Tara Furlough has one core objective when it comes to mentoring teenage girls in New Hope, Alabama through the Wings of Faith Foundation, Inc. – teaching a mindset of self-sufficiency and not dependency.
Tara, a native of Huntsville, moved to the New Hope area when her family’s manufacturing company established a plant there. In an effort to engage with the community, she began volunteering at The Care Center’s thrift store. She worked side-by-side with women on the road to recovery from drug addiction. Like many other communities, New Hope struggles with generational poverty and drug abuse. Many fall victim to it.
Tara recalls some things she learned working with these women. “They’ve had so much hurt in their life. Some of them would do well, and some of them would fall back into the same routine. What I realized during four years of working there is you have to get to them younger, while they are still moldable. Your chances of success are about 50% more.” So, Tara decided to do something to get to them younger.
Enter the Wings of Faith Foundation.
The sole purpose of the Wings of Faith Foundation is to enrich the lives of teenage girls in under-resourced areas. This is primarily done by giving them real life work experience, teaching them basic life skills and supporting them, both emotionally and financially, to get them to where they want to see themselves in the future. “When they come in here, and we start talking about the things they can do, they start seeing it. They don’t have anyone talking with them about these things at home,” says Tara. “They have to learn how to be self-sufficient.”
A huge part of this lesson is having the girls work at the boutique Tara established to support the Wings of Faith Foundation. She’s All That Boutique in Owens Crossroads is not only a ridiculously cute place to shop, but it is also the place where these girls work part-time and learn about real work experience and work ethic.
Currently, there are ten girls in the Wings of Faith Foundation program – three in college, three graduating seniors who will all begin college in the fall, two rising seniors and two rising sophomores. New Hope High School’s guidance counselor helps choose girls for the program. “She keeps an eye out and sends girls she thinks will excel in this program,” explains Tara. “It’s been a great partnership with her. She really cares about those kids and has a good eye for that.”
While these girls come from an array of backgrounds, one thing is constant – most have been through detrimental experiences and need mentoring. While Tara says some of the girls are fortunate to have parents who are engaged in them, many come from situations with deceased, drug-addicted or incarcerated parents and, in turn, have very little to no support at home.
But in the Wings of Faith program the girls learn about goal setting, work ethic, and vision casting. “We help them in their classes and have even been up to their colleges to help them figure out their finances – all of the things that they would need a parent for that they just don’t have in their lives to help guide them that way.”
Through fundraisers, such as fashion shows and silent auctions, and through private donations, Wings of Faith supplies these girls with what they need to successfully work toward their future – from new tires and car insurance to even the most basic hygienic necessities. Wings of Faith even helps pay for college costs as long as the girls are working hard and making their grades. “They let us know what they need, and we fundraise for it with their help,” Tara explains. “We are trying to create self-sufficiency, not dependency here.”
Tara and the Wings of Faith Foundation are working on securing some grants as well, and Tara says a $50,000 grant would be ideal. Her vision is to, first and foremost, take in as many girls as possible who could benefit from the program. Tara would also like to eventually build a place right next to She’s All That where the girls can learn woodworking skills. “We want to use that as a way to have one-on-one time with them and sell the furniture they build. I want them to see how hard work and self-sufficiency can pay off because they don’t see any of that.”
Right now, the store is for profit, and merchandise sales go strictly to restocking inventory. Eventually, Tara would like the girls to keep the profit from items they make and sell, to allow them to take pride in what they are doing and help the girls become young entrepreneurs.
Though still in the fairly early stages of a developing nonprofit, the Wings of Faith Foundation has already made a huge impact in the lives of ten girls, with hopes to eventually impact all who are sent their way. To do this, the Wings of Faith Foundation needs continual financial support.
You, too, can help teach the girls a mindset of self-sufficiency by sending support, taking part in future fundraisers or, best of all, shopping at She’s All That. Check out their Facebook page for updates and ways to get involved.