Brunch and Ball Gowns Event Benefiting Teen Girls
Photo Credit: Emile C. Brown
The Smahrt Girl Foundation created in 2008 by Founder Pamela Ellis is named after her HR consulting company Smahrt Solutions. The foundation is a direct result of the mentorship she felt she could have benefited from as a young girl growing up in a small town. Without much influence provided from the successes of other women who moved away, Pamela wanted to give back to other girls in a similar demographic as herself through mentoring. In its 9-year existence, the foundation has given many wonderful opportunities for young ladies to learn life skills like how to obtain a passport, information on careers, take part in teen summits, attend prom and travel to locations such as New York to see broadway plays. A highlight of the foundation happens this weekend with the 2nd Annual Smahrt Girl Foundation Brunch and Ball Gowns Benefit Gala. We spoke with chairwoman Erica Rouse about the occasion.
How did the Brunch and Ball Gowns Benefit Gala come together?
Pamela challenged herself to do a brunch with 50 friends to put together a committee to invite 100 people to attend the first gala. It did really well and became standing room only. For the 2nd annual gala, there is over 400 attending and we have already surpassed our fundraising goals from the first one. Great news because there are more programs we want to include like Smahrt Girl You which will help to transition young ladies from college into their careers.
Tell us your involvement as chairwoman for the event?
As program chair for this year’s gala, my task is to let the attendees know that when you buy a ticket it is for a good cause and you will also enjoy the time you spend with us. We have put together a really good program that is informative. It allows you to know where the money is going and the things we do through the foundation.
Honorary chairs for the gala are Texas Southern University President Mr. Lane and his wife Loren Lane.
There are six women honored during the program who has demonstrated in business, philanthropy and community involvement their support of the Smahrt Girl Foundation. How were the six honorees selected?
This was so much fun! Each board member came to the table with who we thought met the criteria. What we were looking for were women who were outstanding in career and in the community but specifically, in ventures we thought aligned with our mission for Smahrt Girls which are girls 12-19 years old. It was really competitive! We ended up with these honorees who we think are an excellent representation of so many of the women in the Houston and surrounding areas and our Smahrt girls and the potential they have.
− Lashanda Gary, Founder, Dream.Build.Success
− Mandy Kao, Founder, Mandy Kao Foundation
− Delesa O’Dell-Thomas, Principal, HISD Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy
− Dr. Leticia Plummer, CEO, Maxwello Dental
− Nicole West, CEO, NCA Investigations
− Toni Whitaker, Fashion Designer
− Mary Young Police Office, Houston Police Department (Special Recognition)
Speaking of excellent representation give us your thoughts on Michelle Obama and what her role as First Lady meant to the Smahrt Girl Foundation?
We have this intense and immense gratitude for everything she represented because it makes our job much easier when we want to help create young women who value and define themselves and who understand a sense of community. Women who realize they are not everything that other people try to tell them they are. We live in a culture that tries to promote images that we don’t necessarily think are the best representation of young women and so for us, Michelle was the antithesis of that saying look, you can be classy and educated. You can be a good wife and mother. You can be powerful in your own right! There were so many messages in her being who she is.
Tell us about the Dressing The Dream project?
Dressing The Dream project is an annual program created to offset the cost of prom and other senior events. One of the things that became apparent from the mentoring program is the girls were opting out of going to their prom. They really wanted to go but it was an expense that had gotten so out of control that they really preferred not to burden their parents. Pamela years ago asked friends to donate prom dresses and now it has become one of our biggest community events of the year where we put on a free seminar for disadvantaged girls. The program involves topics and seminars the girls attend before they shop. Topics we believe that are really important for their success. We tell them they can eventually shop but they have to listen to our commercials first (laughs). The girls attend the seminar in the morning and in the afternoon they enjoy a shopping experience where they can pick shoes, accessories and dresses.
Why should the community know about the Brunch and Ball Gowns Benefit Gala?
Our former President who recently left office, he told us all, “Whether you’re happy or unhappy with the election results change is individual. It’s up to each one of us! It’s what you do to change and affect your community.” That’s what Pamela did when she started the Smahrt Girl Foundation. That’s what I hope I’m doing when I aligned with her and her vision and said, “hey, I want to be a part of it.” That’s what we’re inviting everyone to do. The Brunch and Ball Gowns Gala is not only a fundraiser, it’s a great introduction to who we are and what we do. We invite teen girls to come to meet the Smahrt Girls in the program. It’s for people to join a worthy cause who have not decided which organization to be a part of. It’s for everyone!
Thank you, Erica, for interviewing with Beautifully Said Magazine and informing the public about the Smahrt Girl Foundation and its many wonderful programs.
For more information about the Smahrt Girl Foundation visit http://smahrtgirl.org/
2nd Annual Smahrt Girl Foundation Brunch & Ball Gowns Benefit Gala to Fund Scholarships and Programs Supporting Girls
January 28, 2017, 11:00 a.m. at the Hotel ZaZa, 5701 Main St., Houston, TX 77005