Inspiring Girls to Follow Their Dreams
After finding a cure for COVID-19, Darla Otey, executive director of Girls Inc. of Pinellas, has two other wishes. She wants every girl to follow her dreams without fear, and she wants everyone to practice the true meaning of community.
If everyone would come together in support for one another, there would be nothing lacking. Darla Otey, executive director of Girls Inc. of Pinellas
Her wishes are no surprise since Darla’s work through Girls Inc. of Pinellas inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. The organization serves girls ages 5-18 in Pinellas County. “This is what we do every day,” she said. “We address every aspect of a girl’s life — to guide her as she discovers and develops her strength.”
By partnering with 22 local schools, Girls Inc. transports girls to its after-school programs, where parents pick them up in the evening. Girls Inc. also partners with PACE Center for Girls in Pinellas County, a program for middle and high school girls who have not thrived academically.
Creative Solutions During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Girls Inc. operations. The organization reduced its capacity from the typical 150-225 participants to just 50-70 girls. “We had to pivot and be creative,” Darla said. Classes are now divided into clusters of 10. Field trips to museums and parks were canceled. Girls wear masks, and we work hard to practice as much social distancing as possible.
“We understood that many families had one or two parents lose a job, so we decided not to charge for summer camp,” she said. Starting March 30, 2020, when schools closed, Girls Inc. offered full summer programming at no cost to participants. Darla said that the organization supplemented program fees with community support, “We did not receive fees for services, so we feverishly applied for grants and sought donors.”
With a $20,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Resiliency Fund, Girls Inc. was able to offer daylong programs to give working parents a safe place to send their girls during the COVID-19 shutdown. Additionally, PCF provided $10,000 in operating funds during 2020.