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Threatened by spring floods, Girls’ Inc. delivers with 65th Anniversary Celebration


The final month leading up to the 65th anniversary of Girls Inc. of Memphis and its celebratory luncheon was filled with myriad challenges linked to the Great Flood of 2011. by Shawn Pachucki
Special to the Tri-State Defender

The final month leading up to the 65th anniversary of Girls Inc. of Memphis and its celebratory luncheon was filled with myriad challenges linked to the Great Flood of 2011.

With countless hours of planning completed and only four weeks left before the event, Girls Inc. received word that it would have to relocate the luncheon. Hope Presbyterian Church initially offered to host the event, but was forced to decline because its facilities were being used to provide much-needed shelter and relief for local flood victims.

Front Row: Tiara Woods, Skylar Dunlap; Second Row: Rahni Stewart, Faith Miller, Deneshia Poole, Tensia Amber Leakes; Third Row: Kim Cherry, Catherine Battle, Barbara Holden Nixon, Carolyn Hardy. (Courtesy photo)
“Our prayers obviously were with those displaced by the flood, and we definitely understood that our luncheon could not be a priority in this instance,” said Deborah Hester-Harrison, president of Girls Inc. of Memphis. “Nevertheless, we had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time to find a venue and alert hundreds of guests.”

Christ United Methodist came to the aid of the non-profit organization by hosting the June 9 luncheon and ensuring the special tradition would continue in its 65th anniversary year. With the stress of preparation pushed aside, Hester-Harrison and her team were able to deliver yet another inspirational moment to the organization’s historic legacy.

A who’s-who crowd, marked by hundreds of local civic leaders, business leaders and supporters of Girls Incorporated, packed into Christ United Methodist Church. Mayors A. C. Wharton of Memphis and Mark Luttrell of Shelby County were among the notables who delivered special proclamations declaring “Girls Inc. of Memphis Day.”

Girls Inc. began in 1946 when Lucille Devore Tucker founded what was then known as the Girls Club of Memphis. It now has two facilities and 11 programs in Memphis City Schools.

The highlight of the celebratory afternoon was the presentation of the 2011 Strong, Smart and Bold Awards. The awards are presented annually to local women whose character and career achievements make them inspirational role models for young females. This year’s recipients were: Strong Award, Kim Cherry, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications at First Tennessee Bank; Smart Award, Catherine Battle, Northwest Regional Superintendent, Memphis City Schools; and Bold Award, Barbara Holden-Nixon, Urban Child Institute Consultant.

Additional awards in the same categories were given to the following Girls Inc. participants: Strong Award, Faith Miller, South Park Center; Smart Award, Tiara Woods, South Park Center; and Bold Award, Tensia Leakes,  South Park Center. Special recognition was also given to Sklar Dunlap, Rahni Stewart and Deneshia Poole.

“We are extraordinarily proud of each of the women and girls chosen to receive special recognition during our luncheon. The standout effort of these types of individuals allows our program to continue to be a success for all of those who participate,” said Hester-Harrison.

(Girls Inc. provides research and outcome-based, age-appropriate programs in a variety of areas, including economic literacy, media literacy, teen pregnancy prevention, math and science. To learn more, visit www.girlsincmemphis.org.)

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