Serving Women, Seniors and Youth
story by Katrice Williams photos by Miranda Osborn-Sutphen
Adrienne Boner and Deborah Enoch: “Shapers for Change”
“You were born with the ability to change someone’s life; don’t ever waste it.”
Many organizations strive to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. (TLOD) is certainly a noteworthy example.
With an inception that dates back to September 8, 1964, in Tyler, Texas, this “non-profit educational, humanitarian organization” was established as a heart-felt initiative of the U.S. First Lady, at the time, Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson. As an exemplary woman who believed in empowering other distinguished women to serve the community and help others in need, First Lady Johnson diligently sought to recruit a group of women “who would work cooperatively” to help combat various issues within the communities, particularly those experienced by young people.
Several notable ladies attended an invitation-only luncheon, which was proposed by First Lady Johnson to discuss the establishment of a group dedicated to serve “youth and adults in the community.” The recipient of the invitation was Willie Lee Glass (Tyler, TX), the wife of Texas College President Dr. D.R. Glass.
Mrs. Glass, a Texas College educator, was well-known as a “tireless advocate” for continuous improvement and change. She invited her former student, U.S. Air Force Major Ozell M. Dean (Washington, DC). Major Dean’s relative and talented music teacher Franchell Boswell (Tyler, TX) also attended.
Many other “trailblazers” were invited to pool their skills and talents in order to address various social issues. Other TLOD founders include: Ina Bolton Brown, Ph.D. (Houston, TX), an avid academician; Augusta Rivers Cash-Latham (Memphis, TN), a noteworthy educator; Ruth Payne Smith (Austin, TX), a home economics instructor along with Georgia Bell Presswood Nelson (Dallas, TX) and Laverne Madlock, who both played very instrumental roles in the organization’s growth over the years. Further, the title “Lady” became a title of distinction for each member.
Under the leadership of Lady Drema Lee Woldman, out of Chicago, the current TLOD national president, the organization presently includes thousands of women across the nation “working together to invest in their communities through their service and leadership.” The organization has several major focal areas, or “thrusts,” in which they dedicate their efforts. These include: Top Teens of America “Top Teens” (helping teenagers to strive towards overall excellence), Status of Women (dedicated to the empowerment of all women), Senior Citizen Service (assisting seniors with their overall needs), Community Beautification (helping to visually enhance and improve the community) and Community Partnerships (working with other organizations toward a common and beneficial interest).
Lady Adrienne Boner is the president of the Effingham (Area IV) TLOD chapter. Actually, Adrienne initially joined the Savannah chapter and has been a member of TLOD for ten years. The Ohio native, along with her husband Benjamin, have been in the area for some time now.
Adrienne attributes a great deal of her inspiration to join the phenomenal organization to her mom Lady Carolyn Stanley, organizer for the Effingham chapter, who has been a part of TLOD for over ten years. Carolyn is a career educator who taught Adrienne the importance of being involved in positive activities, especially those dedicated to helping others.
Adrienne states, “Top Ladies is based on serving the youth, serving senior citizens and serving women—it’s what led me to join. They just had some really good projects that I wanted to be involved in.”
In addition to being the chapter president, Adrienne works on the area level. She is in charge of Area IV Technology and is the Area IV Assistant Financial Secretary. Six states make up Area IV, including Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama. All are under the leadership of the Area IV Director, Lady Crystal C. Pittman, who is out of Miami. There are a group of states that make up each area, so there is ample coverage for the entire country.
Adrienne, alongside TLOD, supports and participates in several meaningful projects. Some include: St. Jude’s, March of Dimes, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Council for Negro Women (NCNW) and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA). Interestingly enough, most projects take place on the national level. For example, if there is a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Walk or a St. Jude’s Walk-a-Thon, members from all around the country will participate in them at similar times in their respective areas, exhibiting massive amounts of unity and commitment.
