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
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
Lisa: Jane, could you tell us a bit about your history with
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
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
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
Lisa: Stewardship: That’s a good word for what gets done on
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.