Karen Darby – EMPOWER Conference Speaker

Wealth Management Advisor, Jacobi Capital Management

Presentation: Take Up Space

In this session, Karen focuses on you and how you show up in the room. Are you present and part of the conversation? As women we need to get out of our own way and go after what we want. Join Karen to learn about the past, evaluate today, and create our tomorrow with all our voices. Your voice is special and deserves to be heard.


Karen joined Jacobi Capital Management in 2021 following an eight-year career in the financial services industry. Her natural interest in helping people led her to pursue a career as a financial advisor. Karen started her career as a financial advisor at MassMutual Eastern Pennsylvania focusing on helping families that have a loved one with special needs plan for their futures.

Karen works with individuals, families and business owners who are often too busy and overwhelmed with all the decisions that go into building and preserving wealth. She is passionate about educating her clients and being a resource for them. As a single mother to 2 young boys she understands the challenges her clients face especially during a time of transition. When working with her clients she takes them through a simple process to uncover their goals and help them automate their savings so they can focus on what’s important to them.

Karen is very involved in her community and enjoys donating her time to various causes and nonprofits. She is a member of the Pittston Rotary Club and the 2020 Women on Boards Wilmington Leadership Committee. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, yoga, and her favorite, Friday date nights with her sons, Levi and Tyler.

Elika Almeida – EMPOWER Conference Speaker

Motivational Speaker & Life Coach

Presentation: Am I in Burn Out? Understanding the Stress Cycle and Breaking the Patterns that Lead to Burnout

Burnout is the state of mind that comes with long-term, unresolved stress that negatively affects your work, your health – including mental health – and your life. Understanding when you are in burnout, accepting that you are in burnout, and learning how to manage it is the formula to a more fulfilling life. In this session, Elika shares strategies to help you understand burnout and how to come out on top. You’ll be surprised at how simple it is.


Elika Maria Almeida is a motivational speaker, life coach, and advocate for women and youth with a mission to help them find and use their voices to create and drive positive change in their communities and the world at large.

As a young mom at the age of 18, Elika knew that she would one day be a business owner. In 1999, she realized that goal by launching EA Wedding Planner & Elysian Events, which still thrives.  Her love and passion for helping youth comes from her own experiences of not feeling seen or heard. In 2009, Elika co-founded a non-profit called Youth Infusion, focusing on service-learning, social-emotional learning, and school-based youth programming fulfilling her philanthropic heart and commitment to providing youth with a platform to be seen and heard.

Her move to the Pocono Mountains, PA, from New Jersey left Elika looking for employment in the corporate world, while remaining involved with her philanthropic endeavors, and her passion for helping youth and women in business was always at the forefront.

A significant life setback put Elika on her current path as a motivational speaker and life coach. In 2019, she thought she was entering the next stage of her corporate career but was unexpectedly fired. Simultaneously, she suffered the loss of a wonderful young woman and friend to leukemia.

It didn’t take long to realize it was time for her life to go in a new direction. She was burnt out and had spent years in the corporate world being mistreated as a woman. Being fired at such a critical point in her life was a true blessing in disguise. “What am I going to do next?” played on a loop in her mind every single day for months. She was free to do anything; the world was her oyster.

Throughout her journey of self-reflection, she found consistent love and support through a circle of strong women. One day, she had an “Aha!” moment. When women speak, change happens. Her new mission was going to be using her voice. There is tremendous power in connecting, engaging, and supporting other women.

This moment led to the H.E.R!, Heal. Empower, Rise! podcast and her new life goal to use her voice to connect with and support other women. After launching the podcast, she began speaking at community events like Women in Business luncheons and serves as the Pocono Mountain Chamber of Commerce’s Chairwoman for the Women in Business Council. Since then, she hasn’t stopped speaking up for women and youth. Elika lives in Monroe County, PA with her summer love, her husband, Jorge. They have two grown children, Angelika and Jorge, a strong-willed little chihuahua, Belle and a flock of 11 chickens, who brought them so much joy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Katie Leonard – EMPOWER Conference Speaker

President & CEO, Johnson College

Presentation: Wanted: Women Who Work

This session covers topics that are close to Dr. Katie Leonard’s heart, including how women affect the workforce, how the workforce affects women, what or who sabotages your success, how to overcome obstacles, and most importantly, how to mentor others and help yourself, so you stay in the workforce and thrive. A lot goes into empowering oneself, and during this session, you’ll learn how to rock it!!!


