When Betty Merritt stands before hundreds of women Saturday as the keynote speaker at "A Women's Wellness Forum," she'll talk about empowering people to renew themselves and find new purposes in their lives.
Merritt left the high stress world of the computer industry, where she was vice president of Network Services Division of Automatic Data Processing, and founded her retreat-renewal lodge, the Merritt Center, in Payson in 1987.
And she's never looked back.
Since opening her lodge off Highway 260 on Valley Road, Merritt has welcomed people from all over the world to her workshops, classes and retreats, offering healthy meals and insightful programs to men and women of all ages.
Saturday, at the Payson High School Auditorium, Merritt will talk about a subject that's close to her heart and her own life.
"They've asked me to talk about balance," she said. "I find that real interesting."
Merritt said she has spent a lifetime balancing the many aspects of her world, juggling work, family and personal needs.
"I'll talk about balancing the inside of your life with the outside," she said. "A lot of time we get guidance for the outside from the inside."
At the wellness forum, where women will come to learn how to prevent or cope with disease, Merritt said she hopes the participants take away with them a sense of responsibility for taking care of themselves.
"It's important to own our lives so we can take care of ourselves," she said. "We need to be informed and be willing to educate ourselves to be able to integrate what we learn into our decision-making process."
Merritt said about 75 percent of the people who attend programs and workshops at the Merritt Center are women.
"Women create an alternative perspective to political, lifestyle and health issues that we haven't had before," she said.
She said a person's belief system aids in his or her healing, that what works for one person might not work for another, and that people should look at all options for treatment.
"I want to work with people before they feel they are hopeless and helpless," she said. "It's important to offer people the opportunity to renew and be empowered into a new person with a new purpose.
"That's my belief system. That's where I come from."
The Women's Wellness Forum --presented by Payson Regional Medical Center and the Mogollon Health Alliance --takes place Saturday, April 29, at the Payson High School Auditorium beginning at 8 a.m. The workshops are free and include a continental breakfast and a luncheon.
Five 50-minute sessions will be offered. Presenters are:
• Gail Phylow, FNP and James Cord, MD -- Breast Care: Phylow, a family nurse practitioner and physician assistant, owns and operates the Pine-Strawberry Medical Clinic where she specializes in family practice. Cord practiced at Thomas David Medical Centers in Tempe and currently serves as president of Maricopa Urology Lithotripsy, Inc.
• Molly Moore, RN -- Holistic Alternatives to Menopause: Moore is attending Clayton University where she is working on her Doctorate of Naturopathy. She has worked for Advanced Cardiac Specialists since 1998.
• Charles Calkins, MD --Healthy Bones: Calkins is currently affiliated with Scottsdale Memorial Hospital and PRMC and is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
• Penny Navis-Schmidt, ACSW --Coping with Stress: Navis-Schmidt, a clinical social worker, has lived and worked in Payson for 21 years and began her private practice in 1990, offering individual, couple, family and group counseling.
• Mark Studdard --Healthy Cooking: Studdard is a registered dietician, currently employed as director of dietary at PRMC.
• Brian Peters, MD --Colon Cancer: Peters practiced general and vascular surgery in Kentucky before relocating to Payson.
Registration for the wellness forum is from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Three sessions of 50-minute workshops start at 9:10 a.m. and continue until noon. From noon until 2 p.m., a luncheon will be provided, a vendor show with products, brochures and information, and a chance to socialize.
For information on A Womens' Wellness Forum, call Phyllis Spradlin at 472-2588. Attendance is limited to the first 300 women.