By Jenell Vandenbos, President, Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley
Two decades; that’s how long my heart has been intertwined with the Women Leaders Forum of the Coachella Valley (WLF). Yet, through the challenges and triumphs of these past 20 years, the past few have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. COVID-19 was not just a health crisis; it transformed the very fabric of our societies, demanding adaptability, resilience, and a renewed vision.
Stepping into the role of president of WLF post-COVID was a decision borne from recognizing WLF’s need to reinvent and rebuild, as well as an opportunity to strengthen an organization that has always provided support and encouragement through personal and professional trials. The shadows of the pandemic loomed large, but I was determined to harness the dormant energy within our community.
As we moved forward, I couldn’t help but reflect on a critical realization that became more evident in the wake of the pandemic: the old ways, however cherished, needed revisiting. The global upheaval prompted by COVID-19 was also an invitation—a call to reconnect, reengage, and reimagine.
Central to our resurgence has been the drive to foster new relationships, while rekindling and strengthening existing ones. My vision was clear: fortify partnerships between our individual members, business members and sponsors, and cultivate an environment wherein every member felt seen, heard, and empowered.
Our theme in 2021 was Reconnect, Reengage, Reimagine. We needed it, as we were just coming out of the pandemic and needed to Redo everything – including WLF. We rebuilt around three areas: individuals, businesses, and the way we all connected.
We want every person who experiences WLF to come away feeling inspired and encouraged. Our WLF membership reflects the growing diversity within the valley and the women who are making a remarkable difference in our community, along with serving as role models for aspiring young women leaders. From a mere 10 members at one of our most challenging junctures, today we stand at 125 members strong.
Another one of the hallmarks of our renewed strategy was the establishment of a business member platform—a space for women, whether new arrivals to the Coachella Valley or long-term residents, to discover products and services keenly attuned to their needs. This wasn’t just an initiative; it was a testament to our commitment to serving our members in every possible
manner. We now have 50 business members, who share their products and services with our membership of savvy consumers.
“Let’s Interact, A Speaker Series” is more than just an ordinary networking or educational event; it’s an opportunity to forge meaningful connections and foster relationships that go beyond the traditional business setting. It is about building and strengthening meaningful relationships with the women in the Coachella Valley, whether here for several decades or just days. These monthly events bring together women from across the valley, offering a platform to share experiences, inspire connection, and exchange valuable advice.
However, this journey of transformation and resurgence wasn’t one I undertook alone. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our past board members, many of whom have seamlessly transitioned into roles as Advisory Board members. Their wisdom, insights, and unwavering support have been instrumental in shaping WLF’s new direction.
Moreover, our new board of directors, an inspiring blend of familiar faces and vibrant new additions (many of whom are also newcomers to the Coachella Valley), bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to WLF. This infusion of diverse experiences and thoughts has been pivotal in our journey.
Today, as I look back on our post-COVID journey, it isn’t just about WLF’s recovery or growth. It’s about reimagining lives, identities, and leadership. It’s about a collective of women leaders coming together to connect, engage, and inspire.
Last year, we removed the Re and our theme stood as Connect, Engage, Imagine. This year, we are done imagining, and are making it happen in big ways. Therefore, this year’s theme is Connect, Engage, Inspire.
These three themes serve as the pillars of our mission. They guide us in fostering strong relationships, igniting dialogue, and empowering each other to unleash our full potential. I encourage you to embrace these themes in your personal and professional lives and join WLF. Together, we can connect, engage, and inspire one another to reach new heights of leadership excellence, while also building and encouraging our Young Women Leaders to do the same.
And, as we continue this journey, I remain ever grateful to every board member, advisor, and member who has stood by WLF, believing in its potential and its promise. Together, we are not just navigating post-COVID waters; we are charting a new course for the future.
For membership, sponsorship, events and more, visit wlfdesert.org.