Dear AAFSW members and friends,
It’s been a great four years. From the start, I’ve felt extremely honored and privileged to represent you as your elected volunteer President.
The greatest privilege has been working with the other volunteers at AAFSW (along with our outstanding part-time employees, who go far beyond their duties!).
Although I was nominally their leader, I am not even in the league of our awe-inspiring, extremely talented and dedicated longtime volunteers. Did you know that Mette Beecroft — who disentangles the bureaucracy for AAFSW and for Livelines members — has a PhD? That Sheila Switzer was in the first group of SOSA award winners, 25 years ago (and continues to work day and night to help people in need)?
Some of the many, many highlights of the last four years for me have included:
- Meeting eager and nervous new Foreign Service families at the Happy Hours and Ice Cream Socials launched by Jen Dinoia.
- Working in partnership with FLO Director Susan Frost and other FLO leaders to nudge things in the right direction for EFMs within the State Department bureaucracy.
- Attending the unforgettable programs organized by Sheila Switzer, such as the one that brought ARGO hero Tony Mendez, Jonna Mendez and rescued “houseguest” and AAFSW member Kathleen Stafford together on stage, as well as the outstanding Women’s History Month panels.
- Working with the dynamic and talented members of the EFM Business Owners Group, such as Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel (PhD), who put together the successful Cox proposal for the Foreign Service Dashboard, and launching AAFSW’s new award for promoting EFM employment, CCE-EFM, as suggested by Bob Castro.
- Seeing Ann La Porta (a lawyer and longtime volunteer) win the much-deserved Tragen Award for her ongoing work advocating for and supporting Foreign Service community members facing crises such as evacuation or divorce.
- Getting to know the fascinating and diverse members of the Foreign-Born Spouse Group, who support each other with social events, programs and personal outreach.
- Launching AAFSW’s two great new book projects: “Moving Your Household Without Losing Your Mind,” edited by Kelly Midura, and the forthcoming “Raising Kids in the Foreign Service,” edited by Leah Evans.
- Listening to Debbi Miller’s sung tribute to the SOSA winners, which she created to fit the projects of each winner and performed so beautifully that she brought tears to our eyes.
- Watching our website expand and become even more useful, thanks to Kelly Midura, Nicole Spiridakis and many others, with the Classifieds, more information on preparedness and EFM employment, the EFM Business Directory, and much more.
- Seeing Lara Center, a SOSA winner herself, determinedly bring SOSA to the attention of Public Diplomacy officers and now to many others through the 25th Anniversary video supported by the Cox Foundation.
- Working with the dedicated and talented Art&BookFair and Bookstore team, under the calm leadership of our late and beloved Judy Felt and now Anne Kauzlarich, as they raise funds for scholarships (including our new AAFSW Merit Scholarships!) and our operations on behalf of our community.
I want to thank everyone who made these achievements possible, including the Board members and committee chairs who continue to dedicate themselves to the organization, besides those mentioned above, including Lucy Whitley, Lesley Dorman, Patty Ryan, Carmen Geis, Sarah Novak, Melissa Hess and so many others.
We still don’t have a full slate of Board candidates — AAFSW depends on you to step up and help! But I am extremely pleased to turn over the Presidency to longtime volunteer Elaine Neumann, who has generously agreed to serve as Interim President.
Our team has expanded AAFSW’s recognition and participation, but the challenge continues. I will stay involved in numerous projects to help achieve this goal: the Foreign Service Dashboard, 25th Anniversary SOSA video, the EFM Business Owners Group, the AAFSW Post Representatives Network, and others. I look forward to working with you virtually — you can’t get rid of me that easily!
I wish all of you the best for this transfer season, whether you are moving yourself, saying farewell to friends, or welcoming newcomers (or all three!).
Your partner in the ongoing effort to increase AAFSW’s effectiveness in mutual support and advocacy for the Foreign Service community,
Nuevo Laredo August 2015