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Celebrating Grandparents Day with Craig O'Neill and Jane Hankins

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In every issue this year we’ve dedicated special space in celebration of our 20th anniversary. This month is no exception, except we are also celebrating National Grandparents Day which is Sunday, September 7. In honor of this beloved familial group, we’ve invited some of our community’s favorite iconic personalities who just so happen to be grandparents themselves.

Enter stage left, creative forces extraordinaire…THV 11’s Craig O’Neill (a.k.a. Randy Hankins) and artist/author Jane Hankins. Married 40+ years, the talented dynamic duo has a way of taking life to a level of Neverland heights. Just imagine being their grandchildren. In the words of another creative icon Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you will go.”

So get your giggle box ready and have a hankie handy as we catch up with the couple since Craig and granddaughter Bella graced Little Rock Family’s cover in 2007. They now have two grandchildren. Bella Rose Kerby, 10, has a little sister, Amelia May Kerby, 6.

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Little Rock Family: What do the girls call you and Jane?

Craig: They call me DaDoo. I wanted it to be DooDah as in “Camptown ladies sing this song. . .doodah—doodah”. I stole that idea from our good friend Robyn Dickey. I loved it, DooDah. But, once the children were born and became verbal, we had a vowel movement and it became “DaDoo.” Jane has the wonderfully easy “Na-nee.” Phoenetically, that’s “Nay-knee.”

LRF: How does grandparenting differ from parenting for you?

Craig: Grandparenting is judgment-free. As parents there is a constant nagging question that goes with every decision: “Is this the right choice? Am I doing the right thing?” But, with grandparenting, that inner critic is silenced. As a grandparent, life with your grandchild is a celebration. You lose your inhibition and revel in their constant sense of wonder and discovery. On an intuitive level, you also know, these grandchildren in some small way represent your immortality. This adds even more value to their little lives, and every moment becomes precious.

LRF: What type of grandparents would you say you are?

Craig: If there was one word that sums up our grandparenting style it would be “creative.” (Imagine that!) I am constantly presenting imaginary situations into our lives together. Example: When I would drive Bella to preschool, I would roll down the window of the front seat so that Tinkerbell could come into the car. She wanted to ride with us, and for two miles we chatted with Tinkerbell, who desposited fairy dust on us before she left, so that next time we could just fly to preschool. Jane’s exercises are a little more controlled because they take more set-up time, but just as endearing. The girls hardly ever come over to our house without painting, making something from clay, and even costuming.

LRF: How has grandparenting changed for you since 2007?

Craig: It has been amazing watching the girls change. I have read that the emotional part of the brain is completely developed by age 12, which means Bella is getting close to that age. In talking with her, listening to her inflections and subject matter, which is now all about relationships, I would suggest she is already there. Amelia on the other hand is still in that wonderful state of uninhibited imagination, where fantasy is still the rule, not the exception. I find that the older they get, I tend to linger on the childish moments, realizing they are disappearing very quickly. In talking with grandparents of teens, I get the same lament: “We don’t see them as often, but we love them just as much.”

LRF: What are your favorite aspects of being a grandparent?

Jane: My/our favorite part of being grandparents, is discovery. This means travel, new places, new things. I call it turning over rocks, which is one of our grandkids’ favorite things to do. Simply turning over rocks and seeing what’s underneath there in the garden. All grandparents have a good idea of what’s under the rock, but they don’t know how their grandkids will react, making the entire exercise one of discovery at all levels.

LRF: Do you have any advice for other grandparents?

Craig: There is no advice for grandparents. That’s like telling angels to be nice. Because just being a grandparent is enough. It is all you need. There are so many times in my life I wish I could become invisible and just watch. Just being with them is all it takes. It is, in some measure, perfection. It teaches us all that your capacity for love is limitless. I have seen very successful businessmen produce tears as they spoke of their grandchildren. Grown, learned women, accomplished and successful by every measure, become instantly childlike, getting down on the floor to become a mule. It’s why I can’t wait to see what happens to the Clintons. Watching a grandchild wipe off that political veneer.

LRF: What do you hope your grandchildren learn from you?

