When the idea for Girl Power first emerged during a “pow wow” session with her daughter Iyanla, back in September 2012, Executive Director Denise Mosley knew she was on to something special.
The group’s mission to inspire girls ages 11-19 to be strong, smart and bold; plus offer programs to equip them with the tools to be leaders at school and the community received a phenomenal response from the surrounding area - and nationwide. Mosley tested the waters in June 2013 by holding a week-long summer workshop. More than 60 girls, plus their parents, immediately signed up for camp.
“It skyrocketed,” Mosley said. “It went so well. The energy was amazing. No one wanted to see it end. Everyone was like, ‘what now? Where do we go from here?’ It was a surprise and a shock.”
Riding that momentum, Mosley planned a “Back to School Impact” event for Girl Power to host that August. In September, the group, including young women from across the country, went on a retreat. During both events, Mosley brought in professionals to talk to the girls about dating, peer pressure and self esteem. Both events, Mosley said, were well received.
“Relationships and the sisterhood (of Girl Power) had formed by then,” Mosley explained. “The girls couldn’t wait until the next event. It was great. We had people contacting us from all over the nation … at that point I was thinking, ‘this group isn’t going anywhere. This is something everyone wants and needs.’”
According to Mosley, from that point forward, the plan to turn Girl Power and Emerging Women into a nonprofit organization in LaGrange moved quickly. After consulting with her husband, Mosley researched and applied for various business licenses.
In January 2014, Mosley started scouting locations for a permanent meeting location, and in February GPEW officially opened their door in an office complex off Vernon Road. Most of the start-up costs, including leasing Girl Power’s headquarters, came from Mosley and her husband, Kelvin – to the tune of $8,000.
As quickly as the nonprofit organization got off the ground, it also unfortunately crashed back down. Funding for Girl Power is almost non existent and Mosley said she is now faced with the decision of closing their doors for good by the end of the month.
“Financially, we’re in trouble, but he (Kelvin) is still trying to find a way,” she explained. “Even though we don’t know where the resources will come from.”
Mosley said from the beginning, Girl Power and Emerging Women held fundraisers in the community with all the proceeds going back to the organization, but that support has dwindled. The group hosted the Friday Night Lights event for youths in LaGrange a week ago. They made around $1,100, but after expenses, Mosley said they only took home $450 – not enough to make the rental payment on GPEW headquarters.
And the “closed” sign on the front door of Girl Power Headquarters said it all. Mosley had to cancel the organization’s summer camp this week because she said it was going to cost the group more money to hold it, than not to.
“I feel like I’ve let everyone down,” said Mosley. “I’ve let the girls down because a decision about money has gotten in the way of our purpose.”
Sadly, Girl Power isn’t alone in its monetary struggles. While not in the same financial straits as the teen organization, Camp Viola Board President Kevin Stringham admits the camp’s budget is projected to fall short this year too.
“Our budget is always right on the line,” Stringham said. “Our day-to-day operations are funded by people who send in a little here and there … but all those little bits add up. They keep the lights on and keep the camp running … it’s a little miracle because I know other non-profits are struggling.”
The nonprofit group helps foot the bill to send hundreds of kids to camp each summer. Stringham said the costs for Camp Viola to operate just for one week is close to $2,000, which averages around $20,000 for the entire summer. That covers utility bills plus maintenance of buildings and the camp grounds. Stringham said the organization’s fundraising efforts start as soon as camp is over and continue through the winter.
Camp Viola has also been the recipient of a generous donation from the Callaway Foundation as well as various grants over the years.
However, sometimes even state or federal funding isn’t enough. Edna Foster, executive director for the local Community Action For Improvement (CAFI) organization, said the group lost almost $100,000 due to federal cuts this fiscal year. The nonprofit group serves people in need throughout five counties, including Troup County. Through a variety of programs and services, CAFI’s mission is to remove barriers so people can become self-sufficient.
“We’re still in the planning period, to see how many funds we need to raise and see how many customers we may need to shift and who has the most need,” Foster said. “We may have to send them to other sources and partnerships and only pay a portion of their bills.”
According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget recommendation for the 2014 fiscal year that starts July 1 includes several hundred million dollars in cuts on top of the billions in cuts made over the past five years. Many state agency budgets are still 20 to 30 percent less than their levels during the 2009 fiscal year.
Foster also said the lack of funds may mean changes for employees. According to her, CAFI’s staff is already at the bare minimum, so the organization is looking to bring in more volunteers. It may also have to cut some benefits, but Foster said CAFI is looking at ways to supplement the lack of money by doing more fundraising and partnering with other agencies throughout the community.
While all three nonprofit organizations offer different services to a variety of people, there is one thing they share in common. Each one strives to help people in the community and each one, at any given time, could be only a few dollars away from financial ruin that could cause them to close their doors.
It’s a sad reality that Denise Mosley is struggling with right now. While she has applied for local and state grants, so far, none have been approved. Monthly fees for Girl Power and Emerging Women are dwindling too, and funds they received from partner organizations have dried up. Now she just prays the teen empowerment program she started will somehow find the power and strength to keep moving forward.
“This is about an organization that’s focusing on a need for young ladies walking through the door to find a sister, someone to talk to,” she said. “This is not a passing fancy. We can be a permanent fixture in the community … it’s not a business, it’s an investment … investing in our (Girl Power and Emerging Women) value. There are some things you just can’t put a price tag on … and Girl Power is one of those things.”
For more information on Girl Power and Emerging Women, or if you’d like to help, call Denise Mosley at (706) 882-0950 or (706) 977-5081.