‘The real deal!’
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Owatonna Business Women, and Jane Elsner was given the distinction of being named the Woman of Achievement during its 47th annual ceremony.
Elsner was all smiles as she humbly received her award at the end of the night’s celebration March 8 at Torrey’s Restaurant in Owatonna. “I feel blessed,” she told the crowd. She’s not only blessed because of the award, but also for the work she does for the community.
“There were so many women who believed in me, coached me, and some are here this evening,” Elsner said. “I want to thank you very much.”
Those who nominated Elsner describe her as “the real deal!” Adding that she is “one of the most kind, caring, giving and Godly women. Jane genuinely cares about others, giving her time and talents to help others feel loved and cared about.”
Last year’s winner Janet Simon had the honor of announcing Elsner, and said in her keynote speech earlier in the evening, “There’s a lot of wisdom in this room and a lot to learn from this group which has been around for 100 years.”
“When we look out for others,” Simon continued during her keynote address. “We look out for ourselves. Keep up the good work and remember that you are all winners.”
Owatonna Business Women’s President Ryan Gillespie opened the evening by expressing her honor of being a part of the organization. “I am so proud to be a member of this organization. Tonight, we celebrate women who made this community so great. That is why we are here.”
“This celebration showcases the incredible contributions of local women, but it also helps us raise money for scholarships,” Gillespie told the crowd. This year’s proceeds will go to next year’s scholarship recipients, four of which are traditionally chosen.
Gillespie also paid tribute to the history of the organization as it celebrated its 100th anniversary. “So much has happened in our first 100 years,” she said. “We have evolved from a politically charged group of women to a non-partisan group focused on the development of women in all areas of their lives.”
Many of the past nominees and winners were there to celebrate the special milestone. “We must honor the women that walked before us, and we must praise the women who walk beside us, and we must give inspiration and support for the women who follow our lead,” Gillespie said to those in attendance .
Elsner was chosen from a group of admirable nominees including Diane Holland, a realtor for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Advantage Real Estate, Joleen Sherrets, the house manager for Hospitality House in Owatonna, Julie Sullivan, the principal of Owatonna Middle School, and Jannell Tufte, a mortgage loan officer at Profinium.
Elsner serves as the director of Walk with Me and ReaLife through YoungLife of Owatonna. A role in which she plans, leads, and coordinates all aspects of the ReaLife Club. This includes recruiting and training volunteer leaders.
A Licensed Social Worker and a member of the Minnesota School Social Workers Association, Elsner has previously been nominated for School Social Worker of the Year, and has worked with the Lily Sparrow House, the Crisis Resource Center, and was a board member for Big Brother Big Sisters.
She formerly held the social worker position at the Owatonna Area Hospice, through which she developed a partnership with the school district to provide grief support services to children in grades K-12.
Ann Barker received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Since 1990, Barker has been the president and sole shareholder of Barker Law Office in Owatonna. Upon receiving the honor, she spoke to the audience about her educational journey. “I encourage women in the room of whatever age to continue their education, because I went to Law School relatively late in life,” she said.
Barker was named SuperLawyer by Minnesota Law and Politics magazine two years in a row and has served as a member of the Minnesota Public Defenders Association and the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers amongst many other organizations.
The evening’s Young Careerists were Laura Isenor, assistant Steele County attorney and Callan Paffrath, the fourth generation owner and first female owner of Paffrath Jewelers of Owatonna.
This year’s scholarship recipients were given to four women. Carrie Heiderscheidt and Amanda Johnson received the Aspiring Woman Scholarships for continued education. Molly Hawkins and Cassandra Trout received Graduating Seniors Scholarships.
In all, the evening was a momentous one, filled with memories of past events and the inspiring history of an organization that was founded in 1919 by a group of local women as a chapter of the national organization of Business & Professional Woman.
They continue to serve as a landmark organization within the community, and help to elevate the standards of women within the workplace, promote the interest of professional and business women, bring about a spirit of cooperation among women, and extend opportunities for women while recognizing the accomplishments of those within the community.
“We have made great progress in our first 100 years,” Gillespie said to the full crowd of fellow women in attendance. “What exactly can we do, and what must we overcome, to keep moving courageously into our next 100 years.”