This morning I had the opportunity to meet with a female Marine who is coordinating a symposium for Marines on Okinawa. I was delighted to hear that she wanted to get information about OLS, our model, and what we have done to create an impactful event. It was an honor to be able to share information about an organization that has truly impacted my life.
OLS, or the Okinawa Leadership Seminar, is far more than an intensive three-day seminar. It is an organization that promotes empowering military spouses who live on Okinawa. It creates environments for professional and personal development, and it promotes networking and building relationships. https://www.okinawaleadershipseminar.org/
These are some of my very favorite people. I absolutely loved serving on the board with them.
All of the events are free to the spouses, and the organization is overseen and run by volunteers. There is no paid staff and no administrative costs. All of the money raised goes directly to supporting the events that OLS creates. Although most of the funding that the non-profit generates goes directly to pay for the two annual seminars, the organization also creates monthly events to bring the spouse-leaders of Okinawa together. To begin with, OLS hosts a monthly book club. Every other month, it hosts Lunch & Learns. These are typically a deeper dive into topics like “Volunteer Recruitment & Retention,” “Getting and Crushing the Interview,” “Strategic Networking,” and “Values Based Leadership.” In addition, the organization creates quarterly events. These have included Four Lenses and a Vision Board Workshop.
I love our annual vision board events.
The last event for the 2022 was a Holiday Brunch and Book Exchange. In addition to being a festive event, it was also a wonderful time for the alumni to come together to network. I have been a part of the seminar team since 2019, with the exception of the actual seminars, the holiday social had by-far the best turnout. (As a military spouse who has worked to bring people together for almost twenty-five years, it is refreshing to see so many spouses come together.)
Our holiday party had so many amazing spouses in attendance.
My personal priority for the event was to create a space where we could thank and recognize the Facilitators. The Facilitators are a key component to the success of the seminar. They are responsible for nurturing the birth of new relationships at the seminar. They also create safe spaces where new participants can engage and discuss topics being presented at the seminar. Each of them has been a participant at OLS, or one of the sister-organizations, which include the Leadership Education Seminar, Desert Leadership Seminar, or Camp Lejeune Leadership Seminar.
Not all of our Facilitators were able to attend. Some have even left the island. This group is a special group of people, and our President thanked them all.
Additionally, I wanted to ensure that all of the speakers were invited. Most of the speakers are alumni as well. Beyond those two groups, I just wanted people there who wanted to be there, and based on all of the smiles, chatting, and laughter in the room, I believe that my desires were satisfied.
The President of our organization, Maria Paige, ensured that the event was a success. She came prepared with two games. The second game, which involved drawing a holiday scene on a paper plate, that was on your head, with no peeking aloud was a hit. Seldom do you see that many people in a room laughing. It was such a joy to witness. Her homemade gifts were another lovely touch.
The book exchange was one of my favorite parts of the event. Everyone who wanted to participate brought a new or used unwrapped book. We each drew numbers, and the first person picked a book. The second person could pick the first book chosen or a book off the table. There were a couple of books that were “stolen” which means they were in high demand. I loved seeing a couple of John Maxwell books, and I was even more impressed to see a book there that had been published by a military spouse who lives at Camp Lejeune. I picked The One Thing by Gary Keller. Since I am in the real estate industry, I was highly interested in this book. When I saw it on the table, I knew it needed to be mine. Fortunately, no one else wanted it, so no one took it from me.
We finished the party and rolled right into the open December board meeting. It’s a good use of time when you can consolidate a party, networking event, and a board meeting into one day. Usually, our meetings are very curriculum and event focused, but this one was very money focused. With a few dollars in our account to close out the year, it was time to focus on revenue generators to help pay for the spring seminar. We have some good ideas, and exciting things to come.
There is something special about an organization that has no barriers. Any spouse, regardless of their service member’s rank, can sign up for a seminar. The organization is open to all military services. Because the events are FREE, money is not an obstacle. Everyone has a seat at the table, and everyone’s voice and opinion can be heard. It is the most refreshing organization that I have ever joined and being a part of it brings me so much pride and joy. I am beyond grateful for the other spouses who choose to volunteer their time and talents. I love that I have good friends because of the organization, and I cannot wait to see what Spring 2023 brings.
If you are interested in supporting the Okinawa Leadership Seminar, please visit our website. https://www.okinawaleadershipseminar.org/take-action