Houston’s “Top Ladies” Give Back


Southwest / Texas 134 Views

Houston’s “Top Ladies” Give Back
By LaTreshia
Hamilton, J.D.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Recently, the Houston Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. (“TLOD”) hosted its First Annual Community Resource Fair (the “Fair”) at the Third Ward Multi-Service Center. Through the efforts of its Status of Women Committee, the TLOD partnered with several organizations, institutions, and vendors to provide free resources related to financial awareness, job recruitment, health and wellness, and higher education.

Founded in 1964, Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. was chartered in Tyler, Texas as a non-profit educational, humanitarian organization. Since its inception, the organization has expanded its objectives to include: a focus on youth through its subsidiary organization, Top Teens of America; improving the status of women; providing services to senior citizens; community beautification projects; and community partnerships. Currently, there are 116 TLOD chapters nationwide. Said chapters support the National Council of Negro Women (“NCNW”), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”), the United Negro College Fund (“UNCF”), the March of Dimes, and award scholarships to teens in each of TLOD’s six geographic areas.

The Houston Chapter of TLOD was founded on February 27, 1965, in Houston, Texas with the purpose of enhancing and enriching the lives of youth and adults through community-based programs and projects. Currently, the Houston Chapter has more than 135 members and is proud to be the largest chapter in the organization that provides over 190 Top Teens with resources, scholarships, and mentorship that will assist them as they pursue excellence in higher education and beyond.

When asked what TLOD hoped to achieve by hosting a Community Resource Fair, President Lady Katherine Wilson said, “As Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., serving others is our motto! Through strategic planning and coordination led by Ladies Marie Webber and Rita Pittman, our mission was to provide a day for neighboring residents to come and access valuable and useful information about resources and services that they may not otherwise have access to. We wanted to increase resident awareness so that the public could be better informed to make healthy lifestyle decisions. Our efforts proved to be fruitful as we were able to host 20+ vendors that interacted and provided services to all in attendance. Residents received a great amount of information regarding the various services that were made available to them. The vendors offered detailed information that equipped participants with onsite direction for securing resources and access to more services and affording attendees with a better understanding of what is available and how to obtain support. It was also our desire to develop vendor and participant partnerships for future community service projects.”

Lady Wilson went on to say that TLOD selected the Third Ward Multi-Service Center as its venue because, “Statistics on health disparities and other declining factors in Third Ward indicate an ongoing need to assist residents with improving health and the overall quality of life. To join in the efforts of other entities, we chose the Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center because it is easily accessible to residents in the Third Ward area and is a spacious facility that can accommodate the number of residents and vendors that we planned for. Because our programs and efforts support many of the needed services of the residents in the Third Ward Community, Lady Webber and her team were able to unite our chapter’s committees and partnering vendors to provide immunizations, dental health, back to work clothing for women, prom dresses for students, financial literacy information, college preparation advisement, identify safety and gardening tips, mental health and relaxation therapy, and referrals for any needs that were beyond the onsite services of the day. All of these services, plus the fact that the facility is also geographically centered in the heart of the community and is a common gathering place for many events, made this location an ideal venue.”

During the Fair, there were various organizations, institutions, and vendors with displays and information tables set up. To name a few, Lady Diondra Miller administered shingles, tetanus, and pneumonia vaccinations on behalf of Walgreens; Professor Katherine Daniels and nursing students from San Jacinto College – Central Campus provided blood pressure testing; Jacqueline D. Fortune, Director of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Relations Division, distributed pamphlets regarding its Law Enforcement Explorer Program, a career based program for young adults ages 14 to 20 years old who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, Crime Prevention, Child Identity Theft, Robbery Prevention, and Construction Site Theft Prevention; D’Misha Miller, a Business Development Manager for Sterling Staffing Solutions provided literature on employment opportunities and resume tips; a representative from Houston Public Library signed attendees up for library cards and informed them about current job openings; Sara Jamison-Sermon, a Community Outreach Liaison for Texas Southern University’s (TSU) Office of Admissions, provided information regarding TSU’s admissions process; Linda Washington, CEO of Mystic Soul Candles, sold relaxation and aroma therapy candles; Lady Joan Green of Joan’s Monogram Works displayed her custom monogram pieces; and band members and majorettes from The Lawson Academy performed original selections and dances for entertainment.

