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ABWA Lehigh chapter to hold hybrid meeting Thursday

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Feb 10, 2021


After a year of not holding meetings due to the pandemic, the ABWA Lehigh Acres chapter will host its first hybrid meeting this week.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, the monthly chapter meeting will begin with networking and registration at 6 p.m. followed by the meeting at 6:30 p.m. at El Tarasco Mexican Restaurant, 1320 Business Way, Lehigh Acres.

“I’m excited about our hybrid meetings because February of 2020 was our last in-person meeting. We haven’t met in person for a meeting since then,” ABWA Lehigh Acres Chapter President Toby Ferrel said.

She explained that they will have a laptop set up where the guest speaker can attend in person, or via Zoom, as well as members and guests. The hybrid model gives individuals who do not feel comfortable meeting in person yet an opportunity to still participate in the meeting.

“We can interact with them. It worked really well in January when we did it for our membership meeting. I’m super excited to do this in person and meeting at El Tarasco,” Ferrel said.

The meeting will feature Seth DeBartolo with the Hive Community Development Corp.

“We are excited for our speaker Seth DeBartolo. He is a pastor at a local church here in Lehigh,” she said. “He has already started a community development plan. He is finding out the needs for Lehigh and how can the community work together to fulfill them.”

Ferrel said DeBartolo will share information about what else he has planned and how individual citizens of Lehigh and members of ABWA can get involved to bring resources and activities to help the citizens of Lehigh.

“Lehigh is an underserved population. We don’t have a local city government. We are only represented by the shared county commissioner,” Ferrel said.

The monthly meetings are open to the public to attend.

“We are trying to grow our membership. We are a small membership and are trying different things to attract women in all areas of business,” she said. “We normally meet on the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m.”

ABWA, Ferrel said is open to anyone from women who are stocking shelves at Publix to a business manager who want to improve themselves through the experience of doing.

The American Business Women’s Association is a national association. The Lehigh Acres chapter, which has been in existence for close to 30 years, is one of five other chapters in Southwest Florida.

“The mission for ABWA is to bring together business women of diverse occupations to provide opportunities to grow personally and professional through leadership, education, networking and national recognition,” Ferrel said. “We, being the national association, has a sister arm, which is philanthropic, the Stephen Bufton Memorial Education Fund. Our local chapter has the opportunity to provide a scholarship to a local woman and we work through the Stephen Bufton Memorial Education Fund for that. They select the criteria and they process and select the winner of any application that we happen to submit.”

The Lehigh chapter provides an annual Onnadine Hosler Impact Scholarship to one recipient in the amount of $1,000.

“Onnadine is a long-term founding member of our chapter and she also works at Showcase Properties. We made it in honor of her,” Ferrel said.

She said they are currently in the middle of the scholarship season. Candidates must live in Lehigh, Alva, Buckingham, Labelle, Immokalee or Clewiston. Those interested are asked to email Judy Carter at j4udy@earthlink.net.

Ferrel said the scholarship is for one woman who is furthering their education either at a trade school, or completing their associates degree.

“We get notified who the winner is and we do a check presentation in July when the check is received pending that we are meeting in person,” she said.

The ABWA Lehigh Acres Chapter, Ferrel said is a self-serving association that works with its members to help them grow professionally and personally. She said the national portion of the association offers a lot of online education through partnerships with different universities throughout the country.

Ferrel became a member of the ABWA 16 years ago when she joined the Naples chapter.

“I can tell you that I used to be a wallflower in the room. Don’t talk to me and I’m not going to look at you,” she said.

When she was hired as a bank manager she was told to get involved in the community, which led her to joining Rotary and later ABWA when a Rotary member shared information about the association.

“It has definitely changed my life. It has given me a voice and self-confidence,” Ferrel said of ABWA, which also led to a job and career change leading her to having the lifestyle she has today. “It was the volunteer experience, learning from peers and mentors of positions above me where I learned more about myself. I found my voice and learned leadership skills more so than the bachelors and management that I received back when I was young a long time ago.”

As the president of the association, she hopes to work with the local businesses with Lehigh Acres and the surrounding areas to try to get women to come to the chapter as guests and hopefully eventually become members.

“It’s one of the greatest things you can give yourself,” Ferrel said. “Once you have your skill, now you as a member, can go out and do for others. It has allowed me to be involved in other aspects in the community.”

For more information about ABWA Lehigh chapter email Ferrel at abwalehighacres@gmail.com.