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First National Bank’s Annual Women in the Workforce Luncheon attracted a large crowd or more than 100 women Tuesday afternoon. The event, held outside at Cairo’s Davis Park, included a catered lunch by the Culinary Arts program at Cairo High School and tables set up under the park’s permanent pavilion and a tent brought in for the event. There were 136 women in attendance.
Emceed by Lorenda Smith, director of marketing and retail for First National, the event featured a panel of four local women who shared their life stories. Donica Douglas Williams, Maria Vasquez, Alyssa Blakley and Charlotte Godwin each talked about overcoming challenges on the road to success.
Williams, who has endured significant health challenges, continues to have daily headaches and was told by doctors she would never run or walk more than a 5K. The First National employee said she refused to let her constant pain define her and has since completed a half and full Ironman, multiple half marathons and countless other athletic contests.
Vasquez, owner of Syrup City Nutrition, talked about her journey to become her family’s first college graduate, how she became briefly sidelined by postpartum psychosis, how she fought through to the other side, complete her degree and have a second child. Vasquez says as the eldest of her siblings, she is glad she set a positive example and now all of her siblings have also graduated or are in the process of graduating from college. Since earning her degree, she has worked as a teacher and entrepreneur.
Blakley, Main Street director for the City of Cairo, told the crowd that it took her many years of perseverance to finally earn her college degree. She overcame an independent streak that caused her to set out on her own after high school. Several life tolls, including the unexpected death of her brother, unhealthy personal relationships then care-giving for her ailing grandmother, forced her to put education on the back burner off-and-on. After 16 years, though, she did earn her bachelor’s degree and is now planning to graduate with her masters this Fall.
Godwin, owner of the women’s boutique Shopp 23 in Cairo, talked about the power of Psalm 23 in her life, a Bible verse that became especially meaningful when her husband was killed in a farming accident. Godwin said she was able to grieve then lean on her faith, particularly on Psalm 23, to manage her grief so it didn’t consume her life. Smith explained to the crowd that the extra letter “P” in Shopp stands for Psalm.
The women in attendance each received a Mint2B candle and hand sanitizer. Smith says the candle is First National’s signature candle that has a mint base. Proceeds from the sale of each candle goes to the Refinery, First National’s “Cares” partner, a candle making ministry that helps sustain the home of Still Waters, a safe place for women and their children in South Georgia.
Smith says, “So, when we first began thinking about ways that F.N.B. could make a positive impact in our communities we knew we wanted it to involve women. That’s why the Women in the Workforce Luncheon was started. Our marketing committee came together and came up with the name Mint2b, meaning we are all mint (a money term) to be.”