Toastmasters International has been supporting Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden business owners and employees since 1936, when Bellingham Club 60 was chartered. Since then, five area clubs have been formed: Bellingham Evening Toastmasters, Messengers Toastmasters Club, The Ferndale Logjammers, Lynden Toastmasters, and most recently Barkley Toasters, which will celebrate its third anniversary this month.
In October, Barkley Toasters honored its founder and charter president, Wendy Wixson. Three years ago, Wixson, who is a CPA, was one of several young professionals in the Barkley neighborhood eager to enhance their professional skills. Wixson was familiar with the premise of Toastmasters, that regardless of one's level of experience as a speaker, anyone can improve their skills and professional adeptness.
Wixson envisioned a lunch-hour club. Its sponsors were Steve Clark, of Bellingham's Evening Toastmasters, and district officer Phil Hurtig, both of whom provided expertise and support as Wixson recruited 20 founding members from the Barkley neighborhood. Most were employed by Moss Adams, which provided the club's initial meeting place.
The club's second president, Andrea (Andy) Stampley, is an administrative specialist at Group Health. She and her executive committee served an additional six months after their terms had ended so the club's fiscal schedule would match that of Toastmasters International. In the process of earning her Competent Communication award, Andy was surprised to find that giving speeches actually became fun. She encourages others to give Toastmasters a try.
Toastmasters International was founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley. He set up a program for speaking opportunities, which became very popular. In 1926, after moving to California, he established the first Toastmasters club in Santa Ana. Ten years later, the 60th Toastmasters club was chartered, Club 60, of Bellingham.
"Today, members join for an average of 12 to 18 months, but many enjoy several years of membership" explained Barkley Toasters' current president, Carola Tossetti. Members prepare and deliver speeches, and have the option of holding leadership positions. "Most new members want to become more comfortable with public speaking. We provide a relaxed, supportive setting which eases newcomers into the process." Tossetti is a private-practice reading specialist who joined Barkley Toasters in 2010.
Charter club member Shane Vander Giessen recently started his own business, Prostar Insurance on Bakerview Road. Vander Giessen was the first Barkley Toaster to complete all 10 speeches in the Competent Communication Manual. "Of course my public speaking skills improved," said Vander Giessen, "and the people in our club make it special, because of their enthusiasm for each other's goals. Barkley Toasters has a lot of fun."
Barkley Toasters' vice president of membership is Pat Draper, manager of the Shelangen Seafood Market. Kathleen Roy, director of operations at Brigid Collins Family Support Center, is vice president of education. Club secretary is Shasonta Delmage, communications manager of Premier, School Specialty. Steve Clark, retiree of the United States Coast Guard, is the sergeant-at-arms.
Barkley Toasters meets first, third and fifth Fridays in the Dorothy Haggen Building, 2211 Rimland Drive, in the northeast corner of Woburn and Rimland, in the Barkley district.
Carola Tossetti is a private practice reading specialist in Bellingham and a freelance writer for educator and parent publications. She holds a masters degree in reading improvement from California State University, Northridge. Toasters board members assisted in writing this column.
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