Honorees for one of the San Fernando Valley’s most prestigious leadership awards recognizing influential women has been announced by the United Chambers of Commerce (UCC).
UCC Executive Director Marian Jocz said five women from diverse backgrounds have been chosen. The 2023 honorees are Armida Colmenares Stafford – First Vice President, Pacific Premier Bank, Jodi Shilling – Founder, Relevé Studios, Laine Caspi – President, LAPD Devonshire PALS., Ruth Garcia-Corrales, Founder, NEW Women’s Business Center and Vickie Bourdas Martinez – CEO, Greater Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce.
“The UCC is excited to recognize women who have overcome unique challenges and found ways to serve their communities. We are honoring these women not only for their successes but for how they have inspired others, served as mentors and, through their contributions, made the San Fernando Valley a better place,” explained Jocz.
The UCC’s Inspirational Women Awards program annually recognizes women of outstanding achievement who have inspired others with their individual stories and accomplishments. Established by the UCC in 2015, it has become a distinguished and highly anticipated Valley tradition.
Vickie Bourdas Martinez’ resume is an impressive catalog of community service to the San Fernando Valley: past president for LAPD Devonshire PALS (Police Activity League Supporters) and current board member; membership advisor for CSUN’s chapter of the national Alpha Xi Delta sorority which is dedicated to fostering women’s growth and leadership; charter member and past president of the San Fernando Valley Jaycees; board chair and member of the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce and current chief executive officer for the Greater Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce.
Recently she successfully helmed the Sherman Oaks Street Fair’s 30th anniversary which delivered family entertainment, food and activities for more than 100,000 attendees. She accomplished this in the face of the Street Fair’s two-year COVID hiatus.
Bourdas Martinez is a dedicated advocate for women, law enforcement and youth. In all of her roles, she encourages businesses, nonprofits and volunteers to partner to create new resources and growth.
Laine Caspi has led by example and inspires others to become involved in their community. During COVID, she trained volunteers for the assembly of 3,500 face shields for local hospitals. She personally donated thousands of N95 and surgical masks to Valley hospitals. To demonstrate gratitude to frontline workers, she delivered weekly lunches to Northridge and West Hills Hospitals.
Some of her accomplishments include her work on behalf of the National Suicide Hotline; organizing the largest single-day blood drive in Los Angeles for four consecutive years; serving on the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) board; volunteering with the Veterans of Foreign Wars; working as a counselor for the Rotary Youth Leadership Camp; and serving on the Community Outreach Committee for Sunshine Canyon Landfill. She has also been a past president for both the Granada Hills Rotary and the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce as well as a current board member of the Granada Hills Community Foundation and current president for LAPD Devonshire PALS.
Whether her dance instruction happens on-site at her Relevé Studios, or in Valley elementary schools or through local charity and community events, Shilling uses the performing arts as a tool to teach children confidence, leadership, expression, empathy, creativity and teamwork. Her programs in Northridge and surrounding communities reach nearly 6,000 kids annually through her dedication to bringing the performing arts to all children.
Shilling is always looking to the future and seeing what’s next for herself, for her business, and her community. When business waned, she created a way to take her studio out to local schools. When a massive storm damaged her studio’s dance floors, she rebuilt her studio at a different location. During the pandemic, she provided a place where kids could do their schoolwork on Zoom and participate in outdoor dance classes. Before it was popular, she emphasized diversity and inclusivity in both her students and her staff. She continues to use her dance studio to create a safe and supportive learning environment.
In the midst of COVID, Ruth Garcia-Corrales partnered with the U.S. Small Business Administration and Go-Biz California Governor’s Office to launch the NEW Women’s Business Center (NWBC) in Canoga Park. Since then, she has provided vital assistance and resources to support local disadvantaged communities.
Under her leadership, the NEW Women’s Business Center became a force for business and job creation in the San Fernando Valley. In 2022 alone, it has supported the creation of over 110 businesses and more than 340 new jobs. Of those newly employed, 5% were women, 61% minority and 5% disabled. Since its founding, the NEW Women’s Business Center has supported almost $9 million in economic growth. Last year, the center provided business assistance including tools, resources, training, counseling and mentoring to over 4,000 contacts in the San Fernando Valley.
Garcia-Corrales has made NWBC a place of foundational support for the Valley’s disenfranchised women, women of color and minority small business communities and been instrumental in helping them to overcome their business challenges.
Well-known for her bold energy and work ethic, Armida Colmenares-Stafford has always set a high bar for community leadership. As first vice president and senior relationship manager for Pacific Premier Bank in the San Fernando Valley, she has been a tireless advocate for small business, women-owned and minority businesses. During the pandemic, she brought her 30 years of commercial banking experience to bear in helping dozens of Valley businesses survive by helping them procure millions of dollars in badly-needed emergency funding.
As the first Latina to chair the United Chambers of Commerce (UCC), Colmenares-Stafford has served an unprecedented four terms as board chair for the UCC, a coalition that includes 18 chambers of commerce in the Valley. She is also co- chair for the Valley Economic Alliance’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and is on the boards of the Proxy Parent Foundation and the Annenberg School of Nursing, a subsidiary of LAJ Health.
She has been an advocate for entrepreneurs, employers and business owners on a local, state and federal level as well as a deeply committed activist for civil rights and social justice.
Organizations and businesses across the San Fernando Valley submitted more than 50 nominations for candidates. The honorees were chosen by a committee composed of previous award winners and community leaders.
This year’s Inspirational Women of the San Fernando Valley Awards luncheon will be held Thursday, May 11, at the Woodland Hills Country Club. For information on sponsorships and event tickets, contact Marian Jocz at email@example.com or (818) 981-4491.
The UCC is a 17-member coalition of the San Fernando Valley’s chambers of commerce and represents 150,000 businesses in the Valley.