Business group puts local woman in its top ten

July 18, 1997


Staff Writer

A Hagerstown woman who has worked for 25 years in the hotel industry has been named a Top Ten Business Woman of the Year for 1998 by the American Business Women's Association.

"Literally, I was dumbfounded," said Georgene Charles of her reaction to the news.

Charles, who has been active in the Hagerstown community since moving here 15 years ago, is employed as convention and corporate sales manager for the Ramada Inn.

"She is one of 10 out of 80,000 members selected for this honor," said Nikki Hopkins, national public relations coordinator of American Business Women's Association, the fourth largest professional women's association in the country.


"To a lot of our women - and especially Georgene - it's important to further their own careers, but also to help others. Georgene is constantly reaching out to other chapter members," Hopkins said.

Charles said that in her job she visits trade shows, attracts businesses, books conventions, performs corporate sales and recently sat for the "grueling" meeting planner certification program - part of why the former Hagerstown ABWA chapter president was nominated for the award.

She said she loves the hotel business, which she said is founded on teamwork and is analogous to baking a cake: All the ingredients must be just right to achieve the most favorable results.

"When I look at a banquet hall, on something I have been working on for a long, long time, what I hear in my mind is click, click, click - like pieces of a puzzle. When all the pieces come together and meet, and when they meet properly, it's a real neat feeling," she said.

"Of course, every now and then, the pieces go crunch," she said with a laugh.

She credits past employers and ABWA for much of the success she's attained only decades after women began entering job force in large numbers.

"Someone started to pave a road for us (women), but it wasn't a one-lane road. We're on a highway, and we're on a highway to success," she said.

"We all should be helping each other climb up that corporate ladder," she said, summing up the philosophy.

She said she hopes to mentor rising professional women and inspire them to work to their potential, to use each day as a learning experience and to love what they do - the same advice she has used to guide her own business career.

Although Charles can list a couple of community projects she has spearheaded, her co-workers can rattle off several more, including a number of county, state and national community task forces she has led.

One of her accomplishments is the creation of the Antietam National Battlefield Memorial Illumination project, in which 23,110 sand-filled luminaires are stationed and lighted in remembrance of those who fell during the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history.

While Charles credits the project's success to more than 700 volunteers, other community activists say it would not have been possible without her dedication and contributions.

"The thing I appreciate about her is that she is not one-sided. She is not all business. She feels strongly about her community and giving back," said Eileen Cackowski, deputy director of the Maryland Governor's Office on Volunteerism.

In the past five years, Charles has never refused a request for help on half a dozen community projects, making her eligible for the Top Ten award "without even working for it," Cackowski said.

Ramada Inn and ABWA associates praise her business acumen, organizational skills, attention to detail and persistence.

"She has all the skills she needs to succeed," said ABWA Executive Director Carolyn Elman.

Charles will travel to Minneapolis where, on Sept. 20, a panel of judges will select the woman who will be recognized as Top Business Woman of 1998.

She said she is still trying to get used to the idea that she made the Top Ten.

"This recognition is quite satisfactory; the other would seem totally overwhelming. If I am humbled now, then I would be totally blown off with the other award," she said.

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