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WIT Swears-in Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis & Honors Volunteers

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Financials, Strategic Plan & Communications Reports Shared

Women In Training, Inc. (WIT​),​ a nonprofit organization that distributes WITKITS ​of menstrual, hygiene and dental products to underserved girls and nonbinary youth, swore in Alabama state Rep. Rolanda Hollis as the organization’s new board chairwoman during its annual meeting on Thursday, July 20, 2023, at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. The Annual Meeting celebrated WIT's fourth anniversary and the 16th birthday of WIT founders and visionaries, Breanna and Brooke Bennett.

On the left is Zashnetta Hollis Wilson who swore in her sister, Alabama State Rep. Rolanda Hollis, as WIT Board Chairwoman. The representative's son, Christian (Chris) Copeland, used his Bible during the swearing-in ceremony.

Inspired by Breanna and Brooke, Representative Rolanda Hollis sponsored “period poverty” bills for three years. In 2022, HB 50 passed unanimously, allocating $200,000 to the Alabama Department of Education. This funding will be utilized to provide grants to Title I public school districts, enabling them to offer menstrual products to students who are in need. Representative Hollis’ term as WIT Board Chairwoman began July 1, 2023.

As her first order of business, Rep. Hollis awarded the inaugural WIT Presidential Volunteer Service Award to Laurie Edmondson, WIT 5K Race Director, and Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall of the United States Air Force Maxwell Air Force Base.

In nominating Laurie Edmondson for the national award, Adeyela Albury Bennett, WIT Chief Engagement Officer wrote: "Laurie is the giant of a human being who served as Race Director for the 3rd Annual WIT 5K Race to End Poverty. PERIOD! Laurie almost single-handedly managed the Third Annual WIT 5K in October 2022, raising more than $35,000 in cash and in-kind donations, which was more than three times the fundraising goal!"

"Ms. Edmondson also galvanized dozens of volunteers to help, and hundreds of local and out-of-town residents to register for the 5K. On race day, Laurie left the site in the wee hours of the morning, rested a few hours, and was back in place by sunrise! As if she did not suffer enough, Laurie is serving as Race Director for the 4th Annual WIT 5K Race being held on Saturday, October 7, 2023, in honor of International Day of the Girl Child," Ms. Bennett said.

Alabama State Rep. Rolanda Hollis presents the inaugural WIT-President's Volunteer Service Award to Laurie Edmondson, who almost singlehandedly organized the WIT 3rd Annual 5K Race. On the right is Tiffany Carnell of the President's Volunteer Service Award Steering Committee.

In nominating Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall for the prestigious award, Ms. Bennett wrote: "Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall of the United States Air Force Maxwell contacted WIT almost a year ago to ask how she could be of service. No one could have imagined that meant that Master Sergeant would volunteer almost every week for several months! Not only did she volunteer, but she brought along her team of Air Force Airmen and her mother, aunt, daughters and son, as well!"

"Master Sergeant Marshall helped to organize the new WIT warehouse, helped with logistics for the the Martin Luther King Day JustServe Festival at the Dexter Legacy Center on January 15, 2022; helped with a delivery of food and hygiene supplies to Selma after the tornadoes; organized the Air Force Team Building workshop for the WIT Leadership Development Academy and managed the packing and shipment of 90 WITKITS to Eleuthera, Bahamas for the first-ever international WIT project!" Ms. Bennett said.

Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall of the United States Air Force managed the WIT Disaster Relief Program to provide food, sanitary pads and hygiene supplies to families impacted by the December 2022 tornadoes that ravaged Selma.

WIT Vice President Claudia Mitchell gave the President's Address, highlighting the nonprofit organization's impact towards fulfilling its mission to #EndPeriodPoverty, as follows:

WIT Vice President Claudia Mitchell officially opening the 2023 Annual Meeting!

Alonzetta Landrum-Sims, MBA, WIT Board Treasurer, shared the following financial report. Not included in these numbers are the value of Breanna and Brooke being named Always Period Heroes by Procter & Gamble and Purple Paladins by Grant Thornton, LLP.

WIT Treasurer Alonzetta Landrum-Sims, MBA, giving the financial report.

Kimberly Johnson Sellers, WIT Board Secretary, shared the five-year Strategic Plan drafted by CEO Adeyela Bennett and Nuola Akinde, with inspiration from then12-year-old Breanna and Brooke.

WIT Secretary sharing the WIT Strategic Plan.

