On October of 2003, an idea blossomed into a vision that would impact the lives of thirty one women. During an Atlanta Chapter executive Board meeting at the renowned establishment of Paschall’s Restaurant, Alice Peoples, National Vice President, Mervyn Kelsey, National Editor, officers representing the Southeastern Region, and Marjorie Belton, Regional Director communicated the future direction and vision of Jack and Jill growth and expansion were two key elements of the discussion. The appealing demographics of Atlanta for Jack and Jill membership were referenced and the new resolutions noted that when chapters reached a membership of 85, a second chapter could form within the same boundaries. There was also new information shared about lifting the membership caps for chapters.
The size of the boundary for the Atlanta Chapter seemed to be an issue. Its potential members were drawn from the extensive area roughly defined by the perimeter, Highway 285. This included more than 2 million people
in a city with a substantial African American population. While a new chapter, within the same boundaries, may not have an effect on the size of the Atlanta Chapter, it certainly would extend the option of Jack and Jill membership to other mothers who sought and deserved the experience. It was clear there was tremendous growth opportunity in Atlanta proper.
Sabrina Womack, then a member to the Atlanta Chapter, raised several questions about the process of starting a new chapter. National President Peoples graciously responded. The idea became more and more appealing. A second chapter might address the difficulties a segment of the Atlanta Chapter membership experienced and expressed. Another chapter was certainly needed, and her thought was, if it were imminent, who better to start a second chapter than existing Atlanta Chapter members.
Based on this sound logic and her overflowing enthusiasm, Sabrina contacted several Atlanta Chapter women who had expressed an interest in becoming part of a smaller more intimate Jack and Jill experience. The group committed to learn how to start a second Atlanta chapter.
Once the appropriate contacts were made, the chapter establishment documents were received on October 20, 2003. The group methodically reviewed the steps outlined and realized an application had to be submitted within 10 days! The group enthusiastically made completion of the application, as stated in the chapter establishment packet, a priority within this aggressive timeframe. The working group had grown to nine industrious, steadfast women: Brenda Ward, Carol Elam, D’Anna Hawthorne, Etienne LeGrand, Kym Estis, Neysa Dillon-Brown, Sabrina Shannon-Womack, Tracy Moss, and Yolanda Jones. The team members saw each other nearly every day. It was a highly productive, enjoyable, and spiritually based time. Each meeting began with prayer or meditation, and miracles occurred.
Completion of the application meant at least fifteen women, who would make excellent Jack and Jill members, must be identified, talked with about this potential opportunity, and commit to the process. The result of the process which educated and screened the potential candidates was that thirty one mothers, some of whom had to resign their membership in the Atlanta Chapter, courageously stepped forward to be apart of creating “The Village in Chastain Park”.
Those who were willing to resign their Jack and Jill membership are Sonya Bellamy Adkins, Tracy Moss-Watson, Glenda Proctor Belcher, Yolanda Jones, Carol Elam, Kymberlee Estis, Paula Greenfield, D’Anna Hawthorne, Stephanie Russell, Joanne Kelly, etienne LeGrand, Brenda Ward, and Sabrina Shannon Womack.
The additional women are: Wanda Gold, Coretha Rushing, Donna Hardnett, Judith James, Angele Johnson, Robin Jones, Wonya Lucas Kirton, Jennifer Taylor McDonald, Christine Moore, Gail Morales, Cynthia Moreland,
Vikki Millender-Morrow, Jill Pemberton, Rene Pennington, Laverne Poindexter, Kristina Ratlif, Marcia Riley Steele, and Marcia Williams.
The ideals of “the village” became the goal for this new chapter. Team members spoke of and committed themselves to creating a culture that embraced and valued each member, required a high level of participation, remained small and manageable in size; and, sought and cultivated members who had geographic proximity through residence, children’s schools or work. The latter was crucial to establishing and maintaining a sense of community.
Ultimately, they wanted for this larger group what they had already created as friends, and coined, “the village”. They wanted the traditional African village, in the heart of Buckhead.
The “village” is a concept that developed among this group of African American friends who found kinship living in the predominately white neighborhood of Buckhead, in Atlanta proper. The premise of the “village” was to build community for themselves and their families, where none existed. Informal gatherings, including girlfriend outings, bible study, dining extravaganzas, and more frequently kid’s
play dates formed relationships the women recognized as critical to the growth and development of their children.
On January 11, 2003, the group was granted prospective status by the National Board of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated and held its first Mother’s meeting on January 17th.
The Chapter was chartered on March 19, 2005 as the North Atlanta Chapter.
Since that time, the group has successfully hosted monthly mother’s meetings, strategic planning meetings, age appropriate monthly children’s activities including etiquette workshops, mock case trials held in actual courtroom settings, and voting education workshops. The group also hosted four family day activities including a Black History Celebration, Kwanza Celebration, a visit to the High Museum of Art to view the Romare Bearden exhibition, and an end of the year Family Picnic in celebration of an outstanding program year. Also in its first year of existence, because of unwavering commitment to community service, the group successfully raised funds to donate to the Jack and Jill, Inc. Foundation. These activities, to name a few, have served to enrich the lives of village members and have spurred its members to commit to do even more.
This group of mothers continued to refine the programs offered our children and added Mother’s Enrichment, as well. The goal was to provide opportunity for members to take time for self. Our belief is that we must rejuvenate to be prepared to nurture others.
We further believe that the relationships that we develop woman to woman will lay a strong foundation for the relationships formed by our children.
Highlights from recent program years include:
- In 2014, former Chapter President, Tracy Moss was appointed Regional Treasurer
- In 2015, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary; installed 11 new mothers; and Regional Treasurer Tracy Moss was elected to her position to serve through 2017.
- In 2016, The Buckhead Atlanta Chapter co- hosted the 60th annual Southeastern Regional Teen Conference in Atlanta.
Today the Buckhead-Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is stronger than ever with over 50 mothers and 100 children. Excellent Children’s Programming remains a key to our continued success. Relationships are critical. Raising happy, self-reliant, productive, spiritually connected children is our journey.
It takes a Village.