Growing up in Greenville, Miss., Jolana Aibangbee knew she wanted to help others because of the help given to her and her family.
“There were a lot of strangers who showed kindness to me. And I remember thinking that they didn’t know me, and they didn’t know my family. But they helped,” she said.
In light of that, she graduated with a degree in social sciences in 2005 from Delta State University and then went on to complete a master’s degree in community development there in 2007.
A member of the Delta State Hall of Fame, Aibangbee was named one of the Top 30 Business Leaders in the Mississippi Delta under 30 in 2006.
In 2009, Aibangbee took a job as fund development coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas, then worked as director of development for Life Styles Inc. and then for the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Benton County. With her direction, fundraising at the CAC nearly doubled to more than $1 million in less than four years.
In November 2017, she joined the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter and was named president in June.
In her role, Aibangbee wants “to spread awareness about our organization and about domestic violence, so it isn’t a stigma. By raising awareness we make it OK for people to start asking for help,” she said.
Aibangbee hit the ground running at the shelter, getting the organization on solid financial footing, differentiating income streams so as not to solely rely on government grants and “changing the narrative inside and outside the walls of the organization,” said Ashley Abel, a board member.
A first degree black belt in martial arts, Aibangbee has two sons, ages 16 and 17, adopted out of foster care.