Lehigh Valley Business Women of Influence Award Lizette Epps

From left: Adonis Fleming, M.A.; Lizette Epps, MBA, CUDE; Winifred Gutierrez, MBA and Rodney S. Ridley, Sr., Ph.D., RTTP  

Community and economic development leader earns 2024 Women of Influence Award 

Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute Executive Director of Community & Economic Development Lizette Epps, MBA, CUDE was honored with the esteemed Lehigh Valley Business (LVB) 2024 Women of Influence Award. 


“To receive an award like this that serves to provide visibility, amplifying the voices of women from diverse backgrounds is a true honor,” said Epps. “Whenever we highlight the contributions of women across various fields and backgrounds, we not only promote gender equality but also encourage organizations and communities at large to recognize and appreciate the women working in these spaces. It’s exciting to be a part of a community that is dedicated to inspiring others and fostering a culture of recognition and celebration.”  


According to LVB, the Women of Influence identifies high-achieving women for their tremendous career accomplishments. The Women of Influence honorees are selected based on professional experience, community involvement and a commitment to mentoring.  


“This year’s Women of Influence demonstrate professional success and strong leadership. They break glass ceilings, inspire innovation, celebrate success and support the next generation of women leaders,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, managing director of BridgeTower Media/Lehigh Valley Business. “The 2024 Women of Influence are high-achieving women. They excel in their unique endeavors and inspire those around them, through their actions, their words and their deeds, to be the best.” 


During her time at Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development & Entrepreneurship, Epps established the Financial Lending & Innovation Collaborative (FLIC), a microgrant program that supports early-stage entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits. Since its inception in 2022 23 grants totaling $100,400 have been allocated to Berks County businesses through partnerships with participating financial institutions, foundations and private donors. FLIC partners include Berks County Commissioners, the County of Berks, Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks. Inc. Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Kutztown SBDC, Visions Federal Credit Union, Riverfront Federal Credit Union, Barrio Alegria and Alvernia University’s (AU) O’Pake Institute, where AU funding is courtesy of The PA 30-Day Fund, Schlouch Inc., and Allan Myers, Inc. Funded businesses are also required to match funding dollars or match goods and services to the community. 


“This prestigious recognition underscores Lizette's unwavering commitment to community empowerment and to local businesses,” said Vice President of Research, Economic Development & Innovation, and Chief Operating Officer of The O’Pake Institute, Rodney S. Ridley Sr., Ph.D., RTTP. “The development and execution of the FLIC microgrant program has resulted in the synergistic community efforts that have allowed us to have direct involvement in boosting economic development by supporting entrepreneurs and organizations in the City of Reading and Berks County.”  


Epps was also awarded first place at The BookFest Awards in the Non-fiction Category in Society & Social Sciences on Race, Class, Culture, & Religion for her book titled "Our Voices: Little Stories Through a Latina Lens," an anthology of short stories that offers a diverse glimpse into the lives of Latinx and Hispanic individuals in the United States. It celebrates and sheds light on the intersections of culture, heritage, and personal growth to foster a deeper understanding and empowerment of the multifaceted identities and experiences within the Latinx community. 


With over 28 years in procurement, credit union development, and nonprofit management through her works at Visions Federal Credit Union, Carpenter Technology Corporation, and the County of Berks, Epps has impacted numerous nonprofit organizations. She is a Certified Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) and the founder of Breadth of Hope, LLC, a consulting agency that empowers nonprofit organizations historically underserved communities.