Just 15 months after launching Our Community Mart grocery store in the 200 block of South Cicero Avenue, Pastor Bobby Butts of New Philadelphia Christian Ministries, 215 S. Cicero, has launched his latest business which seeks to feed the bodies and souls of young women.
What Every Girl Should Know, which held its first official meeting on Jan. 11, is a community outreach program aimed at offering mentoring and life lessons to girls throughout the Chicago area.
The program is run from the church and is organized by Kathy Johnson and Marjorie Mitchell-Givens, both members of the parish.
“Last October, Rev. Butts was giving a sermon about the need to start a program focused on empowering young ladies,” said Johnson, co-program director of the group with Givens. “I thought it was a great idea and decided to explore it further.
“So about a week later, I pitched my concept of starting a group from within the church that does just that. The reverend was very supportive of the venture and worked with me on the lesson plan in preparation for the launch.”
The group held its first open house in October attended by 19 girls between the ages of 10 and 18.
Currently, there are 13 girls in the class, which meets for two hours in the afternoon two Mondays a month until October.
Johnson says that since that the program is still in its experimental stages, she wants to limit the enrollment to its current roster and see where it stands after its first year.
The mission of the program is three-fold, Johnson said.
“First, we seek to empower the women from a spiritual standpoint,” she said. “I teach the ladies that regardless of what challenge they are faced with, they should first ask what God says about dealing with the issue.
“Second, we encourage women to rely on their feelings when making the serious decisions in their lives. Often times, women will not trust their own inner voice when facing obstacles in their lives out of concern for how it will impact others and what others might say. We want them to trust their feelings.
“Third, we want to show them how to build strong relationships, both with mentors and their families.”
The sessions will also offer the girls classes on career planning, sewing, cooking and self-defense from an instructor invited to the facility. The girls will also participate in a volunteer activity of their choice.
“We believe that giving back to the community is one of the most valuable lessons of all,” said Johnson. “We give them the option to choose which activity they prefer. Perhaps they want to give time to a shelter or convalescent home. It’s their decision.”
Mentoring young people on career choices is not an unfamiliar role for Johnson. She works as business technology instructor at Wilbur Wright Community College.
Last September, Johnson was invited to visit New Philadelphia Christian Ministries by Mitchell-Givens after a chance encounter between the latter’s place of employment, 3600 Condominium Association, where she is a front desk clerk.
“We really hit it off right away,” said Mitchell-Givens. “Shortly after we began attending services together at the church, she asked me about working with her on this program for young girls and I was very excited about it.”
Mitchell-Givens says she hopes the organization is able to continue beyond its inaugural year, but determining whether it will become a mainstay will be based on the response.
“I’m very optimistic that the program will help these young ladies develop their confidence and allow them to make the type of decisions that will affect their lives,” she said. “I want to instill in them the belief that they do not have to settle either personally or professionally for anything short of their goal.”
While the program is free for the pre-teen and teenage participants, Johnson is paying for the group’s expenses in its first year. Nevertheless, she says that “Lord willing,” if the program continues she will most likely apply for grants allowing her more activities for the girls.
“So far, the feedback from the parents and young ladies has been very positive,” said Johnson. “We’re really hoping that the group is successful.”