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WJA Announces 2016 Member Grant Awards

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Amanda Bilberry (left),
Charlotte Preston (right)

(Press Release)
The Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) announced that it has awarded its first Charlotte Preston "Gets It Done" grant, a special $1,000 award co-funded by WJA and its Twin Cities chapter. It also awarded 27 other grants of $500 each to recipients around the country, for a total of $14,500 in awards. Member grants are awarded to female, professional-level, WJA members in good standing, to be used toward professional growth.

Charlotte Preston, who died last October at the age of 62, was an ardent supporter of WJA. She was for many years an active member and, most recently, president of the WJA Twin Cities chapter. As a consultant to the jewelry industry via her business, Charlotte Preston Catalysts, Preston also mentored many industry professionals, embodying the goals of WJA to help members advance and develop professionally through networking, education and leadership development. "Gets It Done" was her email address for many years and the grant honors her "can do" attitude towards her work.

The first recipient of the Charlotte Preston "Gets It Done" Grant is Amanda Bilberry, who is using her grant to take a course in jewelry appraisal skills. Bilberry earned her Graduate Gemologist (G.G.), Graduate Pearls, and Jewelry Design & Technology diplomas from the Gemological Institute of America, after earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Bilberry’s ultimate goal is to become a buyer for antique and fine jewelry. She is also working on completing her website, where she will offer custom jewelry and appraisal services. Bilberry is a board member of WJA’s San Diego chapter, and she also served as president and secretary of the GIA Student Body Council.

"I feel incredibly fortunate to have won such a special grant in honor of such an extraordinary woman," says Bilberry. "I’m sad I was never able to meet her, but I am honored to have received this gift in her name."

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The 2016 grant winners are listed by the WJA chapter that submitted their names:

  • Boston: Wendy Jo New
  • Chicago: Sue Crady, Kerry Gilligan, Alison Neumann, Anne van der Meulen
  • Colorado: Kate Swasey
  • Dallas: Laura Stanley
  • Florida: Maryann Scandiffio
  • Los Angeles: Tanya Parikh
  • NY Metro: Amy Glaswand, Gabrielle Morris, Madeleine Roslow, Karen Sampieri, Jane Schiowitz
  • No. California: Feurene Chew, Brenda Flanders, Sawyer Riley
  • Ohio/Kentucky: Kate Pleatman
  • Providence: Loren Barham, Lauren Paquin, Marilyn Salvatore
  • San Diego: Judy Colbert, Tara Hesselroth, Kathryn Timmerman-Susak
  • Seattle: Kelsey Kovach
  • Twin Cities: Jacqueline Gerhart, Diane Munsinger

Funds for WJA Member Grants, administered by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation, are raised by the national organization, as well as by WJA chapters around the country. All applications are reviewed by the WJA Member Grant Committee, chaired by Susan Elliott, who is also director of education resources at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). All qualified applicants are then placed into a random drawing conducted by the committee.

To raise funds for next year’s member grants and scholarships, WJA is hosting its annual Awards for Excellence gala, on Monday, July 25 at a new location: the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center, 311 W 34th St., New York, NY. In 2015, the event raised $60,000 for WJA grants and scholarships. A raffle will again be mounted in 2016 to raise additional funds for these awards, which invest in the future of the jewelry industry.

At the annual gala, WJA will also present three honorees with awards: Sissy Jones, owner of Sissy’s Log Cabin will receive the WJA Lifetime Achievement Award; Peter Engel, president of Fred Meyer Jewelers, will receive the Ben Kaiser Award; and Ben Bridge will receive the Corporate Award.

In addition, WJA will bestow Awards for Excellence in 10 categories including Design; Manufacturer/Dealer/Supplier; Retail – 15 Doors or More; Retail – Fewer Than 15 Doors; Retail – Non-Traditional; Sales and Merchandising; Marketing & Communications; Editorial Media; Special Services; and Watches. Once again, the nominees for these awards will only discover if they won on the evening of the gala.

To purchase sponsorships or tickets for the Gala visit www.womensjewelryassociation.com

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