The national BPW organization is nearly 100 years old. When World War I broke out, every able-bodied man was expected to don a uniform and go to battle. More than 25,000 American women went to war with them, serving as nurses, communications operators, journalists and entertainment for the troops. On the home front, many women were losing their traditional jobs as servants, maids and nannies so that affluent homes could economize. But the jobs left behind by the men who went to war were now available. By the end of World War I, more than 1.5 million women were working traditionally male jobs. With a grant from the federal government, the Women’s War Council set up an organization geared to support women in the workplace. The National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs was founded in 1919. The organization later became known as Business & Professional Women/USA (or BPW/USA) In a year’s time, women were granted the right to vote. By the 1930’s BPW/USA drafted the legislation to prohibit hiring discrimination based on marital status. “A wife’s place was in the home,” was the cultural creed at the time, and it took alot for these women to win equality in the workplace. In 1945, they successfully campaigned for equal pay legislation, although it took another 18 years for it to become law. It was signed by President Kennedy surrounded by BPW members. Today’s BPW still promotes equality and nationally addresses women’s workplace issues. Organization chapters are found in all 50 states and in several countries. Each chapter is free to focus on the issues that are pertinent to their regional challenges. The need to recognize and honor professional and business women seems to be universal. The Women of Achievement Awards are a mainstay for BPW chapters. Lighthouse BPW has been hosting the awards ceremony since 1956 for MS Gulf Coast working women.
By: Melody Worsham
In October 12th, Lighthouse Business & Professional Women (BPW) held its annual Women of Achievement Awards at the IP Casino Resort Spa Ballroom. The formal luncheon and ceremony was attended by nearly 300 movers and shakers from every industry represented on the Coast.
Each year, Lighthouse BPW recognizes an outstanding woman in each of the following categories: Education, Medical, Nonprofit, and Corporate (Government & Military included). An overall winner is selected from these top 4 winners to receive Lighthouse Business & Professional Women’s 2010 Woman of the Year Award.
The nominees are chosen by women along the Gulf Coast, regardless of their affiliation with the organization. The winners are chosen by independent judges, women in their own right who are successful professionals. This year’s judges were Vicki Harper-Blake, APR of the GodwinGroup and Cathy Miller of Geiger Midsouth Division.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR
Reverend Carol Burnett is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Low-Income Child-Care Initiative, a nonprofit organization working to improve policies and increase funding in Mississippi’s child care programs for low-income working families. Carol is also Executive Director of Moore Community House (MCH), a non-profit community center serving low-income families in east Biloxi by providing Early Head Start programs and Women in Construction, a job training program. Carol serves on several Boards of Directors including the MS Center for Justice, the Hope Community Development Agency, Hope Community Credit Union, and Common Cause of MS. Carol has a B. A. from the USM, and an M. Div. from Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY. She is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, one of the first women to become ordained in the MS Conference.
Kearn Cherry is the owner of PRN Staffing & Home Care. All her life she has been drawn to business and the medical field. Kearn was raised in Biloxi and a graduate of Biloxi High. PRN Staffing and Home Care was born in 1997. Kearn has been married to Dennis for 24 years. They have three children; Dannan, 26, Jasmine, 21 and Denise 19. She has been involved with the Chamber of Commerce, American Heart Association, BPW, and the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi. Kearn is the creator of several organizations that help senior citizens and their caregivers.
Cheryl Johnson is President of the MS Gulf Coast Area for Regions Bank. She is responsible for the banking activities in the three coastal counties of the state. She began her career as a teller in 1977 prior to graduating high school, and continuing through college. Cheryl’s 33-year banking career includes multi-levels of banking in various roles. She has received recognition as a Top 50 Leading Mississippi Businesswoman, Gulfport Rotarian of the Year, and South MS Outstanding Community Leader (Roland Weeks Hall of Fame). Cheryl lives in Long Beach with her husband of 25 years, Bobby Johnson. They have two children, Rob and Zack. For the past 20 years, she has directed a small church choir at the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Long Beach, where she and her family are members.
Joyce Youngblood is a Gifted Educator at Anniston Avenue Elementary School in Biloxi. She is a veteran teacher of 24 years and currently serves as Past President of the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children. She also served as state conference chair and president of the association. Mrs. Youngblood was selected as Anniston Teacher of the Year and recipient of the Hancock Bank Leo Seal Teacher award. Mrs. Youngblood co-authored Gulfport’s original gifted program, and served as its first educator. Mrs. Youngblood resides in Gulfport with her husband, Barry. She remains active with various organizations, and she is currently the teacher sponsor for Kids FACE, an environmental organization for students