Craig: Living 63 years and loving conversing with people, there is one thing I noticed and realized a long time ago before my children became adults. When people remember their grandparents, their voices change. The expression softens. There is a dreaminess to the narrative that wasn’t there before. I realize now, that I have no expectations when it comes to legacy. I know it will be one they will cherish whatever it is. Jane feels that way too. My only regret is that I won’t be there to hear it. I’m sure it would be fascinating, because everything they say and do, is.

The Pratt Family Shares Their Heritage, Heart and Home

Gallery by Karen E. Segrave

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If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then what you see across this spread already beautifully illustrates the idea of this story. The Pratt family is intriguing, endearing and dedicated to one another. Cedric and Adama Pratt have been married 12 years and have three sons, Christian, 8, Kaden, 5, and Ian, 1. Cedric is a doctor of ophthalmology in Little Rock specializing in medical and surgical treatment of the retina and vitreous. Their present day story began many years ago in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where their families seemed worlds apart.

Adama explains how they came from two separate tribes. “My family was from a more traditional culture, a lot more primitive. We were traditionally not as educated and were sassy, feisty. Cedric’s family was from the more westernized culture who were originally slaves from England. They were very private.” Adama’s native tongue is Temne. Cedric’s family’s language is Creole or Broken English. Both of their cultures stress the importance of family and different generations looking out for each other.

Cedric’s mother, Elizabeth Pratt shares, “I was raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa and came to the United States in 1973, a year after I graduated from secondary school. My life growing up was strict and traditional with a mix of British and African cultures. I attended Anglican primary school and Methodist secondary school. One of the main things I share with my kids and grandkids is education. I was raised that learning is better than silver and gold. I also instill in them to respect their elders, to be kind, and for the older to care for the younger.”

“I let them know that to achieve anything in life, you have to work very hard. I also teach them to not be wasteful, especially with food. My grandmother used to say ‘willful waste makes woeful want.’ There are children in Sierra Leone who live in depressed conditions with no decent clothes or shoes to wear, food to eat or toys to play with. I let my grandchildren know how blessed they are and to be thankful every day,” Elizabeth states. Now living just outside of Houston, Texas, she visits often. She loves spending time with her grandkids doing puzzles and has a special song she sings to the Pratt boys before they go to sleep.

“Good night to you Christian, Kaden, and Ian and sweet be your sleep.

May angels around you thy silent watch keep.

Good night, good night, good night!”

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Adama’s mother, Yabome Kamara, still lives in West Africa but visits when possible. She also shares the importance of hard work and resilience with her grandchildren. She says, “Never give up and always strive for the best. Grow up having the traditions of respecting and taking care of parents and grandparents.” She loves going to the zoo and telling them stories from home.

Adama says of her mother, “She enjoys seeing us parent our kids and pass on some of the things we learned from them. It brings her joy to experience the blessing of grandkids. She loves redeeming the kids from discipline in our home by telling us to charge their misbehavior to her account. And that is something grandparents say back home. I tell her that my kids would be spoiled if I don’t make some withdrawals!”

Adama was born and raised in Sierra Leone while Cedric was born in the United States. There were times he lived in Sierra Leone, but primarily grew up in the U.S. Adama came to the States to attend college. She says, “My father always encouraged me to further my education.” They met while they were both in college at Abilene Christian University in Texas.

It was not love at first sight though. Adama explains, “My brother and I were speaking in our own language one time in the student union and Cedric just came up and joined the conversation. I didn’t know him and thought he was being nosy. It ended up that he and my brother had played soccer together.”

Cedric muses, “I thought she was stuck up at first.” After some time passed Cedric learned of war going on in Adama’s home country and asked her how her family was doing and if they were safe. The two began talking, eventually started dating, and then married.

After obtaining their degrees at Abilene, Cedric attended medical school at the University of North Texas and completed his residency in Ohio. The young family then made Arkansas their home.

The Pratts share their heritage with their young sons by speaking their native tongues at home and cooking African food. They also have their own personal traditions. Adama says, “Cedric has read the Bible to Christian every night ever since he was in my tummy. We go to the library a lot. I love the learning aspects of life. It’s rewarding to see the boys growing and the tools God has given them to be men.”

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Cedric affirms, “We want them to grow up with a heart for service and to always look for someone to help. Be mindful of who’s around you. I want our sons to grow up knowing we are very blessed. Family is very important to us. Family is the cornerstone of our community and the cornerstone of our country.”