Ms. Sellers reported that the Strategic Plan focused on the five WIT Core Values, below.

The WIT at a Glance video, below, summarizes the WIT Strategic Plan. A Steering Committee, led by WIT board members Kimberly Brown, with support from board members Akiesha Anderson and Ms. Sellers, fine tuned the Strategic Plan and added objective statements.

Bradley C. Bennett, WIT Communications Chairman, presented the Communications Report.

Bradley C. Bennett, WIT Communications Chairman, delivering the Communications Report.

Mr. Bennett stated that WIT has received tremendous support from local and national media, including the following articles placed with support from the P&G and Grant Thornton Communications teams:

  • Black Enterprise: 8.6 million unique visitors a month

  • The Root: 5 million unique visitors a month; (founded by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and former Washington Post publisher Donald Graham)

  • Katie Couric Media: 2 million unique visitors a month

  • USA Today: Daily readership of 2.6 million, and the largest circulation of any newspaper in the United States

  • Golf Channel (Grant Thornton short video): 45 million unique viewers a month

Women in Training is a volunteer-based organization, and could not fulfill its mission without the support of devoted volunteers. Board Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and WIT Vice President Claudia Mitchell presented the following Community Partner awards:

SELMA DISASTER RELIEF: Women in Training managed two disaster relief efforts to support girls and their families who were impacted by the devastating tornadoes that ravaged the Selma community in late December 2022.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: At the JustServe Martin Luther King Day, Jr. event, Pastor Quinn Milligan, regional leader for The Church in Alabama, Mississippi and part of Florida, asked the kind question: “How can we help?”

Within a week, a 53-foot truck load of supplies pulled into the WIT headquarters.

A truck driver from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints delivered food, sanitary pads and hygiene supplies for 672 families impacted by the tornadoes that ravaged Selma.

The supplies donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints served 672 families in need, and included healthy items, such as:

  • Protein sources: canned tuna fish, beef stew, chili, chicken noodle soup and peanut butter

  • Fruits: canned peaches and raisins

  • Carbohydrates: granola bars and cereal

  • Water purifier and powdered milk

  • Hygiene supplies: sanitary pads, tampons, disposable baby diapers, wet wipes and rolls of toilet paper.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also funded the WIT Holiday Turkey Giveaway for the last three years that served more than 300 families in the River Region.

President Jared McLaughlin, President of the local Montgomery stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, flanked by WIT Board Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis on the left and WIT Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

With supplies packed, the next challenge was getting the disaster relief items into the hands of families in Selma. Rep. Hollis connected WIT with Alicia Chestnut, JD, Founding Executive Director of S.E.L.M.A., who directed WIT to the areas hardest hit by the tornadoes.

Staff Sergeant Alexander Fisher of the United States Air Force: Staff Sergeant Fisher led a team of Air Force Airmen who first transported supplies to the JustServe event for volunteers to pack WITKITS on Martin Luther King Day, January 15, 2022. Then, they packed the UHaul full of food and hygiene supplies donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and unloaded them at the Historic Tabernacle Baptist Church in Selma for distribution to 672 families impacted by the Selma tornadoes.

Staff Sgt Alexander Fisher, in the hat, led a team of Airmen who filled a large UHaul truck to serve 672 families in Selma who were impacted by tornadoes.

Staff Sgt Alexander Fisher, flanked by WIT Chairwoman Rep. Hollis & Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

JustServe: On January 15, 2023, JustServe Central Alabama hosted the JustServe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service event at the Dexter Avenue King Legacy Center. At this event, volunteers packed 100 WITKITS of menstrual, dental and hygiene supplies for families impacted by the Selma tornadoes.

JustServe representatives receiving the award from WIT Chairwoman Rep. Hollis & Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

Ms. Cassandra Williams-Wansley: Ms. Williams-Wansley single-handedly drove a heavily laden, large UHaul truck – in the pouring rain, thunder and lightning – from Montgomery to tornado-torn Selma to deliver food and hygiene supplies to families impacted by the tornadoes!

Ms. Jodi Womack: Ms. Womack helped at the JustServe MLK event, and transported the packed WITKITS to the American Red Cross staging center at Selma High School, and helped to distribute WITKITS in Selma, along with Ms. Mae Cohen and WIT leaders.

