craft Show."

Cerick joked although they may not have strayed far in fundraising tactics, the positions held by current members have changed noticeably since she joined in 1975.

"Back then it was almost like a woman's club — it was a group that worked for women's issues," said Cerick, adding most members were in banking or real estate. "Now we focus more on networking ... we're really now much more sophisticated with a diverse cross-section of people."

Cerick said members now range in age and are everything from CPAs, government professionals and entrepreneurs to bankers like herself.

Last week, Cerick and other members of the Herndon BPW group joined BPW groups across the nation to celebrate National Women's Week.

LOCALLY the Herndon chapter was recognized by the Town Council for its 40-year anniversary.

"I think it says a great deal for how women have worked for the betterment of all people," said Cerick of the longevity of the group and the women in it. "The glass ceiling has definitely been pushed up."

In conjunction with other local BPW groups, the Herndon members celebrated Women's Week in Centreville last week with wine tasting and guest co-authors speaking about their recent book addressing the role that choice plays in women's lives.

"It was a wonderful evening — our activities are always exciting," said Marie Smith, Herndon BPW vice president.

Smith, Herndon BPW member since 1997 when she started her own business, said she joined the group because she wanted to learn more about the community.

"The group gives the opportunity to relate to women who have the same goals and who are faced with the same issues as well," said Smith. "It helps that you know you can call and talk to someone about what is going at a professional level for women."

FOUNDED IN 1919, the National BPW group is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, formed to advance and promote the interests and concerns of business and professional women, and is the oldest organization in America dedicated to this cause.

"I saw women taking action and using their skills," said Smith about her first encounters with the group. "It exposed me to ... activities you don't get in a chamber of commerce or other business groups."

Smith explained although the national group is able to have a direct effect on legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at the local level they have an impact on women in the community.

"We sponsor a basketball league for ninth to 12th grade girls," she said, adding in the past they have done community events with young women preparing them for job interviews and resume preparations, among other things.

But, Smith said, they help the most with their scholarship program dedicated to helping women wishing to further their careers through higher education or who are re-entering the job market.

"EACH LOCAL GROUP is different, but we're all working for the same goal," said Smith, adding they are always looking for new members. "'Women helping women' in whatever ways we can support each other, that's our goal."

Smith said the group also honors a "Woman of the Year" who may or may not be from the organization and recently created another award specific to group members.

For Cerick, she admitted it was funny to look back at when they used to make sandwiches for various catered events, adding it's especially rewarding for her to see the money raised continues to help women.

"My favorite part of the organization are the wonderful friendships I've made, it's been very rewarding to be a part of it," said Cerick. "It so nice to know we're at our best when we're helping others."