Celebrating Women’s Day

International Women’s Day will be celebrated Sunday, March 8, around the world.

Not to be outdone, some local women are planning their own celebration designed to promote the empowerment of women everywhere with an added emphasis on this region.

“We’re doing it to recognize the contributions and abilities of the women in our area,” said Bonnie Summers, one of several women planning the event. “And it will emphasize the empowerment of women.”

The free event, billed as Pack-the-Plaza, will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday, March 8, in Oil City’s Central Avenue Plaza. Refreshments and live music will follow at nearby Christ Episcopal Church.

Designed as a non-partisan and non-sectarian gathering, the open air rally is being organized by the Oil City-Franklin Zonta Club and the Oil City YWCA. Both organizations use the term “empowering women” in their missions.

“It’s a non-partisan – no politics – gathering of women and their families to celebrate,” said Betsy Kellner, president of the Zonta Club. “We will have dynamic speakers who will lift your spirits and inspire you.”

‘Celebrate with us’

While the emphasis is on International Women’s Day, a commemoration that promotes the theme of “an equal world is an enabled world,” the rally is designed for families.

“We want women, girls, men, boys – all those individuals who make up families – and their friends to come join us and celebrate with us,” said Deb Lutz, one of the event coordinators. “We want people to step up.”

Jennifer Friedhaber, executive director of the Oil City YWCA, said the gathering is “probably a first for this area”, and she encouraged area residents to attend.

“I don’t want to eliminate anyone. Everyone should come because it is simply a celebration of women,” said Friedhaber. “It will be a fun day to do that. Look, it’s a cool gathering – short and outside. Why not come and join us?”

The featured speaker will be Brea Hall Schmidt, a 2001 Oil City High School graduate who owns The Thinking Branch business in Pitttsburgh. She is a writer, speaker and photographer who emphasizes “empowering and connecting women and mothers.”

Four other local women will also offer brief remarks.

Susan Williams, executive director of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, will serve as master of ceremonies.

What’s on tap

The Central Avenue plaza area will be blocked off to traffic during the rally, and parking will be restricted following Sunday services at churches in the area. The city’s public works department is handling those chores plus providing a low-boy to provide a platform for speakers.

Several local social service agencies plus women’s groups will have educational and information materials available at the event.

Following the program, Christ Episcopal Church will provide refreshments in the church parish hall adjacent to the plaza. Live music will be provided by the Front Porch musicians.

“We wanted to join this because our church wants to continue its outreach programs as well as help our community and the church to grow,” said Libby Culbertson, leader of the church’s Altar Guild that is sponsoring the social hour. “There is no reason for all of us to just join in and celebrate women.”

Maureen James, designer of the Pack-the-Plaza posters, encouraged young women in the area to attend the rally.

“Women of all ages, especially younger women, need to be able to recognize their potential. We can all help each other,” James said.

Funding has been provided by the Bridge Builders Community Foundation and Short Street Motors.