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Leadership Luncheon Awards to be revived

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An annual tradition honoring some of the Peoria area’s leading women will be revived after a one-year hiatus.


The Community Foundation of Central Illinois and the Women’s Fund will take over administration of the Leader Luncheon Awards started 36 years ago by the Peoria YWCA.


The awards will be present May 28 at the Gateway Building and, as intended by the YWCA, will recognize local women who best exemplify excellence in their chosen professions and a commitment to the success of other women. 


 “We are proud and honored to continue this excellent program that recognizes outstanding local women,” said Mark Roberts, CEO of Community Foundation of Central Illinois. “We believe that the high visibility of the Leader Luncheon will help grow the recognition of the Women’s Fund and the Community Foundation of Central Illinois, allowing us to make a bigger difference in our communities. Indeed, it is one more way that we ‘Connect People Who Care, With Causes That Matter.’ ”


The Leader Luncheon began in 1978 and over the last 36 years more than 210 women have been recognized through its awards programs. This will be the 35th year, because there was no awards program in 2013, after the YWCA ceased operations.


Several sponsors have already stepped forward to support the 35th Leader Luncheon and there are additional sponsorship opportunities for other businesses that would like to be involved in this worthy cause. OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is a Gold Sponsor, Ameren Corp. is a Silver Sponsor and State Bank of Speer, Essential Wellness Pharmacy and Ann Mitchell are Bronze Sponsors.




The awards to be given include four different categories as past awards will be consolidated, said Chris Shay, chairman of the Women’s Fund. The categories will be:


·        Business or Professionals Award


·        Education or Arts Award


·        Community Service Award


·        Young Woman’s Service Award — a scholarship to be given to a high school senior.


Nominations for the Women to Women Leader Luncheon can be made online by individuals, organizations or businesses that want to recognize a local woman who has made a difference. Nominees must not be previous Leader Luncheon award recipients.


To make a nomination visit www.communityfoundationci.org/womens-fund-information.   


“What a wonderful gift it is to be able to carry on this tradition,” Shay said. “At the same time that we were looking for a meaningful way to grow our network and our fund, former YWCA board members approached us to ask if the Woman’s Fund would take on the Leader Luncheon. It just seemed like a perfect fit.”




Shay said many of the Women’s Fund founding members are past Leader Luncheon award winners. “We were aware of this event, that is was a well-developed event with a good, solid history. Part of growing the Women’s Fund has been becoming more visible in the community through our projects and we believe this will be good,” she said.


The Women’s Fund supports projects that “Strengthen Families and Communities by Empowering Women and Girls. These efforts are very close to that of the Peoria YWCA and while the WF does not operate programs, they do make significant annual grants to local programs and causes that empower women and girls.”


Julie Rock, former Leader Luncheon chairman and current WF Leader Luncheon committee member, said, “As a two-time chair of the YWCA Leader Luncheon, I was very excited when asked to join the Women’s Fund’s Board and serve on the Leader Luncheon committee. This award is one of the area’s primary means of recognizing local women for their accomplishments. It has such a wonderful history and is very meaningful to the many, many women who previously received these awards. When you look at the list, it reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Peoria women. Continuing the Leader Luncheon tradition allows us to continue to recognize the former award winners, and to acknowledge new and younger women as they achieve great things.”







About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).