The Maine Women’s Fund Announces 2015 Leadership Luncheon and Award Recipients

The Maine Women’s Fund Announces 2015 Leadership Luncheon and Award Recipients

PORTLAND, Maine.  April 8, 2015—The Maine Women’s Fund, the only Maine foundation focused exclusively on advancing women’s and girls’ economic security, announces its fifth annual Leadership Luncheon and awards ceremony. The Leadership Luncheon brings together more than 700 prominent professional and community-minded people to network, discuss women’s leadership and invest in economic security for Maine’s women and girls. The event will honor Maine leaders who promote and inspire social change for women and girls. The luncheon will also feature inspiring stories from Maine Women’s Fund grantees.

“We are excited to share the inspiring stories of those receiving awards, as well as those of the organizations which do the work of building economic security for women and girls in Maine. The Luncheon is as engaging as it is inspiring, and funds raised as a result ensure that these organizations can continue their work for as long as it takes to give every Maine girl and woman the opportunity to fulfill her potential and contribute to our communities.” remarked CEO Sarah Ruef-Lindquist.

The Fund is pleased to announce the following 2015 Award honorees:

Originally awarded by the YWCA, the Tribute to Women in Industry Award (TWIN) recognizes a woman who is a leader in her field and has achieved significant accomplishments as a business owner, business executive or nonprofit organizational leader. The 2015 recipient is Maine business leader Melissa Smith. After progressively gaining greater responsibilities and participating in WEX's dramatic growth, Melissa Smith rose to her current position as CEO of the global corporate payments company, which maintains operations in ten countries and more than 2,000 employees (many of whom are based in Maine). Melissa is passionate about growing WEX to create challenging and rewarding careers where employees are able to develop, contribute and advance within the company. She played a key part in helping take the South Portland-based company public.

Melissa also co-founded sheJAMS in 2010, an all-women training club, which allows women to train together in a non-competitive spirit and to share each other's achievements. "Women individually accomplish wonderful things, but when you put them together, it can be magical," she says. Melissa also serves on the Center for Grieving Children's Board of Directors and participates in the Executive Women's Forum, which she co-founded to provide a support network for female executives in the local community.


The Sarah Orne Jewett Award is given to a Maine woman who exhibits the attributes of the women in Jewett’s works of fiction: true grit, independence, courage, humor and discipline. The 2015 recipient is Judy Kahrl, founder of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights. A daughter of the founder of Pathfinder International, Judy Kahrl grew up in a family where reproductive health and birth control was dinner table conversation. While visiting Pathfinder programs in the developing world, Judy saw how women's access to comprehensive reproductive health services changed their lives by improving their own health and that of their families, and by empowering women to participate in their communities. In recent years, Judy and other women of her generation have become increasingly outraged by the numerous laws passed to restricted access to family planning and abortion clinics in the US.

Judy channeled this frustration by establishing Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights in 2013, also known by its acronym, GRR. Collectively, the grandmothers advocate statewide for secure access for all women and men to the reproductive rights, justice and comprehensive health care for which the grandmothers' generation fought so hard. 

The Samantha Smith Award recognizes a young woman from Maine who works to promote social change in her school or community, inspires other girls to become active in supporting long lasting change in Maine, uses her voice boldly to influence others and make a difference in her community. 2015’s recipient, Nicole Maines, who is transgender, has always been an advocate for being who you are. In 2013, Nicole and her family won a long-standing lawsuit against her school after she'd been forced to use a staff bathroom instead of the girls' bathroom. Maine's Supreme Court ruled that Nicole Maines’ rights had been violated under the state's Human Rights Act, marking a historic and landmark victory for transgender rights in the U.S. 

Nicole continues to play an active role in advocating for her rights: she has spoken on Maine Public Radio to shine a light on what it means to be transgender in Maine; she has appeared before the Maine Legislature speaking to legislators about transgender children; and she was a summer volunteer for Equality Maine.

"When we won, it felt like this huge weight was lifted off," says Maines. "There's still work to be done and stories that need to be told.... I think [advocacy] will always be a part of my life."

The Visionary Partner Award is for a person or entity who has helped to advance the Fund’s vision of a just and caring society in which Maine women and girls thrive so communities prosper. This year’s awardee is Maine business Lamey Wellehan. As WCSH6 put it, "Lamey Wellehan started in an era when many customers came on horseback. It has existed into an era when the President is Tweeting its name." Indeed, this 100-year-old Maine shoe company caught the eye of President Obama recently not just because of its remarkable history, but on account of its inspiring commitment to paying employees a livable wage.

Jim Wellehan, president and second generation of family leadership, has positioned his family's business as a leading example of a company helping to ensure economic security for women and their families. Wellehan is an outspoken supporter for increasing the minimum wage, and sales staff at Lamey Wellehan--most of whom are women--earn a base wage much higher than minimum wage, plus commissions. Additionally, Lamey Wellehan workers enjoy a health plan and 401k package that matches each 5 percent contribution with a 5.5 percent company match. 

"When I was a kid, America was definitely committed to fairness. And that concern for other people seems to be missing today in our corporate culture," says Wellehan. "And we've got to change that. We should pay people enough to live on comfortably, to educate their kids, to bring up their kids."



About the Maine Women’s Fund

Since 1989, the Maine Women's Fund has been creating social change by investing in the power of women and the dreams of girls. The mission of the Maine Women’s Fund is to transform the lives of Maine women and girls through strategic grantmaking, community engagement and support to nonprofit organizations dedicated to social change. The Fund’s vision is a just and caring society in which Maine women and girls thrive so communities prosper. The Fund is the only Maine foundation focused exclusively on advancing women’s and girl’s economic security.


The Fund provides critical funding and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations in Maine within six strategic areas: Education; Entrepreneurship; Healthcare; Leadership; Personal Safety and Public Policy.

Learn more at


Maine Women's Fund

74 Lunt Road | Suite 100 | Falmouth, ME  04105 | 207-774-5513

Posted 04.09.2015 under Press Releases