Cookin’ with Grandma

SCOTCH EGGS
Traditional African Recipe from Elizabeth Pratt

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  • A Scotch egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2-16oz Jimmy Dean Sausages (Regular and Hot) I like my food hot and spicy and my children and grandchildren do not.
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Preparation and Directions

• Place 4 eggs in a small saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 3 minutes. Carefully drain, then fill pan with ice water to cool eggs. Gently crack shells and carefully peel under cold running water. Place eggs in a bowl of cold water; cover and chill until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

• Place breadcrumbs in a wide shallow bowl and the unwrapped sausages in another wide shallow bowl. Divide sausage into 4 equal portions. Pat 1 portion of sausage into a thin patty over the length of your palm. Lay one soft-boiled egg on top of sausage and wrap sausage around egg, sealing to completely enclose. Repeat with remaining sausage and eggs.

• Whisk remaining two eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Working gently with one sausage-wrapped egg at a time, coat in blended egg. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated, uncovered.

• Attach a deep-fry thermometer to side of a large heavy pot. Pour in oil to a depth of 2” and heat over medium heat to 375°. Fry eggs, turning occasionally and maintaining oil temperature of 350°, until sausage is cooked through and breading is golden brown and crisp, 5–6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to paper towels to drain.

• Cut eggs into 2 to 4 pieces and serve warm or cold.

Little Rock Soirée Presents the 2014 Fall Fashion Guide

Gallery by Jason Masters

When summer’s heat finally fades into fall’s golden leaves and cool, wood-smoke breezes, it’s time to get away from it all. From horseback riding and lakeside picnics, to hunting pheasant in the fields and playing piano in the parlor, this is how the eternally stylish welcome fall.

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When summer’s heat finally fades into fall’s golden leaves and cool, wood-smoke breezes, it’s time to get away from it all. From horseback riding and lakeside picnics, to hunting pheasant in the fields and playing piano in the parlor, this is how the eternally stylish welcome fall.

Photography Jason Masters
Photography Director Marcus Boyce
Hair & Makeup Angela Alexander
Photography Assistant Sarah Crider
Stylist Sandra McGrew
Design Dean Wheeler
Models Molly Overton
  Anna Margaret Fischer
  Nathan Beal
  (All from The Agency)
Location Marlsgate Plantation, Scott

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Gov. Mike Beebe's Final Order of Business

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Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe had no political plans before he first ran for state office, some 32 years ago, and he has no immediate political plans for afterward, other than to retire.

However he may not be able to retire the black tie, at least not right away.

At this year’s UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute’s Gala for Life, Beebe, — his final term in office down to a handful of months — and his wife and First Lady Ginger Beebe will be the event’s Pat and Willard Walker Tribute Award honorees.

Always one to promote jobs and the state economy, Beebe notes that UAMS is not only important as one of the nation’s leading cancer treatment and research centers, it, and cancer research in general, are a financial engine affecting jobs and employment around the state.

“Its importance transcends the obvious work that they provide for people who are suffering multiple, different types of cancer,” Beebe says of UAMS and its vital work.

The Gala for Life, in its 19th year, is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the Statehouse Convention Center. It is one of a number of functions that come with the territory for a state’s chief executive, and Beebe says he and Ginger try to attend as many as possible, but each of them will only accept being an event’s honoree once a year.

“I pretty much knew what the demands and schedule were going to be like with regard to actually doing the job as governor,” says Beebe, a state senator for 20 years and the state attorney general for one term before he ran for governor. “The only surprise was the sheer quantity of after-hours social events. … Now having said that, once you get to them, they’re enjoyable. For the most part they’re enjoyable.”

Beebe praised the generous spirit of those who champion good causes and put on fundraising events around Arkansas. Ginger Beebe says the demands on the couple’s time are not any greater, now that his second term is winding down, or any less.

“The passion for lending my time and effort to causes that help my fellow Arkansans isn’t tied to a particular title or political motivation,” she says. “Mike and I have supported causes close to our hearts long before he was Governor, and we will continue to do this work long after we leave office.”

The Gala For Life may resonate a little more with the Beebes.

Their granddaughter Alexandria was born with neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that starts in early forms of cells found in an embryo or fetus. Cancer-free now at age 4, Alexandria has some nerve damage because of tumor growth in her spine that was overlooked in a misdiagnosis, but she is otherwise fine.

