Emily O’Connor named 2015 Professional Woman of the Year

The Whatcom Women in Business named Lydia Place executive director Emily O’Connor its 2015 Professional Woman of the Year at an annual awards banquet in October.

O’Connor started as executive director of the nonprofit Lydia Place in March 2012. The organization works to provide housing, support services, advocacy and education for low-income and homeless people. They provide transitional housing for homeless women with children as well as permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families.

The Whatcom Women in Business noted O’Connor’s success at fundraising and balancing the organization’s budget.

When O’Connor took over in 2012 Lydia Place had a budget deficit. Ten months later, the organization ended the fiscal year with 20 percent of its annual budget in reserves. Also, the organization’s annual budget has increased from $450,000 when O’Connor started to $1 million this year, O’Connor said.

She attributes that to increasing revenue from all channels, ranging from public contracts and grants to private donations.

“In every sphere we’ve increased revenue and really it’s only possible because of this incredible community,” O’Connor said.

Her other achievements include doubling revenue from the annual Hearts for Housing gala and auction in her first year and starting Handbags for Housing, a key fundraising event for the organization that raised $42,000 this year, O’Connor said.

O’Connor was previously executive director for Skagit Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services.

Whatcom Women in Business, which was established in 1978, serves as a networking and mentorship group for local business women. The organization also funds scholarships for young women about to graduate high school and planning to further their education through a university, community or technical college or trade school.

The other finalists for this year’s Professional Woman of the Year award were Kim Feerer, founder and director of Cedar Tree Montessori School; Pam Reed, owner of Alicia’s Bridal and The Formal House; Carol Frazey, president of Fit School, Inc.; Siobhan Murphy, certified public accountant at Thrive Business Group; Becky Raney, COO of Print & Copy Factory and Pinky Vargas, Bellingham City Council member and energy efficiency outreach manager at Puget Sound Energy.

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