Friday, August 29, 2014

Meet This Year's Award Recipient

By Sharon Svec

The Y’s Care Children’s Program of YWCA Clark County has been one of the many charities in Clark County to benefit from the generosity of the Beaches Cruisin’ staff, volunteers and attendees. The Cruisin’ event started in 1996 and was hosted as a small gathering at the Beaches Restaurant and Bar. It got to be so popular, that it has grown to take up the entire lawn of the Portland International Raceway, and turned into a weekly fundraising event. This year’s opening day brought precisely a gazillion vehicles to the field; each one providing a small entrance fee per passenger. With the event going on every Wednesday of the summer, those dollars add up! The entrance fee monies collected at the gate, enable Mark Matthias and the Beaches Cruisin’ to donate tens of thousands of dollars to local charities each year.

To raise awareness of area charities, Beaches invites a different local non-profit each week to be featured at the event. After a few years of popping up a tent and loading up brochures, YWCA Clark County decided to take a new, more engaging approach. Last year we handed out our first Empowerment Award to a woman auto enthusiast.

The world of classic cars, hot rods, bikes, etc. is a male-dominated culture. This is probably due to our society’s separation of the roles of men and women throughout time. But today, our society is realizing that most of these roles are interchangeable among individuals of both sexes, and we are getting better at encouraging each other to pursue interests, regardless of their historical stereotype.

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges. Intentional or not, women are often overlooked in car culture. YWCA’s Empowerment Award is given out each year to a female auto enthusiast at YWCA’s charity night of the Beaches Cruisin’. In addition to recognizing this very cool sub-culture of car enthusiasts, we hope that the award will build interest in the hobby, which requires unique technical and creative skills.
Sharma and her 1970 'Cuda

Sharma Schlecht was the winner of this year’s award. She drove a beautiful 1970 Plymouth Barracuda that she restored herself, along with friends and family. I emailed Sharma a few questions, so that we could get to know her better.

When and how did you get into cars?

My interest in cars started at sixteen. I started with a Toyota 4×4 pickup and learned quickly how to fix it myself as I proceeded to break it every weekend keeping up with the guys while four wheeling.

What do you enjoy about being a classic car owner?

I enjoy the other car owners and their stories about their journey they have taken with their cars. The pride and respect each owner has for their car or truck is well deserved and earned.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman owner/driver?

I have faced many challenges, starting with the parts stores lack of product education and their disbelief that I really know what part I need for my car.  Also, most people think it’s my husband’s or boyfriend’s car, or my father must have built it for me.

What kind of encouragement or support have you received from friends, family or fans?

I have received an incredible amount of help and encouragement from both family and friends through the whole build process; from use of their shops, to body-work, paint and everything in-between. My appreciation to every person that helped on my car is overwhelming.

We love that you are donating your parts car to another female auto enthusiast. Tell us why that was important to you.

It is important to give any young person a goal to achieve, but a young female with a goal of building her own ‘Cuda was special to me. I remember for years, waiting to build this car and how badly I wanted it. My hope for her is that she build an un-breakable bond with her father as she learns how to work on the car with him, and he has the pleasure of watching his daughter grow into a car enthusiast, following in his foot steps.

What does YWCA’s Empowerment Award mean to you?

The empowerment award has special meaning to me. I have spent a lifetime proving my ability with cars and it is with great appreciation I accept this acknowledgment for my years of hard work and sacrifices. I look forward to representing YWCA in leading women in our community.

Sharma presents a great example of an empowered woman. Not only has she found empowerment through her own will, but she also enjoys a community of support through friends and family who believe in and encourage her. Then, she goes the “extra mile” and passes that empowerment forward to another young woman who is following her own dream.  YWCA Clark County is pleased to recognize Sharma for her achievements and for her encouragement of others, with the 2014 YWCA Empowerment Award. View more photos on our Facebook page.

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