It’s the question asked of everyone in St. Louis: Where did you go to high school? But when the subject came up at a Women of Achievement board meeting a few years ago, former Florida resident Alice Handelman never expected to find a fellow Miami High Schooler sitting next to her. “Karen Goodman looked at me and said, I’m from Miami, too, and I went to Miami High School. I couldn’t believe it! It was like picking people out of a foreign country and dropping them in the middle of the Midwest.”
While the two ladies already had a connection via their husbands (both were members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at University of Missouri), their bond quickly grew deeper. “It was a really easy friendship to develop with those things in common. We had an immediate interest in each other,” Goodman says.
That close relationship has aided both Handelman and Goodman in their roles as president and vice president, respectively, for Women of Achievement (WOA), an organization that honors 10 area women every year for their volunteer work. “The women we honor may work full-time, but they just want to do something above and beyond what they do for their own families and in the workplace,” Handelman explains. “They want to make a difference.”
Goodman was honored by WOA in 1996 for volunteer leadership after becoming the national chair of volunteers for the American Red Cross. After moving to St. Louis in 1979, she connected with the local chapter, and then moved up the volunteer ranks until she found herself in Washington, D.C., being interviewed by then-head of the Red Cross, Elizabeth Dole. Although her Red Cross duties ended in 1998, Goodman remained active, helping several local children’s organizations, including Edgewood Children’s Center and Good Shepherd School, and taking on the role of treasurer for WOA in 2005. “It’s wonderful to receive an honor like the Women of Achievement award, but that doesn’t mean you stop volunteering,” Goodman notes.
Handelman was honored with the WOA award in 2002, for her work with services for older adults. While working as the community relations director at the Jewish Center for Aged, she began volunteering for various programs in the community, then became board member for the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging. As a member, Handelman helped found the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging Foundation (formerly Gateway Elder Services), and subsequently started the Supply Bank for Senior Independence, which provides the most basic items seniors need every day. “We help older adults who can’t afford these items, so they can be independent and feel good about themselves,” Handelman says.
After receiving the WOA honor, Handelman used her background in journalism to provide public relations for the group before taking on several other roles that led to her presidency. “I’ve loved serving as president—you’re dealing on an everyday basis with strong women who love to help other people. You never ask a Woman of Achievement if she’ll do something, and hear no,” she says.
Handelman’s presidency will end on Jan. 1, when Goodman steps into the position. “I’ve worked very closely with Alice for the past two years, so I understand the goals of the organization, and we can look to the future,” Goodman says. “She’s such a caring individual and she has paved the way for me, and I hope to do the same for the person who follows me.”
Even after she steps down, Handelman looks forward to staying involved with WOA, as well as maintaining her relationships with Goodman and the group’s other members. “I’ve formed some really beautiful friendships with the women here,” she says. “Karen is one of the nicest women I have ever worked with, and I’m really proud to call her my friend and my Women of Achievement sister.”