Chamber Member of the Week: Girls Inc.

Girls Inc. has played a pivotal role in the Owensboro community, providing vital educational programs to girls for more than half a century. As the only Girls Inc. in Kentucky, the nonprofit has received local, regional, and national recognition for excellence in operations, management, and program development. 

Initially called Girls Club, the group traces their humble beginnings to 1969 in a small apartment in Rolling Heights. After exponential growth and success, club leaders collaborated with the housing authority to erect Baltzer Hall in 1980, a standalone facility that has undergone several renovations through the years. 

“Our programs are designed to meet the needs and interests of girls today and for the future,” said Chief Executive Officer Tish Osborne. “We just completed a board retreat and have a draft of a new strategic direction for the coming years, and we are excited about the possible changes and growth that could ensue.”

Girls Inc. provides opportunities and experiences to help girls recognize their true potential. Osborne said the comprehensive nature of the programming and services ensures that obstacles and barriers to their successes are identified early on. 

“We exist to inspire girls to be strong, smart, and bold,” she said. “Truth is, the girls inspire us daily with their strength, resilience, and abilities that already exist in them. Through educational opportunities, support services, and advocacy, we can assist them in overcoming and/or breaking the negatives down so they can forge their way in the world.”

Educational initiatives include science, math, technology, financial literacy, leadership, self-reliance, and life skills. Other programs exist where girls can learn various trades and health care practices. 

“Currently, girls are engaged in Healthy Futures Academy, a program sponsored by Owensboro Health where they learn basic first aid and care, careers in health care, and will serve as ‘interns’ before graduating from the program,” Osborne said. “Other girls are learning about drywalling, working with contractors, electricians, and plumbers, and will participate in some remodeling and updating of the facilities at Rolling Heights and Owensboro Christian Church.”

Funded through the Impact 100 grant, other programs include a Girls Under the Hood academy where girls learn hands-on how to care for a vehicle, as well as an interactive anatomy program. Osborne said they constantly strive to create a positive experience that prepares the girls for the future. 

Enrollment is open to anyone that identifies as a girl and is between the ages of 6 and 18. Osborne said that all are welcome, regardless of their socioeconomic status, and that all can benefit from the Girls Inc. experience. However, she said they are intentional in reaching out to underserved areas and populations. 

“Access and opening of doors to opportunities are critical for everyone to have a fair chance at success,” she said. “We hear adult women tell us all the time, ‘I wish I would have had a Girls Inc. in my life growing up; there is no telling who or what I could have become with such a wonderful support system and mission focus.’  Honestly, I have thought it myself many times – that is how inspiring and impactful this girls inc environment can be.”

The organization has extended more than $100,000 in scholarships and seen several participants obtain college degrees while others learn trades or enter the workforce. Osborne said one of her fondest experiences was seeing two of their graduates defend their doctoral dissertation.

“All of our Girls Inc. girls are leading and supporting one another in breaking cycles, breaking down barriers, and changing their life trajectories in such amazing ways,” Osborne said. “We sincerely thank and appreciate the families that choose to send their girls to us. We are humbled to be trusted with their lives and by how inspiring the girls are and all they can do.”

The Chamber Member of the Week program is a membership benefit of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. Founded in 1913, the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce has worked for over a century to provide valuable benefits and services to member businesses and individuals.

Today, with a membership base of nearly 1,000, the Chamber is a guiding force in community and business development initiatives, serving as the center of business advocacy for the Greater Owensboro region.

To learn more about becoming the Chamber Member of the Week or to inquire about Chamber membership, contact Shelly Nichols, Chamber Vice President, at 270-926-1860 or [email protected].

John Kirkpatrick, Owensboro Times