Gina Ponce has seen too many women of achievement go unrecognized in their lifetime, so her nonprofit Women on a Mission for Change is presenting its first Legacy Gala. The October 18 event will honor 10 women, plus ex-Omaha mayor Jim Suttle, “for their incredible community contributions.”
Seven of the women are of Spanish-speaking heritage like Ponce, who’s pleased to showcase Latinas of distinction among these difference-makers.
Ponce said candidates must be over 50 and have collaborated with Women on a Mission as a speaker, mentor or sponsor.
Women on a Mission provides resources and opportunities for women and girls to achieve their potential. It holds an annual spring empowerment conference featuring local inspirational speakers and operates the Women Influencing Girls (WIG) mentoring, networking, life skills program for youth ages 14 to 18. The gala is a fundraiser for WIG.
Mentoring is a common theme among the women being recognized at the gala.
“The focus is on what these honorees have done for other people that have made them a legacy,” Ponce said. “I admire them for all they have done for the communities they’ve served and for their commitment and dedication to serve all in an unconditional way. I have worked with the majority of them in many different capacities and have learned so much from them about different areas regarding serving in the city of Omaha.”
She said these women and others “really helped me to grow to become the community leader I am.” She hopes their examples of achievement and perseverance encourage others.
The inaugural women honorees:
An organizational consultant with deep education, government and business experience, she is the Nebraska President for the American Association of University Women. She chairs an initiative to create awareness of STEM educational and career opportunities for middle school girls and their parents.
The Alzeheimer’s Association Midlands Chapter president and CEO previously held executive positions with Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army Kroc Center, ConAgra Foods, Omaha Housing Authority and OPPD. She’s founder-president of the consulting firm Life Development International as well as a mentor, adjunct professor, associate minister and author.
Two decades worth of experience and expertise doing executive leadership work with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska has transferred to her consulting firm, the LaGreca Group. Her many years giving back to the community find her serving as a mentor, committee chairperson and board member.
Following a three-decade career with United Parcel Service, she became an entrepreneur when she and her husband founded Complete Tax and Business Solutions Inc. The business has been awarded the prestigious Hispanic Services Seal of Excellence. She serves on several boards, including Latina Unidas. She volunteers her tax and business acumen to the Catholic Charities Micro Business Program. Ponce said Mejias has been a primary funder for the Women Influencing Girls scholarship fund. “Last year we named the scholarship after her family. She has a full commitment to those girls. No matter what they need, no matter what happens, she’s always there for them.”
People skills define her human resources career from the corporate world at First National Bank to the nonprofit arena with the Salvation Army Kroc Center. She specializes in developing talent, high performance teams and on-boarding programs. Her community service work has included a stint with the Latino Center of the Midlands. She is current president of the South Omaha Business Association.
This human and organizational development expert offers consulting and coaching services through her own Journey Consulting. She previously worked in the nonprofit field for Girl Scouts, Girls Inc. and the National Conference for Community and Justice (Inclusive Communities). She volunteers with the Women’s Fund of Greater Omaha, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and other organizations. She is also Nebraska Democratic Party Chair of the Latino Caucus.
The New Jersey resident is, like her sister Gina Ponce, a Bellevue University graduate. The legal marketing expert is “passionate about working with women and watching them set and achieve their goals.”
Her life’s work has been in community relations, management and volunteerism through NAF Multicultural Human Development Corp. in North Platte, ConAgra Foods in Omaha and currently the South Omaha Surgical Center.
This retired bilingual master degree social worker has been a Latino community liaison, team builder, networker, ambassador, advocate, fundraiser and bridge-builder between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the community.
Carolyn Temple Williamson
Separate careers with the Omaha Housing Authority and now Girls Inc. have given her the opportunity to do her “heart’s work” on behalf of children and families.
Ponce said the honorees exemplify some truths she lives by: “A community leader doesn’t only have to do with education and how far up the ladder you climb but what you do for people that have less than. The things leaders learn along the way are not for them to keep, but to share with other people.”
She wants the gala to have the same take-away the conference does: “I hope people come away motivated to become whatever it is they want to become.”
The 6 to 11 p.m. gala at the DC Centre, 11830 Stonegate Drive, includes a social hour, dinner and dancing. For details and tickets, visit www.womenonamissionomaha.org.
Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.[:]