BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
Back in the 1960s, Wonder bread claimed that it could “build strong bodies twelve ways.” Girls Inc. is even more ambitious.
Since 1975, Girls Incorporated of Monroe County has been “inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold” through research-driven programming that helps more than 500 girls each year to reach their full physical and intellectual potential. In honor of its 35th anniversary, Mayor Mark Kruzan declared November 4, 2010, as “Girls Inc. Day” in Bloomington.
“Girls Inc. [formerly Girls Club] traces its roots back to 1864 when it existed to help girls become better wives and mothers. We’ve come a long way,” says Lee Ann Jourdan, Girls Inc. executive director of the local affiliate. “We have programs in sports and adventure, math and science, leadership and community action, arts, health, and sexuality—
categories that [constitute] the whole girl.”
Girls Inc., which has 100 affiliates in the U.S. and Toronto, and an advocacy office in Washington, D.C., develops programs in accordance with research findings of its national resource center in Indianapolis. “The research informing Girls Inc. programming is done right up the road from us. Training is easily accessible for our staff and volunteers,” says Jourdan.
Among the Monroe County affiliate’s programs that have garnered national recognition is Operation SMART, a partnership with the Indiana University Department of Chemistry, which builds girls’ skills in science, math, and relevant technology (hence the acronym).
Girls Inc. local board president, Dana Cummings, credits strong community support and a large volunteer force with the organization’s outreach and success. “It’s amazing what they do on a slim budget and staff of four people,” says Cummings, who got involved with Girls Inc. as a volunteer at its 2008 Holiday Hoopla fundraiser. “I connected with the group and its mission, even though I’m the mother of two boys. I want to do my part to help future women balance careers, motherhood, etcetera. I wish there had been something like this for me when I was a girl.”
A membership fee of $55 entitles a girl to participate in afterschool activities at Girls Inc. for an entire year. Additional fees are charged for sports leagues and summer camps. Scholarships are available.
For more information about Girls Incorporated of Monroe County programs and upcoming events, visit girlsinc-monroe.org or call 336-7313.