A Message From The President

September 2021

I am grateful to Barbara Bachman for many things over many years, most recently her idea to create a medical and legal task force to guide Athena on critical COVID-related issues.  She and Moira Burke even took time from their vacations to help discuss smart choices.

Perhaps like many of you, I was surprised by my reaction to postponing the retreat.  Of course, I fully support the recommendation and count such wise counsel and expertise among Athena’s greatest strengths.   My brain understood the decision as the logical sequitur to current events.  I simply did not expect what followed.

As I asked the task force for a consensus vote, I found myself stumbling over the words.  After that call, I felt everything that has become part of our pandemic: shock, deflation, loss, even a sense of grief, and above all, empathy for Marian McCulloch and those of you who have now planned three full retreats without being able to enjoy the fruit of your labor.

At the same time, Susan Steen offered the task force a different perspective:  While the annual retreat is critical to build and strengthen emotional bonds, how lucky are we if our loss is a special weekend together, rather than an outcome more grave?  As healthcare attorney Erin Aebel noted, for all the ways this pandemic divides and pushes us apart, it also connects us all.  We must take care of each other, including not putting loved ones who share our homes at further risk.

Even as our retreat was postponed a third time, even as the umpteenth membership meeting was relegated to virtual, you invested incredible energy and leadership in pursuing Athena’s goals.  Both the Programs Committee (Kari Goetz) and the Bonus Committee (Leslie Stein and Louisa Van Eepoel) have scheduled exciting events through the end of 2021.  The Community Action Committee (Mimi Stamps) functions as a mini-Athena Society with a whopping seven industrious subcommittees: Mental Health (Bonnie Saks and Anne Strozier), Athena Reads (Rose Brempong), Athena Shares (Bonnie Carr & Susan Leisner), Racial Equity & Justice (Genet Stewart and Isabel Dewey), Homelessness (Kem Toole), ERA (Linda Saul-Sena and Lorna Taylor), and Voter Justice (Linda Saul-Sena and Marsha Rydberg).  The Mentoring Committee (Patti Breckenridge and Rose Brempong) hosted a lively introduction with valuable offerings to new members.  The Communications and Public Relations Committee (Amy Haile and Andrea Floyd) is rolling out a new program, Athena Chats, producing videotaped conversations between members for a fresh take on keeping us all in the loop (thank Nancy Vaughn for this idea!)  The Bylaws Committee (Denise Jordan) has identified no fewer than four potential improvements and welcomes additional suggestions from committees.  Marsha Rydberg is finalizing the dates and costs for Athena’s March trip to Montgomery, Alabama to visit museums and memorials to the racial justice movement crusaders.

Speaking of big ideas, President-Elect Denise Jordan proposed a Financial Transparency initiative, which the board approved unanimously, to educate and empower you with easy insight into the money side of Athena.  If a sheet full of numbers makes your head spin, it can be difficult to fully grasp Athena’s financial position.  Denise will lead the development of relevant, relatable graphics to show – at a glance – where your money goes and how it can be used most powerfully.  We will also be posting each month’s financial reports on the members only section of the website for ready access.  Please share what you would like to see and questions you have regarding Athena’s finances.

A final note on the topic of money: Johanne Castagan was able to recover our $2,500 retreat deposit to the Sand Pearl Resort, which the contract clearly stated was non-refundable.  I believe we owe this positive outcome to the trust and rapport Johanne fostered with the resort since work began on this retreat last spring.