Ms. Jodi Womack, flanked by WIT Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

WITKITS CAMPAIGN: WITKITS are WIT-branded canvas bags filled with a full pack of sanitary pads, soap, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, a pair of fuzzy socks and a handmade bracelet decorated with a butterfly and an inspiring word, such as love, peace or beauty. Thanks to support from WIT donors and volunteers, the youth empowerment organization donated more than 30,000 WITKITS since 2019.

Dr. Lee Farrow: For three years, Dr. Farrow created thousands of beautiful, personalized bracelets to include in our WITKITS of menstrual and hygiene supplies. Dr. Farrow also served as the Women in Training Secretary for two years.

Dr. Lee Farrow, former WIT Secretary, flanked by Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

Junior League of Montgomery: The Junior League of Montgomery provided small and large grants to Women in Training for three years. During the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Junior League provided a $20,000 grant and and volunteers to pack 400 WITKITS each month to distribute to School Nurses at Montgomery Public Schools.

TaKenya Rogers of Junior League of Montgomery is flanked by WIT Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

The Relief Society: Women from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Relief Society have supported the WITKITS Campaign to End Period Poverty for three years. Women, young and old, have lifted boxes of supplies, packed WITKITS, made bracelets and delivered WITKITS to girls in need throughout the community.

Sheralyn Belyeu of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helps organize a pallet of Always sanitary pads donated by Procter & Gamble.

Becky Lords of the Relief Society receiving an award from Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

WIT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY: During the 2022-2023 fiscal year, volunteers have facilitated quarterly workshops for 26 middle and high school girls in the WIT Leadership Development Academy. The WIT Academy facilitates formal and experiential learning opportunities to cultivate young women into culturally competent and compassionate global leaders who care about themselves and the world around them. The program participants are called WIT Young Leaders or Monarchs.

Jonilah Megie, in the purple dress in the back row, is now a sophomore at the University of Alabama. She joined the Monarchs from the WIT Young Leaders at the Annual Meeting.

Menstrual Hygiene Workshop: Nurse Educator Nyoka Samuels-Gilchrist, MSN Ed, RN, of 7 Healing Waters facilitated a two-part series of fabulous workshops for the Monarchs on self care, sex education and menstruation education!

Nurse Educator Nyoka Samuels-Gilchrist with Chairwoman Rep. Roland Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

Youth Judicial Workshop: The Honorable Brooke Reid managed a day-long workshop to introduce a diverse group of high school girls from Montgomery’s public and private schools to attorneys and judges. The highlight was a lunch conversation with three women federal judges.

From left to right (in the rear): Hon. Brooke E. Reid, Glamoura Akwuba, Ms. Shawn Cole, Esq., An Wilkes Cavanaugh, Gabrielle Johns, JeNai Turner, Jazlyn Samples, Ms. Tamika Miller, Esq., and Hon. Terri Lovell. In the front row, left to right: Mary Elizabeth Cole, Emily Ingram, Breanna Bennett, Brooke Bennett, Amiyah-Sarea Goshton, and Ms. Christy Crow, Esq.

Award recipients are as follows:

Hon. Terri Lovell, Retired Circuit Judge and Executive Director of the Alabama State Bar

Hon. J.R. Gaines, Circuit Judge, Fifteenth Judicial Court of Alabama

Hon. Pamela Higgins, District Judge, Fifteenth Judicial Court of Alabama

Hon. Emily C. Marks, Federal Judge

Hon. Kelly Pate, Federal Judge

Hon. Jerusha Adams, Federal Judge

Tamika Miller, Esq., Partner at Miller Smith, LLC

Christy Crow, Esq., Past President of Alabama State Bar, and Principal at Jinks, Crow & Dickson

Shawn Cole, Esq., Civil Defense Attorney at Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco, Cole & Black, PC

Aylia McKee, JD, Public Defender

Azzie Taylor, JD, Chief Deputy District Attorney

Judge Brooke Reid; Shawn Cole, Esq.; Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis; Christy Crow, Esq.; Federal Magistrate Judge Kelly Pate; WIT Vice President Claudia Mitchell; Federal Magistrate Judge Jerusha Adams; and Aylia McKee, Montgomery Public Defender.

State Farm Teen Driver Safety Workshop: The WIT Young Leaders and young men from the Fortitude Leadership Academy benefited from the Teen Driver Safety workshop in October 2022.

