By Liepa Bračiulytė in Life
Every year during National Women’s History month, three women receive an Iris Award for their contributions in Southwest Washington.
This year the awards ceremony will be held on March 5 in Gaiser Hall.
Each woman is nominated for one of three categories: private service, public service or philanthropic, according to Chief Information and Communication Officer Chato Hazelbaker.
The Iris Awards began in 1985 as a photography exhibit honoring women, and later “developed into an official awards ceremony with a nomination process open to all members of the local community,” according to Hazelbaker.
The event is sponsored by the Clark Foundation and Vancouver Business Journal.
A couple hundred people attended the ceremony last year, including supporters of the award winners, previous winners, banks, community organizations and other individuals. “It’s partially a networking event focused on female leaders,” said Hazelbaker.
During the event, each nominee is introduced by the person who nominated them. The nominee will tell a part of their story and what leadership means to them for seven to ten minutes, Hazelbaker said.
Kris Henriksen was awarded in the public service category last year. For the past 10 years, she has coordinated Clark County Teen Talk, a local program for teen volunteers that strives to support young people. She also trains volunteers and teaches about mental health.
One of Kris Henriksen’s past volunteers nominated her for her positive impact on young people. During the awards ceremony, she spoke about how adults and adolescents often misunderstand each other, and how they should “connect to each other more.”
Henriksen’s mother Nan Henriksen received an Iris Award in 1995. “She is the most life-impacting person that I know,” said Kris Henriksen. “It never even crossed my mind that I might at any point in my life get that kind of recognition.”
Kris Henriksen said, “I’m really bad at taking a compliment ever, and it was really important for me to have a chance to just let somebody say what you do makes a big difference. It was a challenge, but I’m hugely grateful. It was one of a handful of absolute highlights of my life.”
Kris Henriksen and her agency were featured on local cable after she was nominated.
Victoria Bradford is one of this year’s nominees. She owns Comfort Interiors, an interior design showroom and design firm. She’s also been an elected official of the Evergreen School District’s Board of Directors for 15 years in a row.
Bradford said receiving the Iris Award “made me be very reflective of what it means to be a part of the community.”
“Over the past 30 years, women have become much more prominent in leadership positions in this community,” said Hazelbaker. “And that’s one of the things we can be really proud of.”