The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas was launched in 1998 when two of our founders, Pat Lile and Olivia Farrell, saw the need for funding dedicated to investing in projects that support women and girls in our community. These women were instrumental in seeking out prominent female leaders from “Top 100 Women in Arkansas,” where the idea for an organization for and by women was initiated. We strive to not only expand educational opportunities for women who do not have access to them, but also empower and equip women with necessary resources for emerging occupations, improve the economic status of women, and promote a mentorship for women and girls who are in need of tangible and emotional support.
In 1999, the first Power of the Purse luncheon was held to announce the grants made possible to support these causes with donations from the original founders. WFA now holds this fundraising event each year to honor accomplished women, announce grants made that year, and highlight other WFA programs.
2020 Luncheon Details
Venue: Arkansas Governor’s Mansion
2020 Power of the Purse event chairs: Mitch Bettis & Mandy Richardson
Woman of the Year in Business: Marnie Oldner, Stone Bank
Women of the Year in Philanthropy: Sissy Jones, Sissy’s Log Cabin
1st Lady’s Woman in Public Service: Amy Fecher, Department of Transformation and Shared Services -Secretary
Brownie Ledbetter Civic Service Award: Dr. Karama Neal, Southern Bancorp Community Partners
Learn who we are, what we do, and how you can help women in Arkansas be stronger. When women succeed, Arkansas succeeds.
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400 West Capitol Avenue, Suite 1242, Little Rock, AR 72201
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Dr. Karama Neal
2020 Brownie Ledbetter Civic Engagement Award
Karama Neal, PhD, serves as President for Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP), a nonprofit loan fund and financial development organization promoting economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi through development lending, public policy advocacy, and asset building programs. Prior to joining SBCP in 2009, Dr. Neal served as an adjunct professor and program director at Emory University and worked in bioinformatics.
Dr. Neal serves on the board of the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, and is chair of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. In 2013, she started a statewide grassroots organization promoting passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in Arkansas. The legislation was passed with no dissent in 2015 and her TedX talk later that year focused on that work.
Dr. Neal graduated from historic Little Rock Central High School, then completed a bachelor’s degree in biology at Swarthmore College, a master’s in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago, and a doctorate in genetics from Emory University. She completed the Impact Investing Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and lives in Little Rock with her family.
2020 Woman of the Year in Business
Ms. Oldner is the CEO and a Director of Stone Bank, Mountain View, Arkansas and EVP and a Director of its parent company, Stone Bancshares, Inc. She has been on staff with the Bank since July 1, 2011 serving as its CEO, CFO, and President during that time. During that time she has grown the bank from $65 million in assets to $476 million in assets. Ms. Oldner has worked with many banks inside and outside of Arkansas while a Managing Principal at DD&F Consulting Group, Little Rock, Arkansas, for 7 years. Ms. Oldner also has over 20 years of executive officer experience in banking. Before her direct involvement in the banking industry, Ms. Oldner was a certified public accountant for Coopers & Lybrand (now PriceWaterhouseCoopers), in Newport Beach, California. She is a graduate of California State University in Fullerton, California, where she majored in business and accounting. In 2015, Ms. Oldner was recognized as “Bank CFO of the Year” by Arkansas Business magazine and in 2019 was selected as one of Arkansas’ Most Influential Leaders. Ms. Oldner currently serves on the Board of the Arkansas Bankers Association and is a member of the Federal Reserve’s 8th District Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council (CDIAC) and serves as its chair. She also serves on the Federal Reserve’s National CDIAC.
2020 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy
“When you’re here, everyone’s family,” isn’t just the tagline for one of the largest fine jewelry retailers in the Mid-South, it’s the mantra for the founder herself, Sissy Jones. Sissy started Sissy’s Log Cabin in 1970 with nothing more than a handful of estate jewelry and antique wares she sold in a literal log cabin she rented for $50 per month. Her eternal optimism has turned Sissy’s Log Cabin into Arkansas’ largest independently owned jewelry store with 12,000 square feet of showroom filled with diamonds, jewelry, estate jewelry, fine gifts and fabulous antiques with five locations in Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Jonesboro, Conway, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee. It’s not the business, but the woman behind it who makes it so unique: Sissy’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to create a name for herself. However, if you asked for her claim to fame, Sissy would not name the awards or cite the store’s growth. She would instead want to recognize her family for their love and support as the cornerstone of her business, and her faith in the Lord. From her business’ humble beginning through its continued growth, Sissy and her family have always looked to Proverbs 20:24 in any and all decision making. Her husband, Murphy, helped her start the original store, and she currently employs three generations and more than 20 family members, including her son, Bill, who now serves as the CEO, his wife, Sharri, executive secretary, and their sons William and Wyatt, both graduate gemologists; all integral pieces of the business’s unique story and monumental success.
Photo rights: Little Rock Soiree | Jason Masters
2020 AR 1st Lady’s Woman in Public Service
Amy Fecher is Chief Transformation Officer of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Office of Transformation, which the governor created in 2016 to streamline state government. She led the Governor’s efforts to pass the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 – the first reorganization of state government in almost 50 years. Fecher also is Executive Vice President of Operations at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and Governor Hutchinson’s designee to the Delta Regional Authority’s Board of Governors. Fecher has worked for more than 15 years in the public and notfor-profit sector. She was Director of the Arkansas Department of Rural Services (now a division of AEDC), and she served in former Governor Mike Huckabee’s administration. In 2017, State Scoop chose Fecher as one of the top 50 women in technology in the nation for her work to transform Arkansas state government. Fecher is a volunteer coach and mentor with the Miracle League of Arkansas. She also serves on the Information Network of Arkansas Board. Her past service includes positions on the Arkansas Capitol Arts and Ground Commission, and the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council. Fecher is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas. She and her husband, Shawn, have three sons and live in Sherwood.
Power of the Purse Co-chair
Mitch Bettis is the owner and president of Arkansas Business Publishing Group — the award-winning digital marketing and media company founded in 1995. He has more than 30 years of experience in management and publishing. He manages the daily operations of a publishing company that produces more than 30 publications and a digital marketing company working with businesses across the United States. He also serves as the publisher of Arkansas Business, the state’s business magazine. Mitch is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, and he did his masters and doctorate work at Oklahoma State University. Mitch and his wife have three children — Jackson Addy and Elli.
Power of the Purse Co-chair
Mandy Richardson is publisher of Little Rock Soirée and Little Rock Family magazines and their respective websites and enewsletters. She is also the founder of the Soiree Women’s Leadership Symposium. Richardson manages the daily operations of the ABPG monthly magazine division. She has more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing and has spent almost ten years with Arkansas Business Publishing Group. Mandy is a graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, MO and completed her masters work at Webster University. Mandy and her husband have two daughters — Miller and Wells.