A Message From The President

March 2022

“Can you imagine what this year would have been like for Athena without the visioning brief?”
Board member and Program Chair Kari Goetz

Jessica Muroff showed up at 5:30 AM to lead us after landing overnight in California for a mother-daughter weekend.  Kem Toole logged on despite having spent the week bedridden with a particularly pernicious cold.  Together, Athena’s board members and committee chairs convened to answer one question: How’re we doing?

This was the brainchild of Andrea Floyd.  Back in July, the same leaders spent half a Saturday together at Athena’s Visioning Summit, designing a vision statement, values, mandatory action steps, and calls to action for members – all to make meaningful progress this year for Athena.  Our mission became, as you know, to “promote mental health and emotional wellness for ourselves and our community.”  It was Andrea’s idea to reunite halfway through the year to hold ourselves accountable, investigate if and how we moved the needle, communicate challenges, and continue to advance.

You can see Jessica’s work as facilitator here.  What follows are highlights from board members and committee chairs.

What Worked Well

  • Vulnerability came through:  Whether that was in sharing or having grace for our fellow members, increasing vulnerability led to deeper connections and more authentic discussions.

  • The focus on mental health sparked a quest for making things easier and our membership feeling more connected.

  • Our stated mission to lead with empathy helped us listen and learn from members, increasing communication and feedback loops.

  • The Community Action Committee formed a Mental Health subcommittee to focus efforts.

  • Events and programs focused on mental health with a comprehensive and broad approach.

  • The vision increased sensitivity within committees: “We were also mindful that as a collective we are weary of the costs of the lingering pandemic, and we strived for grace and kindness when we took action that was going to add burden to our existing bandwidths to take on new tasks and projects.”

  • The Vision Brief dovetailed well with Athena’s Five-Year Strategic Plan, mirroring its emphasis on creating a safe environment and fulfilling its directive to state a focus for the year.

  • The Vision Brief was a helpful guide in planning.

  • We pledged to be intentional with language and words, and the brief helped to identify where we could adjust.

For Further Discussion 

  • We must communicate to our members the importance of having a focus for each year.  It keeps us in alignment and all on the same page.

  • It is critical to acknowledge the increased – and increasing — stress and tension we are all experiencing.

Tangible Wins

  • Communications Committee Co-Chairs Amy Haile and Andrea Floyd took the initiative to canvass Athena’s directory for members who would bring value, then extended personal invitations to join the committee, creating an unusually robust team and improvements, including to Athena’s website and Facebook page.

  • We heard private stories from members who confided they were struggling and so grateful for an emphasis on what mattered most this year.

  • Bonus committee Co-Chairs Leslie Stein and Louisa Van Eepoel made phone calls and individual invitations to events to help people feel included.  Members later shared that they appreciated receiving that contact, because they had not planned to attend and were glad they did.

Ultimately, Kari Goetz summed it up: “This visioning brief helped Athena remain cohesive through chaos and challenges.  I did not get lucky this year and get to sit next to Mimi Stamps, for example, at a membership lunch.  We forget that’s how it used to be, and we’ve lost that.  Sure, we benefited from efficiency, but we lost the ability to talk to each other, linger, and just hang out.  This gave us a common thread to communicate when we don’t have the same opportunities to communicate.  When we can’t collaborate naturally the way Athena has in the past, this was our collaborative piece.”