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A thanks for helping make Smart Choices
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Dear Editor,

Thank you to all of the hosts, sponsors, speakers and volunteers for helping us to inspire, educate and empower young girls to make Smart Choices! I do believe that our first biannual Smart Choices: A Young Women’s Health and Wellness Initiative was a success.

Special thanks to Effingham Family Connection/Communities in Schools, Effingham Health System and United Way of the Coastal Empire for sponsoring the event. To Evelin Lopez, the banquet manager at Effingham Health System, your team did a wonderful job. The food was delicious.

Special thanks to the E-CONNECT staff: Stephanie Cheeks and Sondra Burns for their tireless efforts to prepare for this event. Stephanie Cheeks, marketing outreach coordinator, did a wonderful job creating a signature design for the Smart Choices t-shirts. Thank you also to Jessica Bonds, one of our previous interns, who returned just to help out with the event. We appreciate your dedication to the program and our efforts.

Thank you to keynote speaker Dr. Toni Sylvester for taking time to answer many of the girls’ questions and concerns about puberty and their changing bodies. You did a wonderful job making the girls feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Thank you to motivational speaker Brandi Cummings, news anchor/reporter for WTOC-TV, for inspiring the young girls to look beyond the drama of middle school and focus on their dreams and their futures. Endless gratitude to our speakers! I believe you not only made a memory, but a lasting impact in these girls’ lives.

We received such good feedback from the parents about the positive responses of their daughters after attending the three breakout sessions: KNOW body, Building Healthy Relationships and Skin Care and Personal Hygiene Tips, and the useful information that they received. Thank you to the moderators and timekeepers for keeping the rooms rotating like clockwork: Cindy Grovenstein, RN, Effingham County Health Department; Elaine Spencer, Effingham Family Connection/Communities in Schools; Ann Resto, executive director, Effingham Victim Witness Assistance Program; Officer Beatrice Conyers;  Bonnie Dixon, director, Effingham United Way Service Center; Erin Woodcock, Effingham County Schools social worker; Donna Davis, Mary Kay consultant, and Jackie Brown, Effingham County Schools social worker and homeless liaison.

Much appreciation goes out to Effingham Family Connection/Communities in Schools, Effingham County School Health Services, United Way’s HELP Program, AWWIN, Inc., Mary Kay and Savannah Speech and Hearing for the wonderful donations of books, toiletry items and food vouchers for the girls’ gift bags. Thank you to Linda Edenfield of Styles Hair Studio for the wonderful door prize.

Thank you to the 11 participating businesses/organizations below for making the event such a wonderful success:
Barnes & Noble
Effingham County School System
Effingham Victim Witness Assistance Program
HELP Program
Immunization Coalition
Pregnancy Care Center
Mary Kay
RSM Project & Effingham Health Dept.
Sam’s Club
Teezer’s Team Sports
Union Mission Counseling Center.

Thank you to the 23 volunteers and organization representatives, who helped to stuff gift bags, set up the arena and break-out rooms, blew up balloons, picked up supplies, passed out t-shirts, manned the sign-in tables and vendor tables and cleaned up after the event. The event seemed seamless with your assistance.

Of those volunteers, three students were from SEHS’s SADD program and two were from ECHS. Thank you all for being team leaders and directing the girls through the breakout sessions.

Thanks to everyone again for collaborating to create such a successful event! This was truly a team effort!

Destiny Bradshaw
Program Manager
Effingham Community Network Navigation Center and Hope for Everyone Looking for Provisions