story and photos by Ruby Dean
Approximately 100 guests came to help Girls Inc. of Fort Smith celebrate its 80th birthday on Saturday (April 26) at the Nancy Orr Center. Guests included current and former members and employees.
In 1934, Girls Inc. of Fort Smith was established to meet the needs to area girls. The Belle Grove Center was opened and served as a place to provide clothing, health needs, and recreation for the “under privileged” girls. In 1970, the Nancy Orr Center was built on Old Greenwood Road. Until 2007, both centers provided to the Fort Smith community.
Now, the Nancy Orr Center serves as the center of operation. After 80 years of working with the Fort Smith community, Girls Inc. looks forward to continuing their efforts to make every girl strong, smart, and bold.
“In trying to meet every girls’ need we are working on a strategic plan to build a new location at Chaffee Crossing. During the summer, Girls Inc. has to turn girls away. Last year, 406 girls were served and registration stopped at 300. Every day, Girls Inc. serves 180 girls with 99% of those girls being picked up,” said Amanda Daniels, executive director of Girls Inc.
“The new location will provide approximately 23,084 square feet and with both locations Girls Inc. would be able to serve 700-800 girls,” Daniels explained. “This strategic plan is a goal of being completed in five years. It could also be utilized by larger companies for meetings in the classrooms.”
Two former members and scholarship recipients spoke to the guests. They spoke of their fondest memories of their time at Girls Inc.
Talicia Richardson told of the “hope, inspiration, knowledge and sisterhood” she felt at the Fort Smith Girls Inc. Her face lit up when talking about her time there. She feels gratitude for the people on the board who believed in her dream of going to Spelman College in Atlanta. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science in sociology and pre-law from Spelman, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of Arkansas.
Morgan Kremers said the scholarship she was awarded “allowed her to go to the colleges of her choice.” Morgan has a bachelor’s degree in science in education from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree from Northeastern State University.
Morgan said Girls Inc. helped foster her love to teach children. She is a first grade teacher at Fairview in Fort Smith. Girls Inc. helped inspire high self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image. She said the qualities helped her to play soccer and be on the cheerleading team in high school.