Girl Friends help children reach academic potential

Volunteers/Where good neighbors get together

August 06, 1991|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

FOR FIVE years, members of the Baltimore Chapter of Girl Friends Inc. have volunteered to the Baltimore Urban League's Project for Equal Results, which is designed to strengthen educational performance of minority public school students in grades two through five.

It brings students, educators, community organizations and others together in alliance with the schools to help the students achieve their academic potential.

The Girl Friends volunteer to the Ashburton Elementary School where they teach the students French, Latin and dramatics. They also donate reading materials to the school library, help fund field trips, judge reading festivals, participate in career awareness programs, host the annual Christmas party, act as advocates for the improvement of the school buildings and more.

Last May, they received the National Urban League's Eighth Annual Regional Volunteer Services Award. And, on July 21 in Atlanta, the Girl Friends received a certificate of recognition at the annual conference of the National Urban League's Volunteer Recognition Breakfast.

''Our rewards are in helping others,'' says Odelle Rea, who has been a member of Girl Friends for 25 years and will become its president in September. She was responsible for getting the Girl Friends involved in the Urban League's program at Ashburton.

Rea is retired as a Baltimore County school administrator and is now serving the Urban League as co-director, with Carolyn Boston, for the Project for Equal Results. The two handle and initiate programs in 15 elementary public schools and also enlist volunteers.

The Baltimore Urban League is a charitable and educational agency, governed by an interracial board and staff with a mission to improve social and economic conditions of African Americans and other minority group members and the poor in Baltimore. They work with a number of other agencies.

''We have 24 organizations working with our program, and we have just initiated a parent peer support program,'' says Rea, 63, who welcomes volunteers and inquiry. Call her, or Boston, at 523-8150.

Girl Friends was formed in 1927 by a group of black New York professional women. Baltimore's chapter, which has 27 members, was the third chapter and opened in 1930. Today there are approximately 40 chapters throughout the United States.

''One of the first members of the New York chapter was Thurgood Marshall's first wife, who died from cancer. He helped with incorporating the organization,'' says Rea.

Other members of the group include Trena Brown, Georgeanna Chester, Carolyne Chissell, Lynette Davis, Sara Gray, Mae Howell, Frances Jolley, Judith Kerr, Agnes Patterson, Sheila Richardson, Elizabeth Stewart, Dolores Strett, Carolyn Wainwright, Catherine Waters and Catherine Wilson.

The group gives three hours each week to the Ashburton Elementary School.

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