Inspiration filled the air during the fifth annual gala and silent auction of the Motherless Daughters Foundation, a unique organization that mentors young ladies who are growing up without the support of their natural birth mothers. The semi-formal event took place Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.
Motherless Daughters, a 501(c)(3) that provides a mentoring program for girls ages 9 to 15 living without support of their mothers for unforeseen circumstances, recognized four individuals:
- Jill Scott, singer/songwriter and founder of Blues Babe Foundation, a North Philadelphia-based nonprofit that provides a free summer camp for youth, among other services
- Taffi Dollar, co-pastor, World Changers Church International, author and motivational speaker
- Hank Stewart, Emmy Award-winning poet and founder, Hank Stewart Foundation
- Gary Davis, founder and executive director, Next Level Boys Academy.
Accepting the award for Jill Scott was Blues Babe Executive Director Aisha Winfield, along with her daughter.
Judge Penny Brown Reynolds, an Emmy Award-nominated executive producer, speaker and television personality, delivered the keynote address. Reynolds, also an ordained minister and founder of the annual SisterTalk: A Women’s Empowerment Conference, encouraged the girls to recognize that they have power even in settings where they don’t belong, according to someone else’s standards.
“Every disappointment in my life has saved my life because I am the one who never belongs anywhere,” Reynolds said, in a powerful, stirring message to which many adults in the audience seemingly related.
“Nobody can do what you do but you,” the Judge Reynolds told the young ladies of the foundation. “You weren’t born to fit in; you’re supposed to be different. Every destiny and purpose that’s on your life, it’s on your life because you are different,” she said. “When God has [His] hands on you, there is nothing anyone can do to take away what God has for you.”
She referred to the gala honorees as having proved that they didn’t belong and too are different.
“We are both humbled and excited to recognize honorees who are exemplars in supporting and empowering our youth—from one spectrum of the globe to another,” said Rassalyn Willis, founder and executive director of the Motherless Daughters Foundation. “There’s no question empowering today’s youth through opportunities, access, mentoring, skills development, education and more helps to ensure their future success.”
During the event that serves as the nonprofit’s largest fundraiser, Rap Artist/Actor Clifford “T. I.” Harris presented the Special Recognition for Outstanding Support award to his mother, Violeta Morgan, who has been a strong supporter of Motherless Daughters since its inception.
Harris spoke of how his mom not only helps nurture and mentor the girls, but goes on outings with, as well as feeds and transports, them.
A Motherless Daughters graduate who now inspires other participants, De’mai Williams, a first-year college student, shared an emotional testimony of her experiences with the organization. Mercedes Williams also told of how she benefited from being involved with Motherless Daughters and is now a senior in high school and dual enrolled at Georgia State University.
“Ms. Rassalyn, thank you for being in my life because I look at you as my mother,” said De’mai, who was raised by her father from the age of 3 weeks.
Emcees for the evening were Shaunya Chavis-Rucker, broadcast personality, and division chief for the Fulton County Office of Broadcast, Cable and Film; and WAGA-TV Weekend Anchor Deidra Dukes.
The gala included an in-memoriam tribute to and moment of silence for Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner, who died in April following a breast cancer recurrence. Garner was the keynote speaker for the Motherless Daughters Foundation’s inaugural gala in 2013.
Some of the 2017 sponsors included Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Southwest Airlines, Georgia Power, Upscale magazine, City of College Park, Georgia International Convention Center, Combined Insurance and Restoring the Years Global Ministries.
Through Motherless Daughters, girls are paired with relatable mothers. They have an opportunity to participate in summer camps plus year-round educational and enrichment experiences. Girls receive scholarships and donations of clothing and school supplies and more.
Atlanta First Lady and Affordable Housing Developer Sarah-Elizabeth Reed serves as brand ambassador for Motherless Daughters, and Xernona Clayton, CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, Inc., is honorary mother for Motherless Daughters, which was founded by President/Executive Director Rassalyn Willis. A community activist and mother of four, Willis is owner of Xclusive Hair Studio and Spa in historic College Park.
For more information, visit MotherlessDaughtersFoundation.org or call 404.669.9800.