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Thank You, President Jane, and Welcome, President Jo-Ann!

25 Jul 2010 10:30 AM | Lisa Vaas (Administrator)

New WO President Jo-Ann Little and recent WO President Jane RuddenThe WO Board of Directors on July 24, 2010 made it official: We took off our caps in deep gratitude to Jane Rudden, who is stepping down as president (but remaining on the Board), and we voted in our new president, Jo-Ann Little (also voted in was our newest Board member, Kim Otis. Welcome, Kim, and thanks to all of you who took the time to vote!). We’ve known since before the 2010 Gathering that the presidency would pass from one capable set of hands to another. At the Gathering, I had the chance to sit down with both of these worthy women to get their take on where our beloved organization is going and how we’re going to get it there. Here’s what they had to say.


Lisa: Jo-Ann, I know you were on the Board two years ago but dropped off because your personal and professional lives got busy. So what brings you back?

Jo-Ann: It started a couple months ago. I had stayed on the Board list, and I was still reading the e-mail, and I thought, Now is the time, now I have the capacity. I knew we had asked Jane to step into the role when Debbi Wright retired. We had also made promises to Jane that we would support her and never leave her, and that’s not what happened.

Jane: I wound up in school full-time and working full-time, and part of the process of my working toward becoming a nurse practitioner is that I’ll be continuing my education, so Jo-Ann approached me about coming back to the Board and switching positions. I said, “That’s a really good idea.” She had more availability to do everything that needed to be done.


Lisa: What are some of the things that need to be done?

Jo-Ann: We talked about getting the Albany region off the ground...

Jane: That was a priority I couldn’t address, either by myself or by finding somebody to work closely with or assist with leading trips. So I wasn’t able to do that for Mickey [Alford, an Albany member].

Jo-Ann: Another thing: Jane’s been a WO member forever. She’s always been passionate about the organization. We didn’t want her to lose that passion by being bogged down. We don’t want to lose someone like Jane by her giving her heart and soul to the organization. If I could lift that burden and continue to benefit from her wisdom, I felt that’s something I could do.


Lisa: Jane, could you tell us a bit about your history with WO?

Jane: My first gathering was in 1982. During the 90s, I was on the board or president of a gay & lesbian Albany organization. … Then I was through with that and Debbi picked me out. She said “You, come back!”


Lisa: Tell us where you think the organization is at right now.

Jo-Ann: I feel the organization’s in transition now. We reformulated our identity with our new Web site. That’s really taken off. We have to follow this reformulation of the site with our identity in general. In regions, we have to rebrand our value to people: i.e., Make it clear why they should want to be members. We started well, and we need it to carry forward.

The board three years ago spent a lot of time articulating our mission. It’s all about empowering women. We have to do a better job of getting people to understand, whether they’re a trip leader or just attend a local event, they’re getting life skills out of participation; skills they might not even realize they’re getting.

Jane: I heard something today that clicked. Somebody announced that Bren needed a volunteer to help with the loading of the boats. It’s this pulling people together to be involved: WO has done that. That’s what moves them to leading a hike or taking the next challenge. That’s been really pivotal. It communicates a strong message that you matter and everything you do matters. And giving people opportunity to contribute can be really empowering. That's the beauty of a volunteer-led organization. That’s why I was glad when Alice [Sherard] took the mic and talked about getting the Gathering committee together.


Lisa: So WO is about empowering women by participatory action. What are some ways you envision of fostering that even further?

Jo-Ann: Maybe by creating a volunteer bank, to remind people that we’re a volunteer organization. There’s something for everybody to do. We as a Board need to get better at asking people for that help. If everybody gave a little of their skill set, we’d be a kick-ass organization.

Jane: We’re already a kick-ass organization. Maybe before the next Board meeting, if we could come up with a letter to membership, identify people who we recognize as being somebody who could step forward, and to recognize that Hey, you’ve been here, and we recognize you, and here are some roles, so please get back to us. With Gathering help, for example.


Lisa: I’m getting the message that WO needs help!

Jo-Ann: People help if they’ve been asked. When given specific tasks, people know their job, their role, and how to do it. People won’t help without being asked, but we need help.

Jane: Once I was camping in a small clearing on a Girl Scout Camp canoe trip. I was by the water unloading, and the counselor asked me to stay behind and help better beach the canoes. Two days later, I was walking by the spot and passed the canoes. It was fair, but the water line had come up 7 feet. I went to the counselor and said, “I noticed water has come up. It’s under the second canoe.”

We lashed the canoes together and then to a little tree above the bank. The counselor said "Thanks for catching that ... we might have lost our canoes!" My 12-year-old self felt very proud and effective. Later that night, I experienced the worst rain and thunderstorm I had ever seen and understood why the water level had changed so dramatically.

The counselor had asked me for help pulling up the canoes, and it heightened my awareness, so when we were about to lose the canoes, I had felt empowered. It made me pay attention to stewardship of the canoes. So I noticed when they were in danger of floating away on a bright and sunny day and spoke up. I felt included.


Lisa: Stewardship: That’s a good word for what gets done on the Board...

Jo-Ann: I feel a stewardship for this organization. I was passionate when I was on the Board before, and I wanted to continue the good work. Debbi’s been my role model, and she gave many years of her passion. That story really resonates: I really wanted to continue stewardship for women.

Jane: There’s so much value to what we provide for women. We keep getting better and better at it. Every year you hear, “This is the best Gathering ever ...”

Jo-Ann: My niece wrote an article for the Gathering. Last night at the coffee house, a poem came to her, so she wrote it, and Franny [Osman’s] girls are going to be Masters of Ceremony at next year’s coffee house. What does that say about this organization? We’re attracting the next generation of stewards. They may have been shocked to be asked to do the coffee house, but they’ll kick it out of the park.



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