Melissa Marts' swan song after more than four years as executive director of the Women's Resource Agency was a record breaker, drawing more than 550 people to the annual Hopes + Dreams fundraising breakfast at the DoubleTree.
Empowerment was the word of the day as Marts reported that WRA is serving more than 1,082 women each year toward "full-time work at a living wage." It also was about "empowering girls in our community," specifically 70 at-risk girls in grades eight through 12 in 2016-17. The InterCept program high school graduation rate was 100 percent; 98 percent of those who had been in trouble did not re-offend, and a number found employment, Marts said.
Denise Larzo's radiant smile said it all. She had survived being laid off and her house burning down. "When you lose everything, dreams die," she said. "WRA will help you rebuild your hopes and dreams."
She became self-sufficient and self-confident enough to start her own ministry and a nonprofit network. And she got married.
Teen Ocean Armstrong had dealt with anger issues and was in danger of dropping out of school. It could have been hopeless when she punched a girl in the face and got a ticket. Instead, "WRA InterCept helped me get it done," she said, teaching her anger management, about healthy relationships, moving forward to get her education and becoming a vital part of her community. Add to that a solid goal of becoming a surgeon.
"There are 14,000 women like me and Ocean out there who need help," said Larzo.