By Rick Griffin
The San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce has honored seven women with Women in Leadership Luncheon (WILL) awards.
Honorees included: Beth Morgante, Grossmont Hospital Foundation; Lee Ann Kim, Pacific Arts Movement; Odie Goward, California Bank & Trust; Lori Steele Contorer, Everyone Counts, Inc.; Pam Meisner, The Water Conservation Garden; Sue Schaffner, Hostelling International USA; and, Peggy Buffo, El Cajon Animal Center for Education and Services (ACES) Foundation.
The recipients were honored for their outstanding leadership, exemplary character and integrity in the community, as well as their efforts to empower women to succeed and prosper, according to Leah McIvor, 2014 event chair.
Morgante, honored in the healthcare category, has worked for the past 20 years with the Grossmont Hospital Foundation, a not-for-profit, philanthropic organization that raises funds for Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. Since its inception in 1985, the Foundation has raised more than $50 million for the hospital. This year’s award in the healthcare category was renamed the Michele Tarbet Healthcare Award, in honor of the former CEO of Sharp Grossmont Hospital who passed away in July.
Kim, who spent 12 years working in local TV news and founded the Pacific Arts Movement in 2000, was honored in the arts, culture and media category. Kim’s nonprofit organization produces two annual events that promotes Asian cinema, including the San Diego Asian Film Festival, held in November, and Spring Showcase, held in April.
Goward, honored in the business category, is active in the community as a volunteer with several nonprofit organizations, including Stoney’s Kids, Run EC Foundation, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center and Salvation Army. She has served on the East County Chamber board of directors since 2008, and she was the 2011 El Cajon Citizen of the Year award recipient.
Contorer, honored in the government-defense category, is founder and CEO of Everyone Counts, Inc., a developer of electronic voting software that offer increased speed of processing, higher level of accuracy, quicker posting of elections results, fewer temporary employees and cost reductions per election. The company’s secure Internet-based system has been used by members of the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as well as voters in California, Arizona, Alabama, West Virginia, South Dakota, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Florida, Illinois and American citizens living in 162 countries overseas. Voters in the United Kingdom, Bosnia and Australia also have used the company’s software.
Meisner, honored in the education category, serves as education director at The Water Conservation Garden, located near Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. Since 2008, she has presented educational programs on gardening, nature and conservation dressed as “Ms. Smarty-Plants.” She presented to more than 55,000 students — pre-school through high school — during the 2013-2014 school year.
Schaffner, honored in the hospitality category, joined Hostelling International as executive director in 2002. In 2014, she was promoted to vice president of the Southwest region overseeing hostels and programs in seven states. She is credited with improving HI’s hostels in Point Loma and Downtown San Diego, resulting in revenue to the city of San Diego since 2004 of more than $500,000 in transient occupancy taxes, which is a surcharge paid by tourists visiting San Diego.
Buffo, honored in the nonprofit category, is a founding member and current chair of the ACES Foundation, which raises money that benefits the El Cajon Animal Shelter. Founded in 2005, the nonprofit organizes such fundraisers as Putt for Pets, Cookout for Critters, Jingle Paws Walk and Barkitecture.
It was the Chamber’s 12th annual WILL awards. The Oct. 17 luncheon drew about 350 attendees to the Town and Country Resort Hotel in Mission Valley. Former TV anchor Carol LeBeau served as event emcee. The keynote speaker was Patricia Perez, founder and president of Puente Consulting. As the event’s non-profit beneficiary, the East County Career Center collected donations of portfolios, totes and watches to help outfit women for job interviews.
Sharp Grossmont Hospital was the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors included the Grossmont Healthcare District, East County Herald newspaper, Barona Resort & Casino, Walmart, San Diego Gas & Electric, St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center, Sycuan Casino, Jasmine Creek Florist, Mail Management Group Inc., Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP, Image One Marketing Group, KyXy 96.5-FM, AFLAC, Foothills Christian Church, The Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges, Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, California Bank & Trust, Anderson Plumbing Heating & Air and Dave Steele-East County Solar Guy.