Donations and volunteer support are critical to success of Girls Inc. of Kingsport

Katina Rose • Jan 21, 2013 at 2:37 AM

It has been said, "It takes a village to raise a child," and a visit to Girls Inc. of Greater Kingsport, or a conversation with anyone involved there, is a validation of that statement.

Girls Inc. is a safe place where girls from ages 5 to 18 can learn life skills, receive tutoring and healthy meals, and form bonds with other girls. The staff and volunteers at Girls Inc. create a caring family atmosphere by serving a need, filling a void or providing whatever they can to help a young lady mature and stand strong in her identity.

"We fill in gaps that are not being fulfilled from home, school or society. We create a whole girl, a girl that is strong, smart and bold," said Emily Thompson, president of the board of directors at Girls Inc.

On an average day, after school, approximately 110 girls walk through the doors of Girls Inc. to find smiling faces and warm hugs. After arriving on a Girls Inc. van that picks the girls up from school (and later will take many of them home), the girls are offered a mini-meal or healthy snack prepared by caring volunteers. Afterwards, the girls have the option to participate in a variety of programs or to receive tutoring assistance. Considering the girls range in ages from 5 to 18, the need for a variety of tutoring services is prevalent.

Since Girls Inc. is a program-based facility, it provides a wide range of classes to reinforce life skills that can be carried on into their futures. The girls learn how to sew, knit, cook and enjoy a variety of recreational sports.

During the summer months, approximately 130 girls are welcomed at Girls Inc. on any given day and follow a structured program of classes, activities and local field trips, and receive breakfast, lunch and dinner there.

With only two full-time and eight part-time staff members, and its devoted volunteers, the passion and love of the mission is what enables Girls Inc. to be successful and accomplish everything it does. Several of the staff members attended Girls Inc. as children and Thompson’s first experience with Girls Inc. came at the age of 15 in the form of an internship. Years later, she is still there and now serves as the president of the Board of Directors.

Witnessing the transformation Girls Inc. can create in a child is the reason why so many return to give back to other children.

The fees for Girls Inc. are based on a sliding scale and everyone pays something. Over 90 percent of the girls are from single-parent homes with annual incomes of less than $20,000 a year. Girls from single-father households make up over 20 percent of the population, hence the need for strong women role models in their lives, while 19 percent of the girls are in the custody of neither parent.

Christine Yankee’s 7-year-old daughter attended Girls Inc. last summer and attends periodically after school, although not as much since Yankee recently lost her job and is experiencing health issues. Yankee knows the staff at Girls Inc. take extra precautions and care with her daughter, who has Type 1 Diabetes.

"The staff members do their best to make sure no one is ever left out of any activities. My daughter loved the field trips in the summer and they put on the cutest shows with the girls singing and dancing. They provide my daughter well-rounded socialization skills and teach her life skills, while at the same time taking extra special care of her," said Yankee.

The United Way of Greater Kingsport provides 49 percent of the funding for Girls Inc., but the rest of its budget comes from private and corporate donations and fundraisers. There is always a running list of items that need to be repaired in the building, vans to be filled with gas, supplies and food needed for the girls, and grounds maintenance. It is common, and has become necessary for the staff to wear many hats including everything from tutor and life skill teacher to custodian.

Any monetary donation is appreciated, and even an offer to fill up a van once a month would mean so much to everyone involved at Girls Inc. In addition, donating your time, money or skills demonstrates to a group of deserving girls how to give back to their own community now and in the future. To learn more about Girls Inc., call 423-247-2321.

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