By Lance Henderson
There were several qualified finalists for the Professional Woman of the Year award, but in the end, there can only be one.
Last month, Debbie Gann, owner of Home Attendant Care Inc., was named the 2009 winner of the Professional Woman of the Year award by Whatcom Women in Business.
Other finalists were: Stephanie Artino from Metcalf Hodges, Audrey Borders from Borders & Sons Quality Roofing, Jennifer Dorr from Washington Campus Compact, Lori Reece from Re/Max of Whatcom County, and Sarah Rothenbuhler from Birch Equipment Company.
Anny Havland, president of the Whatcom Women in Business, said finalists were chosen for being outstanding business leaders, mentors, and contributors to the local community.
“We were so excited and proud of all the finalists. They were all amazing, powerful and encouraging women and it was a really hard decision,” Havland said. “We want to congratulate Debbie. We are so thrilled for her.”
Gann volunteers a lot of her time for local organizations, but most notably she is vice chairwoman of the Alzheimer Society of Washington, past president of the board at Elder Service Providers, and was a founding member of Excellence NW. She also gives regular educational briefings on senior services available in Whatcom County.
Gann said receiving the award has given her a lot of perspective regarding her work.
“I truly believe that this award is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. I am very appreciative to my staff who nominated me. I have the honor every day of surrounding myself with great people,” Gann said.
The Bellingham Business Journal recently had a chance to catch up with Debbie Gann to talk about community involvement, mentorship and staying ahead of the game.
The Bellingham Business Journal: How did you feel when you found out you were nominated for the award?
Debbie Gann: I was very surprised. I had no knowledge of the fact that I had been nominated until I was called and told that I was a finalist. I was also very honored because it was my staff here at Home Attendant Care that nominated me for the award.
BBJ: What did you think when you heard that you won?
DG: I was in total disbelief and shock. I was stunned. I just sat there and couldn’t move. A friend of mine actually had to come pull me out of my chair because I was supposed to go up on stage.
BBJ: Community involvement is a big part of this award, why is it important for a businessperson to get involved in the community?
DG: I think that community involvement is a very natural part of what I do. I work with seniors and I think it is absolutely invaluable to do as much as possible to educate them on all the different services that are available for them in the community and to support them in having choices. I also have a real belief in helping women and children in the community. It does take a village to raise a family and support each other.
BBJ: How do you remain a leader in your field?
DG: I have to stay as educated as possible. I worked on the governor’s task force to review caregiver training. I need to keep abreast of everything that is going on. I meet with people at the hospital to find out what changes in policy are happening. The more information I can get, the more valuable I can be to others when they ask questions.
BBJ: What role has mentoring played in your career?
DG: Actually I would say one of the biggest gifts this process gave me is the ability to look at my work and see it in the form of mentorship. I work really hard to make those around me thrive and I do it very naturally just as who I am, so this was the first opportunity I have had to look at some of those things I’ve done and some of the impact I have had on people and look at that in that way. It is just a very natural part of who I am.
BBJ: Has it changed how you will proceed with your work now that you see that?
DG: Maybe in how I appreciate it. I truly am a caregiver. It’s more of a personality type than a profession.
BBJ: Is there any advice you would give aspiring Professional Women of the Year?
DG: My daughter once wrote: “In the mind’s eye you cannot achieve greatness, but in your heart’s eye, you can.” Always look at others through your heart’s eye and see in what unique way you can help them. Whether it’s a potential client or a friend in need, if we focus with our hearts and listen with our hearts, we have a greater ability to help.
BBJ: Has this award changed how you look at any other aspect of your work?
DG: I don’t know that I took the opportunity to see myself as a leader. I do what I do. I am a caregiver. I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name. I just do this from the heart everyday.