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The Yankee Express

Women and a network add up to a recipe for success

Sep 07, 2022 05:04PM ● By Chuck Tashjian

 Heather Elster, executive director of the Whitin Community Center, says that while members of the Women’s Success Network “all have significant roles in the companies we work for, our subcommittees in the WSN enable us to share the workload.”


Individually, Alise Breton, Pat Baker, Carol Dauphinais, Heather Elster, Pat Hurton and other members of the executive committee of the Women’s Success Network are an impressive lot.

 A member of the Executive Committee of the Women’s Success Network, Carol Dauphinais, above, has operated the Grafton Country Store for approximately eight of its forty-two years in business.

Collectively, in pursuing the mission set out when the organization was founded with a push from Jeannie Hebert half a dozen or so years ago, they are a powerful tool for networking and a dynamic force for good in the community.

All are accomplished professionals in their own right.
Ms. Breton, who chairs the group, is vice president-retail director/social media manager with Millbury Federal Credit Union (MCU)—and a rising under-40 star. Ms. Baker is a senior vice president and operations administrator with UniBank. Ms. Dauphinais is owner and operator of the Grafton Country Store. Ms. Elster is executive director of the Whitin Community Center. Ms. Hurton is a tireless entrepreneurial-minded woman and main torch bearer for the WSN’s goals, which are to “support, unite and inspire” its members with events, programs and opportunities to connect. As Ms. Elster puts it “Pat is our inspirational leader and organizer.”
Ms. Hebert of course is president and CEO of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, of which the WSN is a part.
Ashley Daviau and Jessica Muradian are also on the WSN’s Executive Committee.
As the Women’s Success Network looks toward a resumption of business after the summer break, there are such happenings on the calendar as a cruise of Webster Lake, “Commerce on the Common” in Grafton, “maybe mentoring of women coming out of foster homes” and a breakfast with a keynote speaker, Ms. Hurton said on August 25th.
Karen Spencer, executive director of Girls on the Run Worcester County, relishes her involvement with the WSN and speaks highly of the impact it is making.
  “I know Heather Elster through the Whitin Community Center and she asked me to join the group and her committee (Community Support). She talked about the female empowerment piece of it and she thought it would be a good partnership for us. The community outreach piece appealed to me, and the networking. I think we don’t do enough of this.”
What Ms. Spencer likes best, though, is helping people.
“There is always a family in need or a veteran in need,” she says.
New mothers too, for whom the WSN recently ran a collection drive, as the organization is planning to do as well for senior citizens who may need assistance with housing, oil payments and other issues.
Members of the WSN came to the group in different ways.
“About five years ago I met Pat Hurton at a Chamber event and she mentioned they had started a network and asked if I was interesting in resurrecting it because it was struggling,” Ms. Breton said. “We really go off of the Chamber and the Chamber’s membership. It’s definitely given me an opportunity to create [relationships] that go beyond business. In such a male-dominated industry, I want women mentors. We are working on the mentoring part of it right now.”
Ms. Dauphinais was also recruited by Pat Hurton.
“Pat came here to interview me for a spotlight and how I survived Covid-19. Our doors were closed for three months but we were open on the inside, providing people with Easter baskets and then baskets for Mother’s Day too. It was just myself and my daughter.”
Ms. Dauphinais quickly embraced the Women’s Success Network, in part as a way to see how other women businesspersons were doing.
“I know how hard it is to own a business. You are operating 24/7 and if I can help out any other business I want to do that. If the Women’s Support Network can be a little branch of It Takes a Village, you are going to grab that opportunity.
“Pat Hurton is awesome. She kind of roped me in with her sweet talk!”
The WSN is just one of a number of organizations Ms. Elster belongs to. One of these is the Chamber. She is a member of the BVCC’s Board of Directors.
She is pleased to be a part of the WSN.
“It was a little challenging to get it going right before the pandemic but once we formed subcommittees we got rolling and I just brought a new member onto my subcommittee,” Ms. Ester said.
Unlike other networking groups, “we get in the dirt and dig together,” she said. “Packing boxes and bags. It’s more informal. Business after Hours can be a daunting.” Having a chance to meet at The Tavern in Grafton and then go shopping at Commerce on the Common (in November), “that was fun.
“We planted tulip gardens and we will be doing that again in October. We are starting a mentoring initiative. We have worked with 4H and the Girl Scouts. Much of what we do happens at the subcommittee level. We do a lot and we’re excited and passionate about it, about making a difference.”
For more information about the Women’s Success Network and how to join the group, go to

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.