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Panhandle BPW lauds women for accomplishments

Panhandle BPW lauds women for accomplishments


A local women’s advocacy organization highlighted the accomplishments of local professional women, employers who support women in the workplace and encouraged the advancement of women during an annual award banquet Wednesday.

Panhandle Business and Professional Women highlighted its Woman of the Year, Young Careerist, Employers of the Year and scholarship winners.

Bridget Peck, awards committee chair, hailed the awards ceremony as a sign of getting back to normal after interruptions and having to wear masks during the pandemic.

“To be able to come together ... and realize that despite the times we’ve been in, there have been wonderful achievements by women and businesses in our community is very rewarding,” she said.

Betsy Vidlak, chief operating officer of Community Health Center (Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska), earned the top award, the Woman of the Year Award. The award is presented to a woman who achieves outstanding career achievements, outstanding efforts on behalf of women on behalf of BPW issues, outstanding assistance to other women in career advancement, outstanding guidance to youth and young career women and outstanding community service.

Vidlak, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a recent master’s degree in business administration from Chadron State College, was described as representing all of the ideals of Panhandle BPW. She has served in many leadership roles, not just including her current and past roles at Community Health Center, but also in local, state and national board for health and human services and advocacy organizations. She has also held leadership roles in Soroptimist International, Scotts Bluff County and Rocky Mountain Soroptimist, and the West Nebraska Arts Center. In her positions at Community Health Center, she has served “in programs that do much to support the women who are clients, as well as mentor the skilled female professionals providing services to those women. This woman’s commitment to serving others, especially women in our community is exceptional,” presenter Kim Ferguson said.

Two businesses, Flyover Brewery and Scottsbluff Public Schools, were honored as Employers of the Year. Flyover Brewery, honored as the small business employer, had been lauded for its staff that includes two women in leadership roles, including General Manager Andrea Margheim, who accepted the award with her husband, Joe. The business was described as helping its employees manage their schedules around responsibilities such as family, awarding raises and bonuses even during the pandemic for performance and supporting advancement for women. Margheim said she was humbled to receive the award as a fairly new company, and “we’re just happy to be a part of the community.”

Scottsbluff Public Schools was recognized as the large employer, with more than 400 women among its employees. According to the information presented, 74 women were hired in 2020 and three women were promoted. Marianne Carlson, director of finance, accepted the award with Scottsbluff Public School board member Scott Reisig and noted the many women in leadership roles within the district. Reisig noted the woman in such roles, from building principals to those in executive roles.

The district was also praised for its support of families during the pandemic.

In accepting the award, Carlson said, the district was grateful for the employees who “embody our message of every child, every day, every where.”

The organization named Mai Lee Olsen as its Young Careerist, which is an award that recognizes the accomplishments of young, upcoming leaders and provides them with professional development opportunities. Olsen is the CollegeNow! Director at Western Nebraska Community College. Under her leadership, students have been able to earn thousands of college hours before graduating high school. She also has been instrumental in the implementation of career pathways at area schools. Olsen’s contributions to students, families and employers in the Panhandle are exceptional.

Three women were also awarded scholarships, which are funded through the Panhandle BPW’s annual fundraiser, the Sip & Shop Showcase. Through the years, Panhandle BPW has awarded more than $40,000 in scholarships to 80 women since the organization was founded in 1981. Scholarships were awarded to Alyssa Dishman, Caitlin Pittman and Jessica Valles, who each will receive a $1,000 scholarship. All three women are students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing.

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