“She was operated on at Children’s, which works in the pediatric cancer arena with the cancer institute, obviously,” Beebe says, praising his granddaughter’s treatment. “My personal experience has been nothing but wonderful.”

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State Swagger

Born in the small town of Amagon, Beebe traveled a great deal with his single mother before they returned to Arkansas, settling in Newport, and he graduated high school there. As a teenager, Beebe hit upon the idea of becoming an FBI agent and mistakenly thought he was interviewing for such a job when a bureau agent came to speak to him about becoming a clerk.

Beebe was told he needed a law degree to realize his dream, so he went to law school after graduating from Arkansas State University. He entered private practice in Searcy, where he was influenced by a number of people — including a senior partner who served eight years in the Arkansas Senate — to run for office.

“He just gave it up. He said ‘Eight is enough,’ ” Beebe says. “He wasn’t beat. He was just one of those guys that said it was part of his civic duty. … All those influences combined, I suppose, to cause me to run for the state senate but that wasn’t a career move.”

Beebe never had an opponent in 20 years as a state senator and made his reputation as an effective, pragmatic dealmaker. When he began to consider running for state attorney general in the 2002 election, he did so with trepidation.

As a state senator holding a part-time office, Beebe had the dual luxury of a good-paying job and a chance to serve in the legislature. The attorney general’s race would mean a transition to politics full-time.

“I was happy as a clam,” he says of the senate. “But for term limits I might still be there because I thought it was the optimum.”

But Beebe ran for attorney general and won, and when Republican Governor Mike Huckabee’s term ended, Beebe ran and won in 2006, returning the statehouse to the Democrats.

“I’ve got a friend that claims when we were in college I said I was going to be governor. That’s his memory,” says Beebe, dismissing the tale.

Beebe has continued to practice his brand of pragmatic politics, following in the tradition of those governors who came before him, whether they were Democrats like Bill Clinton or Republicans like Huckabee.

“They rise to the occasion,” Beebe says. “I spent a significant part of Gov. Huckabee’s administration in the Senate and we worked extremely well together in a very pragmatic way.”

He bemoans the tone and tenor of national politics, noting Huckabee’s rhetoric has been more explosive now that he has become one of the bigger names in the national Republican party. But Beebe is proud to point to the deals he forged on behalf of business and education as governor and said along the way he has always tried to invest Arkansas and Arkansans with a certain swagger and pride.

“Not a bad one, not an arrogance, not a negative connotation,” he says. “But a self-confidence in our people about who we are and what we can do and that we’re as good, if not better, than all the other folks we compete with.”

Why It Matters

Beebe says that wrestling with Medicaid expansion, sparked by the passage of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to reform healthcare, was not an issue he or the state legislature went looking for.

But the “Private Option” deal he signed into law — allowing federal Medicaid money to be used to buy private insurance for low-income residents — proves that in Arkansas, politicians from both parties can still work together to accomplish something meaningful, Beebe says.

“And they worked together to fashion a remedy with the cards they were dealt,” Beebe points out. “The real kicker on that though is it took a ¾ vote to get that done and if you think working together with 51 percent is difficult, imagine the bar of 75 percent, and yet they were able to do it.”

And, Beebe says, the wrangle over healthcare also underscores the importance of institutions like UAMS, cancer research and fundraisers like the Gala For Life.

With the Private Option cutting reimbursement losses, Beebe calculates that UAMS has $28 million more a year than what it would have had without the option.

“And part of what UAMS does will be reflected in this gala, the very talented researchers, scientists, the very talented physicians, the clinical treatment that occurs. The research that occurs,” Beebe says.

“All are wrapped up in how do you pay for it? So yeah, it highlights and heightens the need for what we do. And it further gives you a platform to say how catastrophic it would be if we hadn’t done it. And even at that they lose money. They just don’t lose as much because of Medicaid expansion.”

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Staying Home

The special events and formal fundraisers don’t come as naturally to Beebe as they do for Ginger, he readily admits. He gives his wife, who serves on a number of boards and chairs focusing on mental health, the arts and children’s issues, most of the credit for bringing him into the black-tie arena:

“Probably more of an influence than anything I had growing up is my wife, whose family had a tradition of volunteer work and philanthropy and who for virtually all of our marriage did primarily two things: raise children and give back in volunteer work for the community in various capacities.”

