Karen McKenzie, the new president of the ABWA (American Business Women's Association) in Lehigh Acres would like to see more business and professional women in Lehigh to become active members. In fact, that is one of her goals as she takes over the reins of leadership of the group which has around 20 members today.
"We want to attract younger women who are professionals in the community. We want to introduce them to our organization, which fosters good relations between business people in the community. The ABWA also helps in the community and hands out scholarships to deserving Lehigh seniors each year.
"Not only younger women, but we are also asking women who have been in the business atmosphere, working in local firms, to give us a chance to show how we can all work together to promote Lehigh business and join our professional network," McKenzie said.
She said the ABWA meets on the second Thursday of each month at the Bistro Rudy's restaurant at The Village on Taylor Lane for a dinner meeting. Cost of the dinner is $15 and must be called in as a RSVP to Marilyn Waline at 368-4222. The event begins at 6 p.m. with networking and dinner followed by the monthly meeting.
McKenzie and her husband moved from Michigan. But for two years, they were "snowbirds" after buying a home in the Mirror Lakes area of Lehigh. They moved into their home in May.
"We had to come and get away from those cold winters," she laughed.
She is Dr. Karen McKenzie, a full-time business professor at Hodges University. Her husband, Dave, is associated with the Ace hardware store on Homestead Rd. in Lehigh.
McKenzie said the ABWA chapter is working in conjunction with Hodges University to mentor students in the business world.
"One of our current students we are mentoring is from the Ukraine and she is learning about women in business, how to network and how to do fundraising efforts to support our education fund," she said.
"We left the automotive industry in Michigan and decided it was time to spend some warm winters on a full-time basis in Southwest Florida," McKenzie said.
McKenzie is also an active member of the Greater Lehigh Chamber of Commerce where she serves on the Education Committee.
Also serving on the executive board with McKenzie are Kitty Bryce, vice president; Mary Beck, secretary; and Onnadine Hosler, who is the treasurer.
Hosler, who works for Lehigh Showcase Properties, help to form the ABWA in 1998, McKenzie said.
"There is a lot of excitement with our new board and we want to share some of the upcoming events with the community," McKenzie said.
"We are calling our annual fashion show that supports our education fund for scholarships for Lehigh Acres residents 'Lights, Camera Fashion' and it will be held on Saturday, October 27. Luncheon starts at 11:30 a.m. and will include the fashion show, a silent auction and Chinese auction," she said.
The cost is $25 and the fashions will be by Denimianco Boutique and Pinkies Boutique with jewelry by Parklane.
"There will be celebrity look-alikes such as Danny DeVito and Jack Nicholson so we want to tell people to bring their cameras," she laughed.
Tickets are on sale now by contacting Joan Alder-Gordon at 239-789-8100.
"One other fundraising event that we are doing is 'Flocking with Pink Flamingoes. For $15 we will 'flock' your front yard with 10 pink flamingoes. We also have the option of doing 20 flamingoes for $30. You can also add balloons if you want for a small additional fee. This fundraiser also helps our scholarship fund," she said.
Those interested should call Vicki Culver at Home for the Holidays to flock someone at 239-369-1168.
She also said that the Lehigh Chapter of the ABWA is working with the PACE Center for Girls in Fort Myers and have been collecting notebooks and journals to donate to the center.
McKenzie said the group is also in the process of making changes to its website which can be found at www.abwalehigh.com.
The ABWA is also planning its Christmas party at the Colonial Country Club on Dec. 2, which is a Sunday. The cost is $15 and will be from 2 to 5 p.m.
"At this event, we are asking everyone to bring a $10 gift or less for the Gift Exchange. Our Christmas party is open to members and their guests and to the public, too," McKenzie said.