From the Tennessean
About a year ago, five friends wanted to get together to celebrate their 50th birthdays.
With their birthdays being close to Valentine’s Day, the women — Terrie Hill, Jane Caroll, Susan Davis, Betty Cope and Julie Hawley — decided to celebrate with a couple of other close friends and turn it into a Valentine’s Day dance party.
Then they began thinking about all the time and money involved.
“And at the end of the night, what would we have to show for it?” said Hill.
So, they decided to give the dance party a twist — no pun intended.
The friends turned the event into a fundraiser and ended up raising $50,000 for the a local 501c(3) organization African Leadership.
This year, the friends — who now refer to themselves as the Fabulous Friends For Africa — are doing it again and hoping for even bigger results.
The dance will be 7:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday in Liberty Hall at The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road.
Conditions left impression
With the funds from last year’s event attended by 300 guests, the Franklin organization was able to build a childcare facility in a slum outside Cape Town, South Africa. Additionally, $10,000 was given to the nonprofit Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda, to give to women as micro loans to help them start their own businesses and establish homes in the community.
The Friends are hoping to double the amount raised last year with twice as many guests, and plan to use this year’s money to help with orphan care in Lizulu, Malawi and the construction of a vocational school in Kibera, Kenya.
Some of them had been exposed to the needs in Africa through their churches — Christ Presbyterian, Fellowship Bible and West End Community — all of which send or support missionaries there. One friend, Jane Carroll, has even visited Africa and seen the poverty firsthand.
Hill said she’s been told that nothing here compares to the suffering in Africa.
“From the firsthand accounts I’ve heard and the pictures I’ve seen, the poverty and the needs are far beyond my imagination,” said Hill, who lives in Forest Hills. The Friends hail from both Williamson and Davidson counties.
The childcare center that last year’s party supported, for example, is near a slum where there are “horrendous conditions, no running water, very little food,” she added.
With the dance party, however, “we can see tangible results,” said Hill. “It’s humbling to see the generosity of people that want to participate with us.”
Grassroots effort grows
The Friends are not professional fundraisers — for from it, said Hill.
They’re “stay-at-home moms, nurses, a receptionist, a bookkeeper and a wedding planner” who wanted to make a difference, she said.
And the grassroots effort is growing. The Friends were supported in their first year by friends Martha Greenwood and Cilla Crane.
“They were as much a part of the five as any of us; they were just not turning 50,” Hill said of Greenwood and Crane, who celebrated with them.
This year, two more friends, Sally McCorkle and Laura Eddleman, will join them.
Several of them know one another through church or their children, who attended Christ Presbyterian Academy.
“We’re just a loose association of friends,” Hill said.
Eddleman, who lives in Brentwood, attended last year’s dance and was very impressed.
“Everyone had so much fun, and it’s such a great cause,” she said. “I told them if they needed help this year, I would be happy to help.”
Money for ‘destitute’
Mary Warren, who founded African Leadership with her husband Larry, said money raised by the Fabulous Friends For Africa would help orphans and those who are destitute — “the least of the least of Africa.”
The money also will help pastors in training buy study Bibles and curriculum. African Leadership has 10,000 pastors currently in training in 22 African countries, and 40,000 pastors have graduated and remain connected with the organization.
“It’s a great concept,” Warren said of the fundraiser. “I think it was very selfless and ambitious.”
Crane, who lives in Franklin, said she is very aware of the struggles of people in Africa. Her daughter Emily has been to Africa on an African Leadership mission trip, and her daughter Sarah is involved with Invisible Children, “an organization that is run by young adults trying to bring attention to the genocide in Uganda,” she said.
Crane hopes to see the Friends — and their charity efforts — only grow more fabulous.
“It’s pretty amazing what came out of what we did last year,” she said. “You just don’t know what you can do with a few friends.”
If you go
The Fabulous Friends For Africa dance will be 7:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday in Liberty Hall at The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road. Tickets are $50 per person. Wine, dessert and dancing are included. Attire is festive with music by Entice. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.africanleadership.com.
About African Leadership
African Leadership is a local 501c(3) organization dedicated to developing projects and programs that meet the needs of Africans. Its work includes HIV/AIDS education, job training, pastor training, orphan care, famine relief and building wells.
For more information, visit www.africanleadershipinc.org.
Article from Tennessean
By Suzanne Normand Blackwood • THE TENNESSEAN • February 11, 2009
(Photos by Jeanne Reasonover / THE TENNESSEAN)