The First Lady has annually chaired National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walks and served on the art advisory committee for the Psychiatric Research Institute. Ginger has worked with groups and organizations to promote the arts in the state and to fight childhood obesity, a group that includes the Natural Wonders Partnership Council, an Arkansas Children’s Hospital group addressing Arkansas children’s health needs.

“She really was the person who, by example, opened my eyes to the whole give-back nature of what we all ought to be doing,” Beebe says. “She’s the living example of that Biblical adage of ‘To him who much is given, much is required.’ ”

While the guest appearance requests continue to stack up, Beebe says his first order of business, post-politics, is to just take it easy.

“First thing I’m going to do is retire and not get in a hurry,” he says. “I’ll take my time. My wife says I won’t be able to fully retire. We’re going to see.”

“While we have really enjoyed the last eight years, there are many things that I’m looking forward to about returning to our home in Searcy,” Ginger Beebe says. “I am most excited about two things — working in my garden and going back to volunteer work that I did before I was First Lady.”

Gov. Beebe says he may teach a course somewhere, entertain some speaking engagements or serve on some boards. He is definitely going to take in a few more football games at his beloved alma mater, Arkansas State, and is anticipating another winning season and bowl appearance from the resurgent program.

“They reload. It’s a 180,” he says. “Not just the performance on the field but everything. The support. Now you go to a game and there are 10,000 people tailgating five or six hours.”

The fundraising appearances and philanthropic efforts might continue, but Beebe has no designs on higher office or working in Washington. For a guy who entered politics reluctantly as a part-time senator, he feels like he is already stepping away from the best job in the world.

“I never thought I’d like anything more than the state senate, but this is better,” he says. “I don’t know where you’d go from here. I don’t want to go to Washington. Those people up there are a little different.”

Gala for Life
When: 6:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 26 | Where: Statehouse Convention Center | Tickets + info: 526-2277, Cancer.UAMS.edu/Gala

Arkansas Foodbank's Rhonda Sanders Serves Full Menu of Events for Hunger Action Month

Image by Jacob Slaton
A trained accountant, Rhonda Sanders’ business acumen helps the Arkansas Foodbank reach the most people and make the biggest impact. The Arkansas Foodbank delivered 21 million pounds of food last year and hopes to ship out 26 million pounds of food by 2016.

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Serving others is something that’s been ingrained into Rhonda Sanders’ being ever since she can remember.

Sanders grew up the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Throughout her childhood days, she was part of small congregations across the state and she watched as her parents always did what they could to help others, despite the fact they were never wealthy.

That generosity can be traced further into the genealogy of Sanders, whose grandfather owned a grocery store in Little Rock and was known for allowing customers to take home groceries on credit and return later to pay off the bill.

“Those were the kinds of stories I was raised on,” the now chief executive officer at the Arkansas Foodbank says.

Sanders’ father joined the military when she was in seventh grade, which allowed her to see and help those in need across the world. Upon graduating high school, she postponed college for a few years to go to the Philippines with her parents who were sent there on a tour of duty.

The experience was an eye-opener for the teenaged Sanders. Even still, Sanders didn’t see a nonprofit career in her future. She returned to Arkansas and majored in accounting at Ouachita Baptist University.

“When I picked accounting, the furthest thing from my mind was running a nonprofit,” she says. “I enjoyed business, I enjoyed numbers and putting things together. I thought [accounting] would be a good degree to have in many areas, and it proved to be that.”

After years in the private sector and a stint at the state Health Department, Sanders landed her first nonprofit job at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. It was there she fell in love with that type of work.

“The first three months were a shock,” she recalls. “It was a small nonprofit and you had so many irons in every fire. For a period of time, I thought, ‘What have I done?’”

About a year into the job, Sanders began work on legislation on childhood immunizations and it was then she realized the nonprofit world was where she belonged.

“I’ve had times when I could have looked at going back to either for-profit or a state agency, but no, the nonprofit work has been my focus and my calling,” she says.

She went on to work at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance before becoming CEO at the Arkansas Foodbank, where she says her education and passion have come together in a perfect fit.

“You have to have that knowledge and understanding of how to operate a business, and that’s one of the things that interested me with my accounting degree, and being able to able to match it with the mission of what you’re doing business about,” she says.