Award recipients are:

Alvin Tucker, Fortitude Leadership Academy

Ms. Tyna Carter, State Farm

Ms. Jessica Majors, State Farm

Ms. Kelly Koncsol, UAB Trip Lab

Jessica Majors, from State Farm, in red, and Kelly Koncsol from UAB Trip Lab with WIT Chairwoman Rep. Hollis and Vice President Claudia Mitchell.

United States Air Force: Women leaders from Maxwell Air Force base facilitated a Team Building workshop for the Monarchs. The Team Building Workshop was designed to empower young minds with essential skills to thrive in both personal and professional settings. Held in the inspiring and interactive environment on Maxwell Air Force Base, this workshop focused on nurturing teamwork, fostering effective communication and developing leadership qualities in teenagers.

U.S. Air Force leaders, flanked by WIT Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis and WIT Chairwoman Claudia Mitchell, are: Staff Sergeant Alexander Fisher, Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall, Chief Master Sergeant Alexius Reid, Technical Sergeant Ke’Undra Gibson and Airman First Class Doneesha Pressley.

Award recipients are:

Master Sergeant Ashley Marshall

Chief Master Sergeant Tiffany Jackson-Foster

Chief Master Sergeant Alexius Reid

Technical Sergeant Ke’Undra Gibson

Airman First Class Doneesha Pressley

WIT BOARD MEMBERS' APPRECIATION: The new Women in Training Board Chairwoman thanked outgoing board members whose terms ended on June 30, 2023.

New WIT Board Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis, on the left, thanks outgoing board members, Dr. LaKeshia Thomas (represented by her mother); The Honorable Judge Brooke Reid; and Dr. LaToya Clark, MD

Dr. LaToya Clark, OB/GYN, served as the Women in Training Board Chairwoman, President and Medical Director for the past three years. Dr. Clark chaired the Second Annual WIT Mother Daughter Brunch, raising $80,000 to fund WIT's services. Dr. Clark also generously provided storage space in one of her offices for WIT operations for one year.

Hon. Brooke E. Reid, Circuit Judge, Fifteenth Judicial Court of Alabama, facilitated a day-long Judicial Experience for WIT Young Leaders. The young leaders had conversations with prominent women attorneys, observed circuit court proceedings and had lunch with women federal judges.

Dr. LaKeshia Thomas, DMD, led the WITKITS Campaign that distributed more than 30,000 menstrual, dental and hygiene supplies for underserved girls and other menstruators. She also served as liaison with the Junior League of Montgomery, managed the annual WIT Turkey Giveaway for three years and was named the 2021-2022 WIT Board Member of the Year.

Ms. Tonya White-Evans recruited State Farm as a major donor to support WIT's activities, culminating in the State Farm Teen Driver Safety workshop for WIT Young Leaders in honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week.

Akiesha Anderson, outgoing General Counsel, was named WIT Board Member of the Year. for 2022-2023. In 2022, Ms. Anderson played a pivotal role in drafting the wording for House Bill 50 and worked diligently behind the scenes to advocate with state leaders, fine-tuning the bill which ultimately lead to its successful passage.

"Akiesha's expertise, tireless efforts, and strategic advocacy have made a significant impact in advancing WIT's mission and bringing about positive change in our community," Ms. Bennett wrote in nominating Ms. Anderson for the award.

The evening ended with Rep. Hollis inviting the audience to join her in singing "Happy Birthday!" to Breanna and Brooke!

The happy birthday twins, Brooke and Breanna, with their "Shero" WIT Board Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis.

Many thanks to Krishula Edwards, for volunteering her services as emcee; to Tania Johns for managing the event; and to Elizabeth Johnson Sellers for managing the social media activities for the event.

Fabulous Emcee Krishula Edwards gracefully kept the meeting within the ninety-minute time frame.

Special thanks to the donors who supported the 2023 Annual Meeting:

Holding the flowers is Sandra Whatley-Washington, WIT Development Chairwoman, who led the organization's fundraising efforts for two years. She is flanked by WIT Chairwoman Rep. Rolanda Hollis, and Tania Johns and Claudia Mitchell, Annual Meeting Co-Chairwomen. Ms. Washington also led the fundraising efforts for the WIT Mother-Daughter Brunch and the WIT 5K Race.

Adeyela and Bradley Bennett

Dr. LaToya Clark, MD

JSA Consulting

City of Montgomery Commission Chairman Charles Jinright

City of Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed

Dr. LaKeisha Thomas, DMD

Claudia Thomas-Mitchell

Sandra Whatley Washington

Please enjoy the event video!

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