Women Making A Difference

The Twin Forks Professional Women’s Circle networking meeting. Independent/Justin Meinken

“It all started over breakfast at Main Road Biscuit Company in Jamesport,” said Jani Rothberg, treasurer of the Twin Forks Professional Women’s Circle. No stranger to the hardships and challenges women face breaking into historically male-dominated professional environments, Rothberg, a certified public accountant at Markowitz, Fenelon & Bank, LLP has always sought networking opportunities to aid in her profession.

Rothberg had the opportunity to meet with Ana Stuckart, vice president and senior branch manager at M&T Bank, to develop a working relationship in the event the two had an opportunity to refer clients to each other. But these two women who broke through their fields also had a desire to share their knowledge, mentor younger women, and fill needs that they recognized in their own communities.

As the idea to start a women’s networking group took shape, Kelli Lanino of KL Wealth Strategies, LLC joined the newly-formed circle as its vice president. The three women scheduled meetings striving for “a warm and welcoming, inclusive environment.” According to the board, the meetings started to draw seasoned professionals with varying backgrounds and careers. Their willingness to share their experience and knowledge of embracing hardships and juggling a family life and personal relationships made them relatable to others in the process of developing their careers while facing the same struggles.

During their early meetings, Stuckart, the group’s president, said, “We realized that we had a collective knowledge base and could, through our collaboration and education, give back to our communities and empower those less fortunate.”

“It was evident that the circle was evolving,” Rothberg said. “Although our supportive networking role is our base, we started to talk about mentoring younger women, coaching those considering career changes, and empowering women of all ages who may be underprivileged and don’t have the confidence to see themselves in a role that ensures their future — especially women who have been beaten down both emotionally and physically.”

To do this, she thought, the circle needed to become a not-for-profit.

The Twin Forks Professional Women’s Circle networking meeting. Independent/Justin Meinken

This move gave the group the ability to fundraise and support like-minded charities who share the goals of the Twin Forks Professional Women’s Circle’s mission “to provide mentoring to young ladies in high school and assist them in determining their career paths as well as provide scholarships for young women to attend post-secondary educational institutions after graduation from high school,” Rothberg said. “We plan to do this by working with organizations like i-tri, The Retreat, and in the near future, the Butterfly Effect Project and other nonprofit organizations which offer mentoring and job-training opportunities to young adults. We hope to provide charitable contributions to these already-established organizations as we identify needs and of course as our fundraising allows.”

Although the circle’s board is comprised of women, with Michele Biggart-Morris from the Burner Law Group, P.C. recently taking on the position of secretary, Stuckart emphasized all are welcome.

“We are looking to create a diverse and inclusive environment to those who may be looking for enhanced networking opportunities and for those who wish to be part of giving back to the communities we live in and be part of having a positive impact on the lives of those within these communities,” she said.

The group’s diversity already runs the gamut with professionals in accounting, banking, insurance, real estate, child care, and elder care. There’s even self-made local business owners and an artist.

The Twin Forks Professional Women’s Circle received its certificate of incorporation and not-for-profit status November 5 and has two upcoming fundraisers — a holiday party at Villa Paul restaurant in Hampton Bays on December 11, and a second on January 9 at The All Star bowling alley in Riverhead, with all proceeds to be donated to i-tri. Contact the circle by emailing [email protected] for more information and to reserve a spot at these events.

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