The Arkansas Foodbank is a Feeding America food bank and represents 33 counties in south and central Arkansas. In that area, the nonprofit serves about 300 local agencies that include pantries, kitchens and shelters. The foodbank gets food from national donors, retail stores in its area and food drives. Last year, the Arkansas Foodbank delivered 21 million pounds of food, and it has a goal of shipping out 26 million pounds of food by 2016.

As Hunger Action Month, September is an important time for the Arkansas Foodbank to help raise hunger awareness and show others how they can help the fight. For a complete list of events the Arkansas Foodbank has set for September, check out its website at ArkansasFoodBank.org.

Sanders says the Arkansas Foodbank is always looking for new ways to acquire and send out healthier, more nutritious food, all while trying to end hunger in Arkansas. The job can be difficult at times, but those times are worth the trouble when Sanders is able to see the good being done at the Arkansas Foodbank’s many agencies.

“That’s when the rubber meets the road, when I get to go out there and see our agencies and what they’re doing and how the food is being used,” she says. “Those are the moments that truly bring me the most joy. That’s why we’re doing it right there.”

Another Serving

Soirée: If you were not working in the nonprofit sector, where would you be?
Rhonda Sanders: I would probably be somewhere in education. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and that facet of working with people.

SO: Favorite movie?
RS: “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hunger Games” — those are the movies I’ve stood in line with the kids to see.

SO: Business attire or jeans?
RS: Definitely jeans.

SO: Where is somewhere you have not been, but would like to go?
RS: I would love to go to England or France.

Molly McGowan Off the Bench for Women's Foundation of Arkansas

Image by Jason Masters
Molly McGowan grew up with a network of strong female role models, and through her work with the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, she is laying the groundwork for all Arkansas girls to have such a support system. Photo shot on location at the Clinton Presidential Library; hair and makeup by Angela Alexander; suit and blouse provided by Dillard’s.

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From Chile to the United Kingdom, Washington D.C. to South Africa, Molly McGowan has experienced life all over the globe, and working on four different continents has given her a glimpse at women in all sorts of different societies. Now, Molly is back in her hometown of Little Rock and ready to put that knowledge into action as chair of this year’s Power of the Purse luncheon, benefiting the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas (WFA), along with her co-chair Nicky Hamilton.

“WFA is one of a kind,” McGowan says. “It’s the only philanthropic organization in Arkansas whose sole purpose is to fund women’s and girls’ projects.” Power of the Purse is WFA’s biggest event, welcoming professional women, philanthropists, community leaders and women and men from around the state with the purpose of honoring accomplished women, announcing the year’s grant recipients and highlighting the work of WFA’s programs.

“Power of the Purse allows WFA to report all that has been accomplished the previous year with gifts from the public,” says WFA executive director Lynnette Watts. “It’s an opportunity for people who are interested in moving women and girls to positions of economic security to come together for inspiration and encouragement in their efforts.” The luncheon, which has taken place annually since 1999, received its name when WFA founders hoped to show Arkansans how one donor’s small purse can make a big impact for women and girls in Arkansas.

Though this is McGowan’s first year as co-chair, she isn’t new to Power of the Purse. Her mother, state court judge Mary McGowan, was active in WFA all of McGowan’s life, and she grew up attending the luncheon and other WFA events with her mother. “She was a huge influence for me,” McGowan says. “I was an only child and growing up, I was never told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. As a matter of fact, I was told the opposite — that I could do anything because I was a girl. I think that’s a really unique thing. Even if you have wonderful, supportive parents and good role models, you can’t control society or mean kids on the playground. So many girls today, even in 2014, don’t have that support system, and WFA helps to fill that void.”

McGowan feels lucky to have had a long list of strong female role models growing up. Mary McGowan was one of two women in her law school class in the 1970s, and McGowan’s grandmother taught physical education and coached tennis at the University of Central Arkansas in a time when most women were not working full time, especially as college professors. Growing up in the Little Rock school system, McGowan recalls female principals such as Dr. Marian Lacey of Horace Mann and Lillie Carter at Pulaski Heights Elementary School. “I might not have chosen teaching as a profession, but those women were huge influences to me growing up,” she says.

After graduating from Central High School, McGowan attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where she had the opportunity to study at Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile, and at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. From there, she moved to Washington D.C. after being offered a position as executive assistant to Senator Blanche Lincoln. “Talk about a perfect female role model,” McGowan laughs. “I’ve admired Senator Lincoln since she was first elected — as the youngest woman ever — to the U.S. Senate in 1998. She had an amazing ability to balance all of her responsibilities, professional and personal. She once said her mother told her, ‘You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.’ That’s a lesson I carry with me to this day.”

The number of women in the Senate almost doubled during McGowan’s time in Washington D.C., with Lincoln at the forefront of that momentum. “Women offer a unique perspective — one that I believe is certainly needed in the halls of Congress and in all politics from City Hall to the White House.”

In 2009, McGowan returned to Little Rock and began a concurrent master of public service and juris doctor degree program at the Clinton School of Public Service and UALR Bowen School of Law, where she completed her international project with the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Since graduating in 2012, McGowan has worked as a law clerk to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Volpe.

In addition to her day job, McGowan is an active community member, serving on numerous boards and committees and as a member of the Junior League of Little Rock. “I do better when I’m busier,” she says. “I like to have my hands in a lot of things.” Interested in becoming involved with WFA, McGowan met with Watts and the opportunity to take a leadership role in Power of the Purse presented itself. “It was a perfect way to jump in.”

“Molly is very organized and possesses great leadership ability,” Watts says. “She is also creative and energetic and brings that quality to her work as well. She has been a joy to work with. She is well-spoken and adept at public speaking, but most importantly, she is an advocate for women and feels that WFA’s mission aligns with her position. She is the perfect spokesperson and role model for WFA.”

Power of the Purse will take place Friday, October 3 at the Wally Allen Ballroom in the Statehouse Convention Center, and anyone who would like to learn about the work WFA has accomplished this year is welcome to attend. WFA founding member Catherine Hughes will be honored as the 2014 Woman of the Year in Philanthropy, and Sharon Orlopp, Global Chief Diversity Officer and a Senior Vice President of Wal-Mart, will present the keynote address. New to the event this year is the addition of an organizational honor at the luncheon, which will be presented to the Little Rock chapter of Links, Inc., a nonprofit that works to enrich, sustain and ensure the identities, culture and economic survival of African-Americans in the community.

WFA will host its first after-hours event in conjunction with the luncheon this year. “Evening Bag” will take place Thursday, October 2 from 6-8 p.m. at the ESSE Purse Museum. Guests are encouraged to sip cocktails, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and explore the museum, and the $50 tickets will benefit both WFA and ESSE.

“Power of the Purse is a great way for people to learn what WFA does and to understand the work they’re doing,” Molly says. “And frankly, it does such great work that we want to educate as many people as possible about what we’re doing. I truly believe that if women are elevated and educated and encouraged, especially from a young age, we are improving the health of our society and community as a whole.”

Power of the Purse
When: Friday, Oct. 3 | Where: Statehouse Convention Center | Tickets & Info: WomensFoundationArkansas.org

Fashion Entrepreneurs Erica Warren and Alexis Young Get Trinity Simone Rolling

Image by Lily Darragh

Erica Warren, left, and Alexis Young, the ladies of Trinity Simone, Arkansas’ first rolling boutique.

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“Your favorite closet on wheels.”

That’s the elevator pitch from Erica Warren and Alexis Young, the ladies of Trinity Simone, Arkansas’ first rolling boutique.

Fashion devotees and lovers of food trucks, the girls saw the light one night after long attempts to find a way into the clothing industry: Take the truck and fill it with scrumptious style instead.

Their first inclination was toward a brick-and-mortar store, but they didn’t want the tight restrictions that came along with it. By using the truck, they could sidestep those complications.

“No overhead, no contract,” Warren says. “It’s freedom.”

The itch began right around junior high when the Little Rock natives were in school together. Warren realized she might have a flair for fashion when she was nominated for “Best Dressed” by her classmates.

For Young, it was right about at that age most would rather forget ever happened. “I was 13, that awkward stage. It was the first time I moved out of the children’s clothes and into the juniors’ section, and it was Easter,” Young says. “I just felt pretty. I guess that was the first time I ever felt like a young lady.”

They went in different directions post-graduation, but never lost that appetite, with Young getting certified as a nail technician and Warren doing makeup at a cosmetics counter.

Finally the day came in April 2013 when the Trinity Simone fashion truck went mobile at a festival in Memphis.

