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ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Woman Grocers of America (WGA) here will present Mary Ellen Gowin, v.p., consumer & corporate communications at Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp., with the WGA Woman of the Year Award tomorrow. Gowin will receive the award at the Chairman's Dinner and Gala of the 2008 National Grocers Association (NGA) Annual Convention and Supermarket Synergy Showcase in Las Vegas.
The WGA Woman of the Year award honors an industry woman whose leadership has contributed to her company's success. The recipient must be a member of the NGA and other industry organizations whose participation and involvement has contributed to the overall well-being of the grocery industry, as well as a community-focused citizen committed to serving the needs of her neighbors, associates, and customers through involvement in community and civic affairs.
Gowin, a 24-year veteran of the industry, was nominated by Wakefern e.v.p. Joseph Sheridan, who noted, "Through her leadership and guidance, Mary Ellen has had a profound effect on the culture at Wakefern -- helping it become one that is focused on doing the 'right thing' for all of its stakeholders; particularly helping it to become the customer-driven organization that is it today."
Among Gowin's accomplishments: expanding the role of consumer affairs to incorporate customer input into corporate decision-making; forming an internal customer satisfaction committee to help drive customer-focused improvement processes at retail; starting the company's first 800 number for customer service; creating a corporate mystery shopping program; establishing a consumer education function within the consumer affairs department, staffed by a home economist; developing recipe programs and community education seminars for meat, produce, and seafood; and developing the first in-store consumer information center, which includes information on food safety, portion size, seafood, and meat.
She also led the development of a corporate position for environmental issues by developing a bag reuse program for customers and establishing a relationship with environmental groups and providing support for their initiatives.
As for service to the community, Gowin has served on the board of directors of the Community Foodbank of New Jersey from 1999 through 2005 and is currently a member of the board of directors for the North Jersey Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Foundation of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. The organization's members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, and manufacturers and service suppliers.