Dr. Katie Leonard joined Johnson College in January of 2007 as the College’s Coordinator of Grants and Annual Fund. From there, she had continued success in fundraising and community outreach, which led to several positions within the College leading up to her becoming Executive Vice President, overseeing all campus operations.

In her time with the College, Dr. Leonard formed industry relationships, reestablished the alumni program, increased annual giving, and initiated the College’s rebranding in 2011. She executed the College’s first-ever capital campaign in 2013, which raised, comprehensively, over $5 million to build the new Health Science Technology Center on campus, the College’s largest building project to date. After a nationwide search, Dr. Leonard was selected Johnson College’s 8th President & CEO in January of 2018.

Under Dr. Leonard’s leadership as President & CEO, Johnson College joined the rankings of premiere technical education in 2018 by being ranked #10 on Forbes Top 25 Two-Year Trade Schools. Two new programs, Heavy Equipment Technology and Building Property Technology, have been developed and have started accepting students. Total donor investments in the College have reached over four million dollars, and the College has received over 2.8 million dollars in grants awarded. The College continues to enhance its relationships with new and long-standing industry partners and continues to develop ways to get students into the workforce faster through programs like Industry Fast Track and Industry Immersion. In 2021 the College reached record enrollment numbers for the third year in a row and was granted accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The College will launch four new academic programs during the 2021-2022 academic year.  

Dr. Leonard holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from York College of Pennsylvania, a Master of Arts degree in organizational leadership from Mansfield University, and a doctorate of education from Capella University. Before bringing her talents to Johnson College, Dr. Leonard held multiple positions in York, PA, working with government officials and non-profit organizations. In York, she was the Executive Director of Downtown Inc., York’s Main Street Program. Dr.  Leonard has also made significant contributions to the community outside of her roles with Johnson College. She serves on the board of directors of NeighborWorks of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Outreach Center for Community Resources, Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and serves as a Trustee for her undergraduate alma mater, York College of Pennsylvania.

You’re Invited: Scranton Economic Development Town Hall

The City of Scranton is developing a Strategic Economic Development Plan which will serve as an actionable and forward-looking vision to build upon the initiatives already underway throughout Scranton. The City and their partners at Fourth Economy Consulting are taking a stakeholder driven approach to the planning process by incorporating numerous community engagement opportunities, including one-on-one interviews and small group discussions. 

A summary of the team’s key quantitative and qualitative findings to-date can be found here.

In December, Fourth Economy hosted a series of Build Sessions – interactive workshops where community stakeholders came together to brainstorm and build solutions that will shape the Strategic Economic Development Plan. The workshops covered the following topic areas:

  • Industry
  • Talent Attraction & Retention
  • Community Identity & Neighborhood Reinvestment
  • Infrastructure
  • Housing

As follow up, the City of Scranton and Fourth Economy will be hosting a town hall meeting to share outputs from the Build Sessions and gather feedback on the initiatives that have been identified to date and insights into what may be still outstanding.

You’re invited to participate in this Town Hall on Thursday, January 20 at 8:30 a.m. It will be a virtual session open only to our collective membership. 

Once you register, you will receive a confirmation email with a calendar invite.

Apply for Leadership Fundamentals 2.0

Our affiliate Leadership Lackawanna is hosting Leadership Fundamentals 2.0 — an 8-week virtual course that will provide advanced leaders with an innovative and flexible online learning experience – complete with a variety of personal and professional development skills.  The program begins February 14, 2022 and ends April 8, 2022.

Participants can work on weekly course content at their own pace.  There are eight mandatory Zoom meetings: February 15 and 22, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 and April 5 (every Tuesday from 12-1 p.m.).

