The Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations to honor local business people and community servants who've worked to help woman gain workplace equality and leadership skills, but you have to act fast.

Each year since 1998, the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce has recognized local individuals who have helped carry Athena International's mission to support, develop and honor women leaders and those who inspire them to reach their full potentials and create a leadership balance worldwide.

This year, chamber officials will hand out three Athena Awards during an Oct. 5 honors luncheon, to be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Phenix Banquet Center, 2101 Noe-Bixby Road, Columbus.

But before the chamber extends a Leadership Award, an Emerging Leader Award and a Youth Leader Award, it's seeking input from the community as to whom might be most deserving of the honors.

The deadline for nominating individuals for the three awards is July 13. Anyone who is a Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce member or an employee of a chamber member is eligible to receive an award.

Nominations can be made at www.pickeringtonchamber.com/womens-leadership-coalition.

"The Athena Awards are meant to honor and celebrate business leaders and up-and-coming business leaders within our community who demonstrate professional excellence, community service and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills," said Therea Byers, Pickerington chamber president.

"It is important for us to recognize those who have chosen to invest in the success of their business and community by becoming members of the chamber."

Although chamber affiliation is required for Athena consideration, Byers said, the awards are given to both women and men.

"Athena International's program is the model that we follow," she said. "Since they offer the Athena Award to men, we felt that it was important to follow their lead.

"In addition, we have seen several male leaders throughout our community who easily meet the criteria set forth for the Athena Award.

"We began offering this award to men just two years ago with encouragement from our Athena Committee and the Chamber Board of Directors."

The Athena Leadership Award typically goes to someone in a more senior position within an organization or industry who has helped to provide women professional opportunities, developed women leaders or inspired them to reach their potentials.

The Athena Emerging Leader Award typically is granted to someone in the 25-39 age range that is an up-and-coming leader in the community, and the Athena Youth Leader Award typically is presented to someone still in high school who is a leader within the school and volunteers in the community.

Recipients receive the recognitions and Athena sculptures when presented with the respective awards.

"Each nominee is asked to complete a questionnaire about themselves, which can include recommendation letters from friends, family and colleagues," Byers said. "Once received, the forms are shared with our judging panel which is made up of past Athena recipients, chamber board members, members of the Women's Leadership Coalition and a representative from the Athena Awards program sponsor.

"In total, we have seven judges."

Byers called the awards a "celebration of excellence," and noted it's important to recognize business leaders in the community who have given back and care about their community.

"It is an honor to receive the Athena Award and it puts these individuals into a category with some amazing recipients, including Gabby Giffords, Condoleezza Rice, Billie Jean King, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and many others," she said.

"It is so important to recognize the wonderful men and women within our community.

"It is not often that we get to celebrate the excellence of others, and most recipients will share that they are 'just doing their job', so it is up to us to get them recognized.

"An Athena recipient can be a teacher, your doctor, your hair dresser, or barber, your accountant, your banker and so many others."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate