Sherida Gholston’s experience from attending a previous Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce Women’s Conference was key in her becoming involved in planning the 2011 one.
“When I attended the 2009 conference, I observed speakers from diverse backgrounds and various areas were touched on,” said Gholston, who is the director of student support services at Halifax Community College.
Gholston was especially motivated by keynote speaker Dr. Belle S. Wheelon, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. “There was something for everyone there,” Gholston said.
It was an experience she hopes others will have at the 2011 Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce Women’s Conference.
The fourth annual conference, with a new format and focus for recognizing area women in business and home, will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 26 in The Centre on the campus of Halifax Community College. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for students.
Donna Clements and Ruby Gerald, co-chairs of the planning committee for the conference, said it will be a major transition without one long-time coordinator.
In the first years, Cheryl McElheney was extensively involved in the coordination of the conference. All arrangements for the 2010 event were completed prior to her death in December, 2009.
“We don’t want to cover just one aspect,” Clements said. “We want it to be the total package. We want (attendees) to come and find out what they need.”
The planning for the event started with a logo to go on tickets and flyers. The logo is a broach with a silhouette of a woman. The idea for it came from chamber information specialist Ginny Lewis.
Clements loved the idea because she felt broaches help to individualize women.
It is part of the conference theme of adorning the woman in mind, body and spirit.
With additional help from Sonya Speed and Clements’ daughter, Gesine Crockett, the logo came to life.
With the various speakers and seminars, Clements felt the focus in having the event at The Centre starts when attendees walk in the door.
The goal is to have various female vendors with tables set up to show their businesses, services and products.
“It gives them an opportunity to show what they are best at,” Clements said.
Instead of a sit down luncheon, which was done in the past, various areas will be set up with food throughout the day.
The guest speaker will be motivational speaker and author Al Collins, who lives in Cheltenham, Md. “We feel she can address the individual woman,” Clements said.
There will be eight workshops in the morning and the same eight repeating in the afternoon in the classrooms in the lower part of The Centre.
Gerald said there will be workshops on health, finance, legal concerns and other topics. “We are trying to cover every area that a woman deals with,” Gerald said.
Roanoke Rapids City Councilwoman Suetta Scarbrough thinks the conference is an excellent idea for the Roanoke Valley. Scarbrough is also one of the members of the conference planning committee.“We hope it will help women realize their potential,” she said.
“I have always had leadership roles since high school.” In high school, she was president of the largest FFA chapter in Georgia.
Clements cites Scarbrough as a mentor and a source of inspiration. “I am here because of Suetta,” she said. “She is always encouraging women to step up. As a whole, I hope this conference teaches others how to give back to the community.”
This is why organizers hope area businesses will help young women attend the conference by sponsoring them.
Clements said, “This is the first step toward helping the younger generation become leaders.”
With the conference offering so much, the committee is creating a keepsake program book for the event. Organizers want the program to be a memento that can be placed on a table like a coffee table book.
They want attendees to honor special ladies in their lives with photos, acknowledgments, poetry.
“If everyone has the opportunity to recognize someone, it will personalize the entire event,” Clements said..