Making connections: Chicks lend personal, professional support

May 2018 Posted in Business, Community

IMG_0533By Nancy Jennings

Connection. Action. Accountability. Love. Fun. Friendship. Service. Support. These words are the bywords of Silverton’s “Garden Chicks,” a group of women who meet weekly in downtown Silverton, “Oregon’s Garden City”.

Some come to make friends, while others give brief presentations about their home businesses. Some do both. But all show up to have fun and support each other. They recently collected stuffed animals to present to first responders in the Mount Angel and Silverton fire and police agencies.

Chicks Connect Founder Julie (“Jewels”) Muller, 48, started the “Chicks” groups in 2010. The “Garden Chicks” are a chapter of Chicks Connect Inc. Muller noticed that while most women took care of their children and aging parents – sometimes simultaneously — they struggled with asking for support for themselves.

“They always put themselves last on their ‘to-do’ list. I say, ‘let’s put ourselves first in this time we are together.’ When we ask for what we need or want, so many are willing and wanting to give.”

Asking for help or support is encouraged by using an “ASK,” an acronym for Accountability, Support and Kindness. Each week’s meeting itinerary includes listening to ASK requests.

For example, Muller recalled a member sharing she had a difficult time getting to the gym to work out. Another at the table just happened to have an old treadmill in her garage she no longer used. It was that simple – her ASK request was granted.Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 2.04.50 PM

Val Lemings, the group’s “Chair Chick,” leads the Friday morning meetings, which began one year ago at Main Street Bistro & Coffee. Lemings, 59, lives in Scotts Mills. An entrepreneur, she was “originally drawn to the group for its networking opportunities, but I stayed for the friendships.” She enjoys the nurturing camaraderie between the women and added the group isn’t “cliquey”.

“I just fell in love because it was only women — we could be more ourselves. This is a group with heart. They care for me as a person and it isn’t all about making money. It’s more about connecting and making friendships,” she said.

Canby resident Sandy Kralovec, 59, has been a member for 2 ½  years. She and Lemings started the Silverton “Chicks” together. “There’s two facets for me: It’s a big connection for my business. I get to meet new people all of the time. This is my support system. I go to five different ‘Chicks’ groups. These are my friends.”

Silverton resident Sherry Carlson, 49, joined because “I wanted to connect with other women who were in the same place that I am. It’s the most wonderful and supportive group I have ever been a part of.”

Silverton resident and registered dietitian Luanna Diller, 56, has been a member for 1 ½ years. “We need that connection of women. It’s an age-old thing where we need to share and just love on each other.”

Salem resident Agena Almero, 52, has been a member for 1 ½ years. She says she has developed many friendships and received emotional support while caring for her husband’s health issues. “Professionally, I’ve been able to sharpen my skills by being responsible for taking notes and translating them to post on our Facebook page. It really helps me with my listening skills and keeping focus.”

Newest Silverton member, Stacy Cooke, 34, works at Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in public education. She also works with a company called “Trades of Hope,” whose mission is to empower women out of poverty, sex trafficking or domestic violence. After sitting in on a ‘Chicks’ meeting, she was inspired by the networking opportunities that would encourage her to “step outside of my comfort zone.” To become a member or visit, contact Lemings at

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