Meridian Star

Local News

February 23, 2014

Organization to honor community's Women Who Rock

MERIDIAN —     From encouraging residents to vote to being trailblazers in fields previously untraveled, Meridian is a cornucopia of "Women Who Rock" in the community.

    "There are many women in this community doing marvelous works, and they are flying under the radar," said Patricia Flowers. "These women go above and beyond for their churches, jobs, political candidates, neighborhoods, organizations and the community in general."

    Wanting to give these women their due credit, Flowers, founder of R.A.P. (Rise Above Poverty) Inc., has – along with other members of the nonprofit organization – established the Women Who Rock Unsung Sheroes under the subcommittee WOMEN ROCK.

    "We want to celebrate women and restore a sisterhood spirit that has been lacking in these tumultuous times," Flowers said.

    R.A.P. Inc. provides grants, volunteer opportunities, education and information to empower impoverished families to rise above poverty.

    "We believe that when people exhaust their wealth and are reduced to poverty they can rise above it with assistance, nurturing and education," Flowers said.

    During Hurricane Katrina, R.A.P. Inc. secured grant money to help families with rent, building ramps and roof repairs. In the last three years, the organization has placed more than 1,500 in barber shops throughout Meridian through the initiative BBOB (Boys Booked On Barbershops). The books may be kept by the boys who read them.

    Looking for a way to promote sisterhood throughout the Meridian community, the idea for Women Who Rock evolved.

    "A  couple of years ago, we were talking about that sisterhood spirit and how it was really lacking here ... And that we really needed to do something about it; but what can we do?" Flowers said.

    After several failed attempts to organize a women's conference, the organization decided to honor local women.

    "There are so many women who are out there doing the work, and they go unrecognized until they die," Flowers said.

    It was decided that instead of having a conference for women to come to take the message of sisterhood to the women.

    On March 6 and 7, 12 women will be recognized as the Women Who Rock Unsung Sheroes for 2014.

    "We will visit their workplaces and present them gift baskets and a plaque just to tell them thank-you and to remind them that they are definitely Sheroes," Flowers said. "We hope to make this an annual event."

    The Women Who Rock Unsung Sheroes for 2014 are:

    • Barbara Kidd. She has supported people who are trying to be entrepreneurs by using her marketing skills. Kidd loves children and has provided so much help with her program and “She has been a blessing to me and my husband,” said one individual.

    • Laura Hyche. She taught for more than 25 years at Meridian High School and continues to be a light to so many of the young people she taught. Ask her for a letter of recommendation and she will have it before the hour is up. Hyche continues to share her knowledge and love of the community teaching at Meridian Community College and University of West Alabama.

    • Margie Faye Tisdale. During the mayoral election, “Margie Faye,” as she is affectionately known, knew so many people who had so much respect for her as she would talk to them about the campaign and the importance of voting. Additionally, she registered a number of people and never complained about being tired after walking those neighborhoods.

    • Syria Sturdivant. When Sturdivant was teaching and saw there was a need for more people of color at law schools, she decided to become a lawyer and has been a light to many of the young lawyers in our community today. Very active at St. Paul United Methodist Church and the Democratic party.

    • Pastor Mary Johnson. Never afraid to go up against the “gang bangers,” Johnson is a violence interrupter and knows the importance of trying to create peace in the streets. She is constantly reaching out to young people and families who want to get off the streets. Johnson goes in her pocket to help when she can. Although she does not pastor a physical church, she is passionate in spreading the word of the gospel.

    • Brenda Fortson. Although her “regular” job is helping people, Fortson goes above and beyond to assist the people who come to her with requests. Her giving spirit to help with bus passes, food, books and so many things that people need is so great that she sometimes will make the purchase herself. Fortson takes great care of her mom and loves this community and wants people to succeed.

    • Timaria Mosley. She is one of the young honorees who has faced some adversity. Lots of death in her family, yet through it all she is working and going to nursing school to become a registered nurse and follow in the footsteps in her mother, who is on track to becoming a doctor.

    • LaToria Brown. Goes above and beyond for political candidates, helping with events at the park making sure everything is needed to make the event successful. An advocate for keeping an eye on the neighborhood and helping with so many community projects while raising her family and working.

    • Melba Clark. Taught many Meridianites and continues to educate via her church newsletter. Her entrepreneurial spirit encourages others that they can build a business. Clark started the Unifam Church newsletter more than 15 years ago and it continues to flourish. After her husband and son died, she still managed to smile and keep both businesses going. Clark is willing to give you a chance and will educate you along the way. The amount of history she has in her brain about this community can fill a book and she is always willing to share stories.

    • Johnnie Hopson. Goes above and beyond at church – typing the program, directing the choir, cleaning the church, serving as the recording steward – and will go into her pocket for those extra offerings. Newell Chapel CME Church has a gem in her. At her regular job, the senior citizens love Ms. Johnnie. She plans great trips for them. She will pick you up and take you places without ever asking for a dime. Hopson takes care of her mom and is always looking out for her sister. In the face of adversity she never misses a beat still smiling and doing her work.  

    • Diana Kendricks. An active Elks Daughter and member of the Council of Organizations, Kendricks love to give. She is a mover and shaker, never looking for accolades. More than 10 years ago, she started the Queen Bees – a group for young girls – and goes into her pocket to make sure they keep doing all the things necessary to become good citizens. The Queen Bees volunteer for many events in the community under Kendricks' direction.  

    • Patricia Merriweather. When she saw a need in her neighborhood for young children needing something to do, she opened her doors and began to tutor while taking care of her grandbabies. She began an exercise class at her church, Community Outreach, and helps organize the Sunday nursing home visits in which they give fruit baskets. During the holidays, Merriweather partnered with Mt. Zion Baptist Church to feed more than 300 people.

    If you would like to recommend someone for Women Who Rock Unsung Sheroes, email Flowers at patricia@riseabovepoverty.org

    For more information about R.A.P. (Rise Above Poverty) Ic., visit the website www.RiseAbovePoverty.org

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