Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Fresno Women’s Network (FWN) is hosting its inaugural Women in Review Gala Oct. 7, during which three community – minded Central Valley women will be honored as “community treasures.”
FWN President Connie Smith said the three honorees — Kerri Donis, Sally Caglia and Liz Garvin — are outstanding role models in the community.
Donis is the first woman to serve as fire chief in the Fresno Fire Department’s 137-year history. Prior to becoming a firefighter, Donis attended Fresno State and competed on the lady Bulldogs softball team. The team finished runner-up in the Women’s Softball College World Series three of the four years Donis played. After graduation, she worked briefly as a fitness trainer before going to the fire academy. She has been working in the fire service ever since, and in 2004, she was promoted to deputy chief. In 2013, she was appointed interim fire chief and in 2014 she was appointed as fire chief.
Caglia works as the executive administrator for the Caglia family-owned businesses that were established in Fresno 103 years ago. The businesses the family owns are Electric Motor Shop and Supply Co., C.A.R.T.S. Cedar Avenue Recycling and Transfer Station, Industrial Waste and Salvage (IWS), Caglia Demolition and Recycling, and the RedRock Environmental Group. Caglia is active on many boards including the Valley Cultural Coalition, the Cultural Arts District Association, Cultural Arts Rotary Club, Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Fresno Historic Preservation Commission.
Garvin is a past FWN scholarship recipient. She earned her bachelor’s degree from CSU Sacramento and her master’s degree from Mennonite Brethren Bible Seminary. From 2003 to 2007, she served as the CEO of Samaritan Women, a Central Valley group for women who have been incarcerated. In 2011, she began working for the Better Business Bureau as the director of mediation. In 2015, she joined Fresno State as the associate director of planned giving. Garvin is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Partnership of Philanthropic Planning and the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber.
Smith said it was difficult to come up with criteria to select three women from a pool of outstanding women in the Central Valley, but she said these three women align with FWN’s mission and its values.
“We knew we wanted to honor someone in the public service sector, and that is where Kerri fit in perfectly,” Smith said. “Then we wanted to honor a local businesswoman, and Sally’s family has served our community for over 100 years so it was natural to honor her. We also wanted to honor one of our past scholarship recipients, and Liz was perfect because she is very involved in our network and has a accomplished a lot since receiving our scholarship.”
Each honoree said she is humbled to receive the recognition from FWN. “That they would even recognize me is a privilege,” Donis said.
Donis has received awards in the past, notably a Top Dog award from Fresno State and recognition in Sports Illustrated as one of the Faces in the Crowd for her softball skills in high school, but Donis said she does strive to win awards, she just wants to do her best for the community.
“I’m not a big fan of tooting my own horn,” Donis said. “I don’t focus on accolades; my focus is on making the fire department better. This is an honor, though, and I’m humbled and grateful for the support.”
Caglia said she loves serving her community and never expected to be recognized for her service.
“I’m just following my father’s legacy; he paved the way and my brothers and I have carried on our parent’s dream,” Caglia said. “This is just a great community to live in. I love my community and love serving the community.”
Garvin said she is flattered to be chosen from among all the past scholarship recipients who could have been recognized by FWN.
“I’m blessed to be honored by FWN in this category,” Garvin said. “For 20-plus years, FWN has issued scholarships to deserving students for academics and community involvement and out of all of those recipients, I was chosen. I was awarded the scholarship in 2004 — 12 years ago. The network is such a backbone for women in the community, and I’m speaking not only as a recipient, but also as a member. There are a lot of benefits to being a part of FWN. It’s a wonderful place where women can participate and gain valuable business connections.”
Smith said all proceeds from the gala’s ticket sales, dessert auction and live auction will go toward FWN’s scholarship fund. The goal, she said, is to raise $25,000 to $30,000.
“It’s ambitious but you have to have a big goal,” Smith said. “We’ve been providing scholarships since 1987 and back then a $1,000 scholarship went a lot farther. Now we want to offer more scholarships at higher amounts.”
The Women in Review Gala starts at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Wedgewood Banquet Center, located at 4584 W. Jacquelyn Ave. in Fresno. Tickets are $75 per person, Sponsorship tables of eight are also available and start at $1,000.
To register or for more information, visit www.FresnoWomensNetwork.org