You never quite know how your donation to United Way is going to affect someone’s life.
Sharmeka Thompson called United Way of Greater St. Louis from Round Rock, TX, an Austin suburb, the other day to say thank you.
Sharmeka attended Girls Inc. when she was 8 to 10 years old. Even as an adult, she counts it as one of the best parts of her life.
“I wish everyone could have the experience I had, regardless of income,” she said on the phone.
The eldest of three girls, Sharmeka attended Wyman School on St. Louis City’s south side. After school, Girls Inc. would pick her and other girls up from school and take them to their building on Sidney Street (Girls Inc. has since relocated to North County).
Sharmeka now has four children ages 6, 4 (twins) and 2, and Girls Inc. has been on her mind a lot these days. “My oldest child is in after school care now and we pay $100 per week. And I know his experience isn’t near as good as mine was and my mother only paid about $12 for the entire school year.
“We took trips, danced ballet, cooked, learned science, played sports. We had influential women – including African-American women – visit us,” she recalled. “It was then I realized people like me can be lawyers and doctors. It was important to us to have role models. Girls Inc. gave us that.”
Sharmeka’s favorite Girls Inc. memory is when she and the other girls performed for then-Miss America, Debbye Turner.
Now 33, Sharmeka is a patrol woman at a local Austin university. “I’ve been on the force since July 2011 – I had the urge to serve,” she said with a laugh.
Prior to becoming a police officer, Sharmeka received a degree in biology from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin. Right after high school she joined the military where she served with funeral and retirement ceremonies and became an air traffic controller for six years.
“I think I might go back to school to be a doctor,” she said.
United Way funded since 1986, Girls Inc. supports girls ages 4-18 in after-school and summer programs to help cultivate personal development, reinforce academic skills, encourage physical fitness and explore the arts.
Girls Inc. uses its United Way funds for its after school, prevention, arts and summer programs for the girls.
“I know United Way was a big supporter of Girls Inc. and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to say thank you. I want people who donate their money to United Way to know their money is put to good use.”
“Please keep giving,” Sharmeka implored. “We need programs like this.”
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