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Milestones

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S CONFERENCE Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo

29 YEARS OF INSPIRING WOMEN

#NoLimits SE P TEMBE R 20, 2016

LUNCHEON KEYNOTE

Lisa Ling

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S CONFERENCE Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo

LUNCHEON KEYNOTE

Leeza Gibbons

28 YEARS OF INSPIRING WOMEN

SEP TEMB ER 22, 2015 Presenting Sponsor

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA WOMEN’S CONFERENCE Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo

26 YEARS OF EMPOWERING WOMEN

l i v e

YO U R C C W C 2 013 Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center

September 17, 2013

CCWC

HELEN HUNT LUNCHEON KEYNOTE SPEAKER

1988-2017 30 YEARS OF EMPOWERING VALLEY WOMEN & CHILDREN

Central California Women’s Conference

September 18, 2012

Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center

CCWC 12

CELEBRATE

YOU

25 YEARS OF

EMPOWERING WOMEN

Ken Maddy 1934-2000 CCWC Founder

A place for women Central California Women’s Conference celebrates 30 years of educating and empowering women BY: Dani Villalobos | PHOTOGRAPHY: Central California Women’s Conference, Bee archive

o-Ann Taul Slinkard is tough to refuse. At 87 years old, the former chief of staff for the late state senator, Ken Maddy, recalls her career working for the Fresno State alum with unabashed pride. Times were different. Politics, at least from Maddy’s perspective, were best tackled as a bipartisan effort. And the impact of the feminist movement’s latest wave in the 1970s was definitely reverberating throughout the country.

J 20 SEPTEMBER 2017 | Central Valley Magazine

“Women were beginning to have an agenda of their own,” Taul Slinkard says. “Women were much more educated and aware of our roles in this culture.” So when Senator William Campbell’s chief of staff, Jerry Haleva, floated the idea of forming a women’s conference similar to the one Campbell started in Hacienda Heights to Maddy and his staff, she was one of the first to immediately jump on board. Well, more like the only one. Maddy had recently been elected as the minority leader of the senate, and the conference

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signaled more work for his already busy staff. But Taul Slinkard kept pressing — this was too great of an opportunity to let pass them by. “I did as much research as I could do — I wasn’t computer literate at that time — and found out basically how it was running and what they did,” she explains. “After a week or two of talking about it, he finally said ‘OK ... let’s see what happens.’ ” Now, on the eve of the Central California Women’s Conference’s 30th year, the details, cobbled together through anecdotes and a jumble of dates, are slightly hazy for the core group of ladies behind its creation. But one thing remains a constant: its mission to educate, motivate and empower women is still as relevant today as it was then. The annual event has grown tremendously, kicking off with an impressive 800-plus attendees in 1988 to drawing a crowd of more than 3,500 to the Fresno Convention and Entertainment Center for the past several years. And as a nonprofit, non-political organization, CCWC has donated more than $900,000 to local groups that benefit women and children within the past three decades. In sum: CCWC is a big deal — one that required inaugural conference coordinators, Janis DeBenedetto and Susan Forrester, to grasp on a steep learning curve. The two staff members traveled down to attend both the Hacienda Heights and San Diego women’s events in an effort to better understand what exactly they were getting into, and met with coordinator, Karen Lynette Smith. “We were blown away,” DeBenedetto says. “The facilities for the conferences were beautiful, and it was pretty overwhelming. We thought, ‘OK, this would be a great idea to bring to Fresno.’ ” Inspired, they rolled up their sleeves and got working. Smith acted as a guide for the first two years, helping DeBenedetto, Forrester, staff and volunteers plan the Central California Women’s Conference debut at downtown Fresno’s Holiday Inn. They pulled from her established bureau of available speakers, followed Smith’s sample letters to send to corporate sponsors and relied on Maddy’s capable duo at California’s Hilmar office to coordinate exhibitors for its marketplace trade show through cities’ chambers of commerce. Support from businesses like Gottschalks and airline companies worked to create marketing logos and banners for the conference, and even offered to fly in speakers at no additional cost to the burgeoning nonprofit. “We had a lot of support in the community, so it was great,” DeBene-

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detto says. Then, it was simply a waiting game. “It’s a lot of work, time and effort, and we’re all thinking, ‘Are people going to come?’ And they did,” says Mary Stabelfeld, CCWC’s current director and part of the former Hilmar office team. “We had a lot of breakout sessions and exhibitors — we filled it up.” The day’s successful format has largely stuck, with a few modifications made over the years to make the conference a leaner, more evolved product, explains both DeBenedetto and Stabelfeld. That short-lived fashion show? Not so

trendy, after all. Twelve speakers per breakout session was streamlined to a dynamic six or seven. And the afternoon cool-down speaker became a slot reserved for comedians, helping to make it a breezy, unwind-type of experience for attendees and a proven method of keeping more

DAAttendees of Central California Women’s Conference make their way from workshops to lunch and to hear keynote speaker TV journalist Lisa Ling during last year’s conference.

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