The Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce is now taking reservations for the next Women of Distinction luncheon that will be held on May 22. The program will honor and celebrate the life stories of MaryAnn VanDerGeest and Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism Stephanie Klett will be the keynote speaker.
The Women of Distinction program highlights the successes and talents of women in all stages of life. “We strongly believe that every woman has a story to tell,” said Debbe Kinsey, Merrill chamber CEO. “Women have contributed greatly to the successes in Merrill, whether she is a community volunteer or a business owner.”
The chamber hopes that both women and men will find the individual stories that are shared encouraging and uplifting as the honorees share both the highs and lows of their life journeys. “Both MaryAnn and Stephanie have great life stories to share about the trials and triumphs of large families and very successful careers,” added Kinsey.
MaryAnn (Schewe) VanDerGeest is a Merrill native and comes from a family of seven children. She raised a large family herself as the mother of thirteen children. MaryAnn has had a successful career as a realtor with Park City Realty, yet still finds the time to volunteer for a number of local organizations such as Junior Achievement, hospital auxiliary and UNICEF. As the first female Merrill Rotarian she has organized the breakfast each year for Relay for Life and the free hot chocolate stand at the end of the annual Lighted Christmas Parade.
Stephanie also comes from a large family of ten children and she is the only girl. She is a former Miss Beloit and Miss Wisconsin and hosted Discover Wisconsin for twenty-years, still doing special projects and shows for them. She was also the spokes model for Thelma’s of Merrill back in her pageant days. She began her foundation “Spotlight on Wisconsin” 25 years ago and has raised more than $500,000 bringing awareness and resources for teens and others fighting HIV/Aids. Stephanie is currently the Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism and has successfully marketed Wisconsin to tourists around the world, winning numerous awards. But better yet, she has the privilege of overseeing the department that helped make possible the more than $16.8 billion tourism income industry – the highest levels in Wisconsin history.
The Women of Distinction event will be held at Les & Jim’s Banquet Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tickets for the luncheon are $15 per person and can be purchased the Merrill Chamber of Commerce office located at 705 N. Center Ave. or can be purchase on-line on their website www.merrillchamber.org. RSVP’s must be made by May 9.
“We strongly believe that none of us get to where we are in life alone. Each of us stands upon the shoulders of those who came before us. Sharing our stories is an honor and should be an inspiration to others because we are all Women of Distinction,” concluded Kinsey.