Adrienne reveals, “All over the country, everybody is holding some type of walk to raise money on that same day.”
Much of the organization’s focus is currently on fundraising efforts. They have been thrilled with their involvement with Painting with a Purpose, which is a monthly fundraising event given by Painting with a Twist, where paint studios host events to “raise money for certain local or regional charities.” Adrienne explains that “50% of the proceeds have come back to the chapter” when it has been sponsored. The ladies appreciate all the community members that have taken part in it.
The Effingham Chapter has been relentlessly dedicated to raise money for the Top Teens, so that they may all travel to the TLOD Area IV Annual Conference in March 2018 held in Birmingham, Alabama. The teens, themselves, are having various popcorn fundraisers to contribute to the cause–funds raised will help with transportation costs. The trip should be informative and fun. Adrienne knows that it will be a memorable experience for the young people.
She is very grateful and considers it to be a great privilege to be a part of the group. She enjoys working alongside the other very ‘distinct’ ladies.
“I feel like I gained another family. It’s a very humbling experience, especially when we’re serving people who are underprivileged. It keeps me aware of current issues. I love to serve,” Adrienne asserts.
Adrienne feels that the organization is in a league all its own. There is a sincere focus on helping others, which is accomplished through the collective efforts of a uniquely diverse and talented group of women. She knows that the only prerequisite necessary to become a member is for individuals to have a genuine interest in people…a genuine interest in community.
Adrienne states, “Anybody and everybody can be involved in Top Ladies…if they want to serve.”
A major short-term goal that Adrienne has is to acquire more community partners. She understands that more support allows for even more beneficial opportunities and resources for the community as a whole.
“We would love to work with some other businesses,” Adrienne remarks.
Top Teens is one of the major thrusts of the entire organization, as the ladies understand that children are the future of this country, and it is imperative to afford them the very best opportunities that are available. In fact, it is such a vital interest, that all TLOD chapters must include a Top Teens thrust in order to exist.
Lady Deborah Enoch, a North Carolina native, has been in the area for over 20 years, along with her husband Jaycee; the couple has two adult children and two grandchildren. Lady Deborah is a charter member for the Effingham chapter of TLOD, as she was inducted in August 2016. She, too, has been the chapter advisor for the Top Teens since December 2016.
The group welcomes young ladies and young men in grades 8-12. It is obvious that Deborah has a beautiful heart for young people and enjoys working with them. She serves as the youth advisor at her church home, Goodwill Baptist Church. She is the owner and director of Teach, Love and Care Learning Center, caring for children ages six weeks to 12 years of age. In fact, one of her Top Teen members likes to volunteer at the center in her spare time and really has a knack for working with the little ones.
Deborah enjoys her time with the teens and feels that it is truly rewarding to positively contribute to their lives…their well-being…their futures.
She remarks, “Our Top Teens are a fantastic group.”
The teens have the opportunity to participate in all the overall initiatives of the TLOD, including all projects and events, and the ladies are happy to mentor the teens and lead by example.
Deborah mentions, “In everything we do, we’re teaching them. We assist them with different projects; when we do projects, they’re there to back us up.”
In addition to other national projects, the teens also participate in the “Blessings in a Bookbag” fundraiser. It is a national fundraiser, providing “food and supplies to kids in need.” Designated areas in each state are provided bookbags filled with goodies or supplies—based solely on the greatest need in the area.
There are numerous opportunities the teens have to learn invaluable life skills. Deborah and the other ladies provide the teens with helpful workshops, those designed to teach about proper manners and etiquette, communication skills, speech-delivery, proper business dress and an array of other skillsets. Also, the teens will have the opportunity to compete in debate webinars and competitive spelling bee tournaments.
Regarding helping the teens, Deborah declares, “Everybody can help somebody. These are the types of things we’re teaching them. It’s up to us.”
The future certainly looks bright for this outstanding organization, as they are making a tremendous difference in the lives of others.