Notably, Director Linda Kinchen, and Eligibility Coordinator, Bobby D. Hansford, were in attendance on behalf of Harris Health System – Health Care for the Homeless Program (the “Program”). Established in 1974, the Healthcare for Homeless Program’s mission is to improve healthcare for the homeless and make it easier for the homeless to access healthcare services. The Program provides dental care and a variety of preventative and primary healthcare services to homeless individuals through shelter-based clinics and through mobile health and dental units. In addition, the Program also provides eligibility and registration services through homeless shelter locations in the Greater Houston area. Likewise, through its strategic partnerships, the Program also provides on-site mental health and substance abuse counseling. Overall, the Program aims to reduce or eliminate barriers to healthcare experienced by homeless individuals, enable healthcare problems to be detected and treated early, increase immunization rates for homeless children, and increase health promotion and prevention education among the homeless in the Houston community.

Lauren Auzenne, Emily Creighton, and Virginia Velez, dental students at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, were also in attendance. The students performed oral health screenings and provided attendees with nutrition counseling, oral hygiene care packages, and information regarding the health of their teeth. Ms. Creighton and Ms. Velez informed attendees about the sugar content found in popular food and drink items such as Special K Cereal, M&M’s, Snickers, Capri Sun Juice Pouches, and Coca-Cola products. Meanwhile, Ms. Auzenne, a senior dental student, examined an attendee who had developed erythematous candidiasis, a fungal infection that occurred from improper denture care. Ms. Auzenne said, “Ninety-five percent of people do not know how to properly floss or brush their teeth.” Incidentally, the attendee that Ms. Auzenne examined had not been properly cleaning or removing his partial denture. Thus, his failure to do so resulted in the fungal infection. Nevertheless, Ms. Auzenne assured the attendee that with proper dental hygiene and anti-fungal medication, the infection would subside. When asked why such a large number of individuals have poor oral health, Ms. Auzenne insisted that a plausible explanation is the insecurity that individuals feel regarding the condition of their mouth and teeth. In turn, they do not visit the dentist.

A complete list of community sponsors include: Wells Fargo Bank; Harris County Sheriff’s Office; NAACP-Houston Chapter Voter Registration; WIC; Project Prom Dress; Walgreens; Texas Chip/Texas Star; Harris Health and Healthcare for the Homeless Program; Houston Area Women’s Center; Dr. Krystie Udeze, Dentist; The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Texas Southern University; San Jacinto College – Central Campus; Texas Women’s University Nursing Students; Houston Community College; The Lawson Academy; Houston Public Library; Sterling Staffing Solutions; Mystic Soul Candles; and Joan’s Monogram Works.

When asked how TLOD has enriched her life, Lady Wilson said, “I personally began my journey as a Top Teen in the organization where I was mentored by Lady Georgia Smith, mother of NFL greats, Charles “Bubba” Smith and Lawrence “Tody” Smith. Lady Smith made sure that I understood the value of serving others. Now, as president of the fifty-three-year-old historic Houston Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., I am humbled to provide that ingrained service to others. This beloved organization is all about service; service to youth, senior citizens, the status of women, community beautification, and ongoing programs and projects that are important to the fulfillment of TLOD’s mission. It is because of what was given to me, I have to serve others.”

The Houston Chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction’s First Annual Community Resource Fair was a success! Members of the Houston community left feeling a renewed sense of hope and were equipped with valuable and resourceful information. Thus, as “shapers of change,” members of Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. continue their efforts toward “Serving Youth and Adults.”