The Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce will name its Woman of the Year during the EmpowHER Women’s Night event being conducted Wednesday, Oct. 2, from 6-9 p.m. at The Gathering Place.
Tickets are $20 and are available at the Chamber Office. The speaker for the evening is the motivational and humorous Gerarda Lahey-Keppler, who will kick off the inaugural event. The meal will be catered by J&D Mart, and local vendors will be present. There will also be a raffle.
Community members were invited to submit nominations for Woman of the Year. The woman possesses qualities that have helped improve the quality of life for the residents and communities of the Manchester area. She has shown passion and dedication and has put her time, energy and skills to use in community enrichment, growth, and care. She has also been selfless in her actions through business development, community leadership, personal inspiration or volunteerism, among other roles.
The five nominees for the 2019 Manchester Area Woman of the year are Katie Edgington, Marian Gassman, Shirley Helmrichs, Dianne Larsen and Kathy Wilgenbusch.
Edgington is the director of the Meadows Assisted Living facility, which is a part of the Good Neighbor Society. During her time at Good Neighbor, Edgington has shown determination, perseverance, and compassion, while also showing that hard work and continuing your education will get you to where you want to be. Through her work, Edgington is an integral part of the care that the tenants receive at the Meadows, and was also instrumental in the new Neighborhood Retreat, which opened in 2018. She and her team are also active in the community and volunteer at Second Helpings, Castle Theater and the Window Walk and Static Christmas Parade.
Edgington views her greatest accomplishment as being a mom to her two children. She and her family are active in the community as well through the Stone Church, WD’s Academic Booster Club, Friends of Music and the Manchester Fire Department. She also volunteers in her husband’s fourth-grade class at Lambert.
One of her colleagues shared this of Edgington, “Whether Katie is being the model mom for her two active children, or leading a team to serve a bigger purpose, she does it with grace, assertiveness and passion. Besides these selfless traits, Katie takes on a tremendous amount of leadership through the committees she participates in, her kids’ activities and leading a dedicated team of compassionate caregivers at her place of employment. Katie has a sense of integrity that is unwavering, and while she tends to blend in and be humble about her accomplishments, her height always makes her stand out. Katie is devoted to the Manchester community through faith, family and employment, and is very deserving of this honor.”
Gassman is the owner of Treasure Alley and Treasure Alley (too!). She was nominated for her enthusiasm and the support she gives the community through her two retail stores, but if you know Gassman, there is so much more that she does than people realize. Through her business, she has donated and supported many families in need, as well as organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, Four Oaks, Camp Courageous, Tiny House and Garments and Goods. On top of this, it is her personality and flair that make Gassman stand out. She describes her business as one that operates on a foundation of kindness and fairness and attributes the 36-plus years of the business’ success to perseverance, and also community support. Not one to be satisfied with merely sitting still or going with the flow, Gassman works to be an advocate for the community and her customers and believes that change is always positive or a learning experience.
Although many of the things she does go under the radar, she is a doer. She listens to people and looks for solutions and ways to implement change. Through all of that, she hopes to inspire others to embrace their own strengths and passions to help them accomplish the important things in their lives.
Helmrichs is a well-known member of our community for many reasons. She is a self-employed farmer, has served as a Delaware County Supervisor for 21 years and is the administrative assistant for the Delaware County Pork Producers. She serves on several county and regional boards, including RTA, RPA, EIRUSS, and ECIA. She is the Delaware County rep on the Maquoketa River Watershed Management Authority, assistant commissioner on the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District, and serves on the governance board for ECR Regional Mental Health, District 6 Corrections Board, NEI3A Agency on Aging, and the Tri-County Operation New View board.
Helmrichs is the current 4-H leader of the Milo Livestock 4-H Club, and has been for over 40 years. She has also been the Poultry Project leader many of those years, on the 4-H Food Stand Committee for over 30 years, and a member of the Delaware County Youth Committee for 15 years. She also sponsors a 4-H scholarship each year in memory of her husband, as well as a county 4-H scholarship with her siblings in memory of her parents. Also, she is also very active at Golden Congregational Church.
While it would be easy to say that Helmrichs is busy and gives a lot of her time, it is also her heart and knowledge that makes our community a better place to be. She leads by thinking of the youth and future and helps to do what she can to organize, step in, and help with day-to-day tasks to beautify our community, give someone a hand up, or even start their own careers in farming. Helmrichs stated, “Helping our county and community reach long-term goals, and becoming even better makes every day worthwhile.”
Larsen embodies what it means to be a selfless volunteer. Her vacation time often is used as volunteer time to make the community and those around her better. She served as a 4-H leader for many years and also volunteers to work in the 4-H food stand the entire week of the fair. Through her church, Larsen serves as a eucharistic minister and to the homebound, is a parish provider, serves in social justice, faith formation, RCIA and Catholic Daughters of America, where she currently serves as the vice-regent and will be the regent in June.
In addition, she helps with the Festival of Trees bake sale, Friends of the Library and Second Helpings.
When asked what she feels is her greatest accomplishment, Larsen said she knows she’s successful when she sees the smiles on people’s faces. When she can serve others and know she is making them happy, smile, or make their life better — whether that’s through a visit, helping hand, or finding an item in the store — she feels joy that nothing else can bring. The many hours of behind-the-scenes work are noticed and have had an impact on people’s lives for years, with what I am sure are many more years of selfless giving to come.
Wilgenbusch has been a successful businesswoman for the past 19 years at The Quiltmaker’s Shoppe. Her unique retail business draws customers from the surrounding communities as well as other states. She organizes special events like bus trips, shop hops, and workshops to bring people to our community. This, in turn, is good for other specialty shops in town. It has helped make Manchester a destination community.
Wilgenbusch has also served on the Chamber of Commerce in many different capacities. She continually promotes the community by taking part in Chamber events and referring customers to other businesses in town. She is one of the founding members of Barn Quilts of Delaware County. This organization has also drawn attention to not only Manchester but the entire county. Currently, there are nearly 100 barn quilts for people to enjoy.
Wilgenbusch is an active member of the Return the Favor group that provides quilts to children going into foster care through Lutheran Social Services. Each month she provides a place for the group to meet at her shop. She is not only generous with her time, but with her fabric, advice and always has a smile. Each year the group provides 60-plus quilts to this worthwhile project. She has also donated more than 20 quilts to Passage Quilts, which is used to cover a deceased loved one as they leave their home or hospital. She is also an active member of St. Mary Catholic Church and Catholic Daughters of America.
Wilgenbusch gives selflessly through her talent, time, and resources and always gives credit first to her team around her, making a true inspiration.