El Camino Homeless Organization CEO Wendy Lewis is the 2023 WINC
ATASCADERO — Women from all over the North County (and a few men) showed up to share their support for the incredible women who make our community a better place for everyone.
The inaugural Women of Influence North County (WINC) Luncheon, held by the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, took place on Thursday, Sept. 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Springhill Suites by Marriott in Atascadero. The lunch was filled with a stacked program featuring speeches from women leaders in the community and State Senator John Laird. The WINC event also allowed the community to get to know the 2023 Women of Influence finalists before the winner was chosen later in the program.
“Over the past year, the Chamber was constantly hearing of women forming their own groups and networking, collaborating, trying to drive positive change in the business communities in which they live,” said Julie Matthews, Atascadero Chamber Director of Membership, in her speech. “We speak to all women here today. We heard, we listened, and the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with the AAUW, has organized and initiated this beautiful program here today.
“This program honors the remarkable women in business who are driving positive change and making an impact on the lives of others. This program serves as a platform to celebrate achievements, inspire future leaders, and foster meaningful connections within our community. Today, the WINC will serve as the symbol of empowerment, unity, and achievement. It’s a living testament to the enduring influence of women coming together to shape a brighter, more inclusive future for all.”
Laird and District 30 Assemblywoman Dawn Addis both addressed the crowd after Matthews, with Laird commenting on the changes he’s seen in government over time. When he started his career, the room used to be full of mostly men, but now there’s many times where he’s one of the only men in the room.
“I’m just so proud to be here with the nominees, Jennifer Adams, Wendy Lewis, Jessica Steely, and Lisa Majors, many of whom I have known from my work in the community,” said Addis from the stage.
Other highlights included a touching keynote speech from Cindy Steinbeck from Steinbeck Vineyards, as well as a closing inspiration from Rachel Wyley from Culture Kinesis. The WINC Luncheon also featured a fundraiser for their partnership with AAUW (American Association of University Women) Tech Trek, a week-long summer camp for middle school girls who are interested or curious in STEM fields.
Emcee Stacie Jacobs from Solterra Strategies introduced the four finalists to the crowd after reminding everyone that there had been 62 women nominated in total. People in the community nominated the incredible women for all the amazing things they bring to the table.
The four nominees of the day were:
- Jennifer Adams, who is CEO of Lumina Alliance. The organization supports survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in the community.
- Wendy Lewis, the CEO and executive director of El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO). ECHO creates change in the community by providing services, shelter, and food to our unhoused population in San Luis Obispo County.
- Lisa Majors, the president and founder of Resilient Souls, which is a nonprofit that supports people who have been impacted by trauma and abuse.
- Jessica Steely, the owner of Semmes & Company, Inc. The building company has pioneered sustainable building in SLO County.
All four women then participated in a WINC panel that was led by Jacobs, where they answered questions about how they ended up where they are now.
The award for 2023 Woman of Influence was announced by the very first recipient of the award in 2021, Angela Cisneros.
“The award is so honorable because it doesn’t just speak to the accolades, the things that you’ve done, but it speaks to your motivations, your passions in your heart,” Cisneros said before opening the envelope that would announce the 2023 WINC. “Our 2023 Woman of Influence Award goes to Wendy Lewis.”
Lewis took to the stage to thank the community for their support of ECHO’s efforts to help our unhoused community over the years and for the honor of Woman of Influence 2023.
“It is such an honor. [It’s] not something that I’m in this work for. I’m in this work to help people and help them on their journey back into housing,” Lewis said. “It was just an inspiring day, and I’m just so grateful to the committee, to the chamber, and to the community who supports us and supported this outcome. I’m typically not one for the spotlight, but if it’s Woman of Influence and I can influence people to look at homelessness and people’s stories a little differently, then that’s what I want people to take away from today and going forward.”
Lewis will be honored for her influence in the community once again at the 2024 Atascadero Chamber Annual Awards Dinner and Gala.
Feature Image: (From left) Nominees for Woman of Influence Jennifer Adams, Jessica Steely, Lisa Majors, and Wendy Lewis are seen at the WINC Luncheon. Photo by Dawn Smith.