Kathleen Semrad honored as Woman of Distinction
Each year the Truckee Donner Soroptimist Club honors one local woman who has made an outstanding contribution to our community. This year that woman is Kathleen Semrad, who was recently announced as the 2003 Woman of Distinction for her dedication to many worthy causes in this area.First introduced in 1984, the Woman of Distinction program was implemented as a way of recognizing women who go above and beyond the call of duty within their communities, either through professional or voluntary activities.Semrad certainly fits the description, as she has been actively involved in a number of local service organizations.A Northstar resident since 1989, Kathleen and her husband Jack moved here from Sherman Oaks, Calif., in order to retire in the mountains.”We loved the area, we love the outdoors. We were just drawn here by the lifestyle and the size of the community. The healthy living,” Semrad said.Before coming to this area, Kathleen held a number of different jobs over her career including elementary school teacher for the Salem and Hillsboro school districts in Oregon, pharmaceutical sales representative for Hoffman LaRoche, lingerie buyer for Nordstrom Specialty Stores and Merchandise Manager for Olga Manufacturing Company.In 1986, Semrad, who has always had an interest in design, decided that she wanted to design her and Jack’s retirement home. Rather than merely working with an architect to build a custom home, Semrad enrolled at UCLA’s Graduate Program in Environmental and Interior Design which allowed her to design her Northstar home as a part of her program requirements. She finished both the home and her degree in 1990.Since that time she has devoted herself to many worthy causes throughout the Truckee/North Tahoe region.Since 1990 she has helped the Truckee Tahoe Excellence in Education Foundation meet its fund-raising goals by serving in a number of leadership positions. Perhaps her most recognizable contribution was developing the idea for the Dining for Schools card – a discount card that provides cardholders with special deals at over 40 of this area’s top restaurants.Semrad established this hugely successful program in 1990 and managed it until 2000 when she handed over control to the replacements she trained. In the year before she took control, the Dining for Schools program made approximately $1,300. After the first year that Semrad’s Dining for Schools card came out, the program made $36,000, and that amount has continued to grow, reaching $62,000 last year.”Education has always been really important to me and children have always been really important to me,” Semrad said while explaining her involvement with the program.Though no longer actively involved in the Dining for Schools program’s management, Semrad still sells around 250 Dining for Schools cards per year and continues to serve on both the Fund-raising and the Allocations Committees for the Excellence in Education Foundation.Using her knowledge and experience in the retail industry, in 2001 Semrad helped lay out the business plan for the Tahoe Forest Hospice Gift & Thrift store. Motivated by her own experience with hospice when her husband Jack passed away seven years ago, Semrad contributed to all aspects of the planning, opening and operations for both the Truckee and Kings Beach thrift stores.According to Pat Callahan, who nominated Semrad for the Woman of Distinction award, “I was very impressed with (Semrad’s) sense of commitment and her organizational skills in helping set up the Hospice Thrift store… Then I got to know her more personally and thought ‘here’s somebody who’s really spent a lot of her free time benefiting other community members,’ and I just thought ‘here’s a worthy candidate.'”Semrad still volunteers her time at the Hospice Thrift Store every Friday, and according to store manager Kerry Kileoyne, “Her business mind helped the Hospice Thrift Store immensely.”The arts are another passion that Semrad has shared with many in the Truckee/Tahoe community, and like her other passions, she has devoted her time to helping make sure they flourish in our community.She is currently the President-elect of North Tahoe ARTS, a position she will hold through 2006. In 2002 the Sierra Artist Network (which is now North Tahoe ARTS) approached Semrad about joining their board of directors, and since that time she has helped the group with fund-raising, membership recruitment and strategic planning projects.”2003 was a year of huge transition and transformation for us,” Semrad said, in reference to the recent remodel to the North Tahoe ARTS building that left the group homeless for nine months earlier this year.The group has recently settled back into their newly finished space in Tahoe City, and Semrad hopes that 2004 will be a year in which the organization is able to reach out to the local community and engage a broader spectrum of arts enthusiasts.Semrad spends approximately 30 hours a week as the President-elect of North Tahoe ARTS, and one of her major goals is spreading the word about the group and its mission to more of the Truckee community. Though she devotes a great deal of time to the group, Semrad describes her duties as “a work of passion… so it’s not really work.”While Semrad is certainly used to working hard within the community, she shies away from recognition for her all her efforts.”I’m much more comfortable in the trenches doing and making things happen rather than getting rewarded for it,” Semrad said. “This is very humbling to be singled out, because I know who’s out there working just as hard as I am for things they care about. This isn’t about getting awards. It’s about doing what you’re passionate about.”Though not a Soroptimist herself, Semrad certainly knows a lot of them through her involvement in local service groups. She has been aware of the award over the years because she has known a number of the previous recipients; however, she never expected to receive the honor herself.Semrad will be presented with the 2003 Woman of Distinction award on October 29 at the Glenshire Clubhouse. All members of the local community are invited to attend the ceremony which will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served, and guests will have the chance to meet Semrad and many other dynamic and involved women and Soroptimists in our community.Please RSVP to Joan Hartwell at (530) 587-7945 if you are interested in attending the ceremony or would like more information.
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