The Newton Business and Professional Women (BPW) Organization has announced Jan Swickard as its Woman of the Year.

The BPW Woman of the Year award focuses on women who have contributed to the community through advocacy, education and information for the betterment of women in society.

According to a press release from BPW, the organization advocates for millions of women on work/life balance and workplace equity issues.

The Newton organization is celebrating its 92 year anniversary in 2016. Formed in 1924, Newton BPW is one of the oldest active women's organizations in Harvey County.

According to the Newton BPW Organization, Swickard's outreach was centered around church until the mid 1990s. After moving to Newton in the 1970s, she started teaching 3rd though 4th grade, moving up to middle school and high school youth groups. 

Swickard was a Sunday School teacher in the children's department at Salem United Methodist Church when she met her husband Bob in the early 1980s. They were married in 1982. Swickard is still teaching adult classes at the church.

The BPW organization said, in the mid 1990s, a friend got Swickard interested in the Harvey County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Association and she joined the board.

An ongoing goal of that organization has been to keep victims safe, by providing a safe place where victims and their children could stay.

In 1997, the goal of having a Harvey County safehouse was becoming a reality. A house was donated to the organization to be used as the safe house, but it would take money and a lot of work to meet state requirements.

The BPW organization said this began a one and a half year process to make the house suitable for serving as Harvey County's safehouse.

Having only worked in church fundraising, Swickard found herself giving speeches to churches and other organizations, spreading information about domestic violence and the need for a safe house.

According to BPW, Salem UMC was the first to contribute to the project, donating startup money to get the remodeling process started. Volunteers also cleaned, painted, wallpapered, organized, put on siding, built ramps and put up a fire escape. 

The Mission Outreach team saw a need for furnishing and hosted a community shower which brought in kitchen supplies, bath supplies and office supplies. The community responded to the needs of the safe house and Salem donated a stove and refrigerator for the house.

In 1996, Swickard became board president. She served that position for 1996 and 1997. In 1998, she was treasurer for the organization, working with the executive director to secure funding for the safe house.

During that time, Swickard also aided the grant writing process to secure state and federal grants, working with local and state agencies to ensure all requirements for the house were met.

The safe house opened in April of 1999.

In November 1999, Swickard received the "Mother of Our Movement" award from the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence at the state coalition meeting for her contributions to the local organization.

"I'm surprised and honored," Swickard said, "I don't know if I've done that much to deserve it... but I felt quite honored to be selected."

Aside from helping with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner, Swickard is teacher of the Crusaders Adult Sunday School Class, President of Salem United Methodist Women, a leader in Red Bird Circle, a member of the Salem Trustee Board, head of the Salem kitchen committee, funeral dinner committee chair, a member of the Companions In Christ Study Group and on the planning committee for the Salem Bazaar.

Swickard said she is no longer part of or employed by the domestic violence board.