Johanna Ames, president of Ames Linen, said she probably should have majored in economics in college.
The Cortlandville woman, 42, a geography major, came back to Cortland after graduating from Colgate University and agreed to a one-year trial in the linen cleaning company owned by her father, Donald “Bud” Ames.
“One of his managers was retiring. That’s how it started. It never stopped,” she said.
She’s worked at the linen company for 20 years. Today, she is president of the Huntington Street operation in a state of the art facility that employs 85, where she makes a point to attract and retain women in the business.
And Amy Buggs, 48, of Cortland, now the director of Cayuga Cortland Workforce Development after 24 plus years as an employment and training specialist for Cortland County, also does double duty for the community, as a member of Guthrie Cortland Medical Center Hospital Aid the last 20 years, fundraising for hospital equipment that is a benefit to families, or supporting the Puzzle Solvers autism group, selling tickets for the Corn Ducky Derby, being a troop leader for the Girl Scouts or leading a donation drive to help Texas people that have suffered a disaster.
Ames and Buggs were selected for this year’s Zonta Club of Cortland Woman of Achievement, for advancing the status of women and serving as a role model in the community.
The public is invited to a special noon luncheon in their honor May 5 at Tinnelli’s Hathaway House in Solon. There will be an appetizer table, a vegetable strata and dessert.
People can call Deb Wines at 607-423-2124 for tickets. The fee is $30 and tickets are available until May 1.
Amy Buggs of Cortland on Main Street Monday.
“I think it’s an honor,” said Ames, of the Zonta award. “And I was completely surprised.”
“I think it’s humbling,” said Buggs. “It’s something I would never have expected.”
Ames said the linen company, which supplies businesses with clean aprons, tablecloths, and napkins, is a green industry.
“We have a reusable product and as much of our internal operations as possible is designed to conserve … We actually recycle a lot of the water in the plant.”
Ames says her industry is male dominated and is missing out on a lot of talent with women employees. She was asked to be the inaugural chair of the National Women in Textile Committee.
“We started working on different initiatives to recruit and retain women in the industry. Next month, we are meeting in Dallas.”
“The one thing I want to talk about … is not second guessing yourself because you are in a room full of men for a meeting,” she said.
“I remind myself they all put their socks and shoes on the same way I do,” she said.
“We noticed when you are new and young in a male-dominated industry, at the end of a meeting you socialize. And all the men will go. If a young woman is there for the first time or if they are alone, they won’t go. They will go back to their room, talk to family, order room service. Guys will go out and eat and network.”
The committee placed women at each social event and told the young women, “Come meet us at 5 p.m.”
And they did it.
“It’s a transforming experience. They are not in the hotel room. They are out and engaged and networking.”
Ames was chair of the board of trustees for Cortland Regional Medical Center and was chairman of a collaboration task force to choose the hospital affiliation that led to the new partnership with The Guthrie Clinic. It was a 20-month job.
“It’s terrific for our community… What we like about them… they will grow services here (and) develop infrastructure here… That was most important to me. I don’t want a Band-Aid station on Homer Avenue.”
Her dad has been a role model. “He taught me: ‘You are going to live here, raise your family here and run your business here. You have to be engaged with what’s happening in town.’ He basically sent me down to United Way … ‘Go do something with them.’ That was my first board experience.”
She’s also on the Industrial Development Agency/Business Development Corp. board, among others.
Dave Hempson, retired senior vice president of Marietta Corp. in Cortland, was on the collaborative task force with her on CRMC.
“She is very open minded, is very willing to take input from others in order to made good decisions,” he said.
Buggs also was a firefighter for five years in the Cortlandville Fire Department and for two years in Virgil.
“In both places, I worked very hard on fire prevention programs,” she said.
She was also a Girl Scout leader and assistant for four years after being a member for nine years. That’s where she got her love of community service.
Within Hospital Aid, she helps organize the Charity Ball every year.
“In the prime of the organization, we would present a check to the foundation at the annual Charity Ball, for anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000.”
She and two friends decided to organize a relief effort for people affected by a hurricane in Texas. They filled two tractor-trailers full of goods, which were driven directly to those affected, according to the Puzzle Solvers group that has seen her in action helping their group fundraise for families with autistic children.
“The motto: An idea and two texts later, came relief for Texas,” Buggs said.
Buggs looks to her parents, Ken and Toni, for instilling her work ethic and her sister, Jennifer, for inspiration and first boss at Cortland County: Judy Davison, for support. “She always believed in me. She always encouraged me to work for what I wanted and what I believed,” Buggs said.
Davison, of Cortland, now retired, said Buggs never just sat at her desk — she was out in the community. She was a dedicated worker who loved every aspect of her job. She came up with new ideas. “Almost every time, she was right on the money with what would work best,” said Davison.