Three weeks prior to the 2007 Steward School, I was to head up the Ladies Hospitality Meeting the week of Steward School by Renee Taylor, secretary of Local 798. My first reaction was, “No, and I am going to kill my husband when he gets home.” Then it occurred to me that it was an opportunity to do something that I have felt in my heart for 30 years. My first question to Renee was, “Can we do something different?”. “Can we be more than what we are?” Her response was, “Yes, but it may be hard to break new ground”. With that in mind, I called Nicole Barnett and asked for her help to get this off the ground. Upon talking to her, we decided to hold a meeting at the UA Pipeline Conference with the BA’s wives, Organizer’s wives, PIBF, and the Training wives. At this point, we were three days before leaving and Nicole and I were both frantic to get something going. Nicole made flyers asking the ladies to come to our meeting with the hope that they would all attend.
At this meeting, we ended up having eleven ladies: Heidi Ryan, Margaret Atkins, Janie Wallace, Tuffy Schroeder, Jenee Moss, Kathy Stephenson, Kim Carrierie, Nicole Barnett, Denise Taylor, Mary Hollabaugh (via phone) and myself. We had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Dena Holloway before she had to leave the conference. During the meeting, we told what our vision was and asked everyone’s input. Wow, it was so awesome! These ladies were wonderful, energetic, and ready for a change.
The one thing that came out of this meeting was to be friendly. If we didn’t do another thing, I wanted anyone and everyone to be a part and feel welcome at the Ladies meetings. All of these ladies agreed and were most anxious to meet new and old, and to find out who may be working in their area or might live in their area. These ladies were so excited about change that they called two more meetings to discuss more ideas! During these meetings, we talked about reaching out to communities in our towns, on the jobs, and in Tulsa. By forming an auxiliary, so to speak, showing that we are proud of what our husbands/partners do and show them that we are willing to be a part, just in a different way.
One of the things that I thought was the beginning of defining us was when the ladies called a meeting together and asked if they could purchase jewelry from a young girl who has breast cancer. It was to help her out with her treatments instead of just buying things to give away. At that moment, I knew we were all on the same page. Everyone put in money and bought three pieces of jewelry and that was part of our hospitality gifts. From there, we decided to go with that theme at the Ladies Meeting.
We had a total of 100 women in attendance at this year’s Ladies Meeting! Special thanks to St. Francis Hospital, Terry Miller, and Julie Sluss for the hanging shower exam and booklets; Monica Lucus, which met Amiee (the young lady with breast cancer) on a pipeline job when they were kids, came and set up a booth of jewelry so the women could browse around. Thank you Monica for giving up your Friday night to be a part of our ladies meeting. Margaret spoke on breast cancer issues and did a wonderful job. Tuffy brought breast cancer survivor cookbooks from Texas that went like hot cakes. We talked about helping each other, being sisters, forming cell groups on the line and touching communities where you are working. We also voted on a name for our group. It was so exciting to see everyone get involved. After all was said and done, Ladies of 798 was chosen as our name! A huge thank you for all of the help, enthusiasm, and votes.
After the meeting, a group of women that were there in attendance, went out and done exactly what we had talked about. I am so proud of these ladies. They put together a ladies luncheon, had a meeting and took up donations. The men on the line supported these women’s efforts by donating money and canned goods for the food pantry. I had the pleasure of attending this meeting. It was so wonderful to see these ladies take pride in themselves and doing something wonderful for someone else. After the meeting, everyone who was in attendance went to deliver the donations, which consisted of three grocery carts, metal chairs, money, and the still had sacks in their hands. Mrs. Wauson of the Saint Thomas Ministry-Food Pantry had a pen and paper and asked each one of us to write down our name and address so they could send each one of us a thank you note. My cup ran over when one of the ladies spoke up and said, “We are the Ladies of 798 and our address is P.O. Box 125, Bixby, OK 74008. All of the worries left me at that moment. It was the beginning of Ladies of 798!!!
We needed a change. The old saying is that change is not a comforting thing, it is radical, and most people are not willing to change. Let me tell you different. The response that we have received from our newly formed organization is overwhelming, to say the least. We have started something that we hope will go on forever. We are family and it is our job to break tradition, rather than re-create new traditions to pass on to future generations. Ladies, go out and make a difference. If you need any help, call any of us. We are here for you. We all want to be a part, and definitely want to hear what is going on with you and the job you are on.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,