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VIProfile: Liz Bernard

By Angela Reeves

Liz Bernard is a woman of many talents, wearing more hats than most of us can imagine. She is the CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green, an entrepreneur, and 2018’s Ms. US and Ms. Woman Kentucky United States 2018-19, competing for Miss Kentucky for America later this year. Liz was born and raised in Columbia, KY, but has called Bowling Green home since moving here in 2000 to attend WKU, her daddy’s alma mater, where she studied Communications.

Liz’s younger brother, Joseph, suffered from Progeria and Restrictive Dermopathy, both extremely rare genetic disorders and passed away when they were small. From that, she forged the strongest family bond with her parents—mom, Betty, and dad, Ralph.

“We have always remained thick as thieves, and every good thing about me, is a direct reflection of my parents. I was always a daddy’s girl, and recently I have been learning to navigate a new normal, as he passed away February 10, 2020,” said Liz.

In 2009, Liz launched a women’s boutique, Zingarella, which was her childhood dream. “I am so proud of the brand I built and how well-loved it was in our community. I built some of the greatest relationships I will forever value and consider the greatest success of being a small business owner,” said Liz. During college, she worked as a Program Facilitator at Girls, Inc. In 2009, following the financial crisis, Girls Inc. and Boys & Girls Club of Bowling Green merged and Liz joined the board of directors where she served for eight years until being named the Interim CEO. At the time, she had temporarily closed her brick and mortar location of Zingarella, waiting on a new space to be completed, and was able to take on the Interim role. Liz said, “I had never considered staying beyond the time it took to find a new leader, but as each day passed, it became more apparent there was a reason things were working out the way they were.

It felt like I had a purpose to be in that role. So, I applied for and subsequently earned the permanent CEO role in July 2018.”

“Becoming the CEO of an organization where I was once a part-time college employee, is certainly a full-circle moment and a great accomplishment to me,” said Liz. She led the construction and opening of “the CLUB” Teen Center, a 1.2 million capital project, which is no easy feat for anyone, especially a new CEO. But no matter how many other facilities are built or what professional awards may come, to Liz the greatest accomplishment and success comes when you see kids realize their value and potential...when they start believing in themselves and begin using the tools given to carve out their own paths.

“The amount of love and inspiration I draw from the kids daily is immeasurable. Kids often do not get the credit they deserve. Grown-ups can grossly underestimate kids, and I think it’s unfortunate. Kids have boundless energy, insane creativity, the ability to speak clear, precise truths, see life through an unscathed lens, and they are so darn resilient. It’s incredible. To be in a position where I can elevate their voices and be a champion for them is incredibly cool. I am so thankful for that,” said Liz.

Liz is a proud Kentucky Colonel and an Adair County General. Being a Kentucky Colonel is representative of her service, and it is something she aspired to since childhood. She lives her life honorably and in service to her fellow man. She is the vice-president for the state board of directors of the Kentucky Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, a national member and founding president of the Kentucky chapter of The Professional Association of BGCA, member of the Bowling Green Junior Woman’s Club, Kiwanis Club, Bowling Green Young Professionals, and the Women’s Fund.

Through pageantry, she stands as an example to women that goals and dreams don’t have age limits. “If something brings you joy, makes you better, encourages you to thrive, and lifts others, what the heck does age have to do with it? I want to continue to empower girls and women to always be in pursuit of their personal joy and to live their lives fully,” said Liz.

Liz keep a tight, full schedule with meetings, professional engagements, and events, not liking to be idle. When she’s not working, she had plenty of hobbies to keep her busy including singing, performing an impersonation act of the legendary Dolly Parton, art and design, DIY projects, traveling, following WKU athletics, collecting vinyl albums, treasure hunting for vintage and antiques, pageantry, fashion, working out, politics, civic engagement, and spending time with her sweet mama. She doesn’t exercise a lot of down time because, as she says, in the words of Reese Witherspoon’s character, Melanie, in Sweet Home Alabama, “I got too much to live for!” The future holds many things for Liz, including continuing a position of service and being engaged in change making work, but adding entering public service and running for office, hopefully marrying and starting a family including foster parenting, relaunching a retail concept (this year), and social media influencing. No matter how the future unfolds, she chooses joy every single day!

With COVID-19 changing life as we now know it, Liz had to temporarily close the Club in alignment with schools. “We had to immediately invent an entirely new way to serve our kids from a distance. We have been successful thus far in creating a digital, cyber-based Club concept to support our families, but it is so hard being physically disconnected from the kids who need you most—the ones who rely on a daily snack, the relationships with mentors, academic support, and love,” said Liz. She encourages Bowling Green in the short term, to heed our Governor’s recommendations, and exercise selflessness during this to impact the greater good. “It’s hard, but we can do hard things,” she says. Longer-term, Liz asks to please continue to support our local non-profit agencies and small businesses in whatever capacity you can. “Southcentral Kentucky is full of critical non-profit agencies and incredible small businesses— they are the threads that bind the fabric of what makes SOKY great! Bowling Green is the biggest small town you’ll ever find. People share a sense of pride for our town and value each other as neighbors and friends. Let’s do what we can, when we can, where we can.”

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