MetroAction Launches COVID Recovery Loan Program

MetroAction, Inc. – the non-profit, small business financing affiliate of the Chamber – announced its launch of the Lackawanna County COVID Recovery Loan Program, created to provide capital to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program provides low-interest loans to Lackawanna County businesses for working capital purposes. Eligible uses include, but are not limited to, lease or mortgage payments, utility payments, payroll, and other operational expenses. In addition, businesses can use the loan capital to purchase machinery, equipment, or technology that will allow the business to expand its operations.

The program will provide loans up to $25,000 at 1% to Lackawanna County businesses adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic. The term for the loans will be 36 months with a 3 month payment deferral. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose great challenges for our small business community. This fund was established to support Lackawanna County businesses with day-to-day operations as well as growth opportunities,” stated Jack Reager, MetroAction President. 

Funding is limited for this loan program.  Applications will be funded on a first approved, first funded basis. 

Funding for this program was provided by Lackawanna Industrial Fund Enterprises (LIFE), Lackawanna County, the Hawk Family Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

Businesses can apply and find additional program information on www.metroaction.org.

OSHA’S Vaccine and Testing Standards for Employers

Businesses with 100 employees or more must comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). To meet the requirements of the ETS, employers must either:

  1. Establish a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, OR
  2. Adopt a policy requiring employees to get vaccinated or have them get regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work instead of getting vaccinated.

As a trusted voice in the business community, please share this information with as many employers as possible to help them understand and meet this federal requirement.

Federal Guidance

On Dec. 18, 2021, OSHA released new guidance for the ETS after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay on the standard.

OSHA will not enforce any requirements under the ETS until Jan. 10, 2022. Additionally, the agency will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before Feb. 9, 2022, so long as an employer is exercising responsible, good faith efforts to meet the standard. Federal guidance states that employers can mandate vaccinations for staff. To support vaccinations, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) will continue to oversee a Commonwealth-wide vaccination program, and employers are invited to refer any staff seeking vaccination to one of the hundreds of Pennsylvania clinics providing vaccines.

Readiness Guide for Pennsylvania Employers

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has prepared a Readiness Guide for Pennsylvania Employers about the OSHA ETS. In the guide you will find detailed information about:

  • Vaccinating employees
  • Testing employees
  • Support from the PA Department of Health
  • List of U.S. employers with vaccine mandates
  • Information on differences in NAAT and Antigen Tests


If you have questions related to the OSHA ETS on COVID-19 vaccination and testing, visit the OSHA website or reference the Frequently Asked Questions.

Chamber Hires Workforce Development Specialist

The Chamber is proud to announce the addition of Emily Pettinato as the workforce development specialist for Skills in Scranton, the Chamber’s workforce development affiliate.

In this role, Pettinato supports workforce development and talent recruitment initiatives for Skills in Scranton, including managing programs like Workforce Wednesday, Educator in the Workplace, Industry Career Camp, and more. Pettinato’s responsibilities include coordination and implementation of programs with educational institutions and businesses, securing grant and funding opportunities, managing analytics, developing relationships with key workforce segments, and more.

Pettinato has worked in education as a teacher assistant for multiple organizations, as well as having varied experience in communications and business development. Pettinato earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Moravian College and is currently earning her MBA in business administration.

Leadership Lackawanna Hires Program Coordinator

The Chamber is proud to announce the addition of Jennifer Strzelec as program coordinator for its affiliate Leadership Lackawanna, the area’s premier community leadership and professional development organization.

In this role, Strzelec primarily supports the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today program – a seven-month initiative for high school juniors. This includes recruitment, marketing, evaluations, and administrative support.

Strzelec has several years of experience as a preschool aide at Bright Beginnings Preschool in Mt. Cobb and at the YMCA in King George, Virginia. She also served in the United States Army in the avionics division at both Fort Hood in Texas and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

Strzelec earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Temple University and is currently earning her MBA at West Chester University.