This is a column all about local women.
In large part, that’s because we at the Business Journal hosted our annual Women’s Council awards on April 28, and more than a week later I still can’t stop thinking about it. The women, their stories and their work are so deeply inspirational, particularly in the face of the pandemic.
Take, for example, Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, the longtime chief executive of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. She’s certainly accomplished; last year she received a diamond level designation as Accredited Chamber Executive – one of only three people to have that distinction. But she got our CEO of the Year award on the strength of her actions to help businesses over the last year.
She founded a nationwide organization, the Save Small Business coalition, with the goal of finding money for businesses struggling because of the lockdowns. That coalition now has more than 200 chambers and business organizations as members. Among their victories in the last stimulus package: They were helpful in pushing workforce development programs, an extended and enhanced Paycheck Protection Program and additional state and local funding for businesses. She helped launch two other organizations to help businesses recover.
Another honoree was Adrienne Kentor who won our Volunteer of the Year award. For 13 years she has helped disadvantaged youths at the Boys and Girls Club of the West Valley get into college. She works every weekday afternoon with young people, many of them from households where English may not be the first language, employing her skills in SAT preparation and essay writing as well as in seeking financial aid and scholarships. Kentor helped the club’s students win more than $165,000 in scholarships in the 2019-2020 school year alone.
Her nominator, Martin Cooper, wrote: “Adrienne loves helping students learn how to tell their amazing stories, stories which have helped them not only complete successful college applications, but, more importantly, have also helped them gain confidence and appreciate how interesting and unique they are.”
Yet another inspirational woman was our Not-for-Profit Leader of the Year, Yvonne Mariajimenez. She is the president and chief executive of the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and works in the Glendale office. During the pandemic, her nonprofit provided legal services to more than 100,000 economically disadvantaged people.
Her work is informed by her background. She was raised in East Los Angeles by a single mother who worked restaurant and domestic jobs. When her mother was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, Yvonne – at 11 years old – had to become an advocate for her mother, a monolingual Spanish speaker, and help her navigate the network of social service systems.
We gave out four other awards – also to inspirational women. Our Business Owner of the Year award went to Karen Gabler of the LightGabler employment law firm in Camarillo partly because she wrote or co-authored 25 legal updates on COVID-19 last year, keeping businesses informed about all the changing laws and regulations. Ashley Itliong, the marketing director of the Westfield Topanga and Village malls, got our Rising Star award largely because she did such a great job supporting the retailers struggling through the pandemic and raised money for charities along the way. Our Executive of the Year honoree was the co-founder, managing partner and chief operating officer of Mosaic Real Estate Investors of Calabasas, Vicky Schiff, a serial entrepreneur who also has built a workplace environment of meritocracy.
And the Lifetime Achievement award went to Gloria Pollack, who literally has spent her lifetime helping others and generally making things happen. Her nominator, Kathleen Sterling, put it very well when she wrote: “Not much gets done in the valley without Gloria having a hand in it.”
I don’t know why, but women who excel don’t always seem to get the notice they deserve. Our Women’s Council is a great way to let us focus on the achievement of women in our area. Please take a look at our Women’s Council section that begins on page 25 of this issue. And if you know any of the seven honorees or the more than 45 nominees – who are amazing in their own right – consider sending them a note of congratulations and thanks for what they do for us.
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Alas, on April 28 we lost an important local woman, Jane Boeckmann.
She was a kind of confidante and counselor to her driven husband, Bert Boeckmann, as he rose from salesman to owner of Galpin Ford. They then turbocharged Galpin into the biggest Ford dealership in the world for 29 straight years. Jane played key roles in the company as it grew, helping Galpin develop a veritable shopping arcade of auto dealerships.
Jane Boeckmann also was a force outside of Galpin. She was founder and publisher of Valley magazine for 25 years and served on many boards and commissions. In 1986 she became the first woman to win the Fernando award and 31 years later was given a Star of the Valley award from the Valley Economic Alliance.
Jane was 90, and she came from a generation in which men generally were the actors and women were the supporters. Yet I never thought of Bert and Jane quite that way. They were truly a couple. Not only did they seem to love being together – and they were together, much of the time – they relied on each other and sought counsel from each other. Two people who made one decision.
The company said as much in its statement: “The heart and soul of Galpin has been a combination of Bert and Jane, and Galpin’s success has been her success.”