“That moment, to see our dreams come to life was incredible. The response from everybody was so good and so welcoming. It was amazing,” Young says.

Since then, the Trinity Simone fan base has only grown. Customers are loyal and engaging, even worrisome when the truck is out of town and not in its usual spot on Saturdays in the River Market.

It may be the novelty of the truck that first draws people in, but that’s not what keeps them coming back. The real selling point of Trinity Simone is its impeccable style. Shoppers will find classic pieces that can be mixed and matched and worn season after season.

“We try to make our clothes the ones that you don’t want to get rid of, that never really go out of style,” Warren says.

You won’t find these women chasing after the latest and greatest trends. They’re too busy setting them. Both have a natural eye for fashion, usually agreeing on pieces for the truck at buyers’ markets. If an item passes their personal taste tests, it goes in the truck.

“A long time ago, dressing was a big deal,” Warren says. “You went on a plane, you got dressed up. Now people go in sweats. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing, but we really want to be able to provide that style that makes you want to dress up more often.”

Their drive to cater that style to others is where their entrepreneurial efforts come into play. They both knew that running a business would be much different than working for one, but weren’t scared off by the challenge.

“Neither one of us knew what we were doing, and we’re still learning. It’s a lot of trial and error,” Young says.

Despite any early uncertainty, the Trinity Simone girls have really settled into a scene they helped create. They’ve embraced the community of local boutiques, as well as the idea of leaving a legacy for their daughters, Young’s 16-year-old Trinity and Warren’s 2-year-old Simone — the company’s namesake.

They have plans of expanding their online market and purchasing a second truck so one can always stay in Little Rock. They even have an SEC college tour in the works, with a very important pit stop in Fayetteville, of course.

Maybe one day they’ll have a stationary storefront, but for now, they love the opportunities and relationships the truck provides.

“You see brick-and-mortar stores every day that you pass by and you never thought to go in,” Young says. “When you’re out at festivals, people just want to come in and see what it’s like.”

“For me, [fashion is] self expression, it’s fun. It can give you life, it can rejuvenate you,” Warren says. “There’s always something I can restructure and remake.”

The women of Trinity Simone have done just that for the Little Rock fashion scene, and if their league of trendsetters has anything to say about it, that truck’s not slowing down any time soon.

For more info about Trinity Simone, or to track the truck, visit Trinity-Simone.com.

Fashion Do’s and Don’ts with Trinity Simone

Looks to look for:
Bold prints, knitwear, more structured outfits, lace and lots of fur

Looks to let go:
Studs and chevron

Most regretted style choices:
Young: My hairstyles, oh my god. What was I thinking? Teased bangs? Terrible.
Warren: The oversized shirts with biker shorts days. We weren’t riding bikes.

Little known fact:
Trinity Simone is also available for private events. For personal parties, they offer a discount for guests and hosts. (So much better than a Tupperware party).

Paula Gean Plays the Partner Card for Rockefeller Cancer Institute

Image by Lily Darragh
Paula Gean’s clothes were provided by Beehive and Beyond Cotton II; jewelry by Jones & Son Fine Jewelry.

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A technology consultant with Fidelity Information Services (FIS), Florida native Paula Gean says she loves working with amazing technology, but also for a company that is dedicated to community involvement. Thanks to FIS’ steadfast commitment to giving back, Gean has been able to devote herself to her career as well as local philanthropic projects, like the annual Partners Card.

A fundraiser for the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute (WRCI), the Partners Card offers 10 days of discounts and specials at more than 190 participating merchants and restaurants in central Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas. The cards are $50, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the WRCI Auxiliary to fund projects that benefit cancer patients. Below, Gean — who is chairing this year’s program — shares more about Partners Card, its impact in the community and what to expect this year.

Soirée: How does Partners Card work? Where can you purchase a card?

Paula Gean: The card buyer purchases a Partners Card (PC) for $50; 100 percent of the card purchase goes directly to the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Auxiliary to fund projects that benefit cancer patients. Participating PC merchants offer a generous 20 percent discount to cardholders for the 10-day period from October 24-November 2. PC sponsors underwrite all administrative and production costs of the promotion. Cards may be purchased online at UAMSPartnersCard.com, by calling 686-8286 by Oct. 14, by visiting one of the card-selling retailers or through a volunteer.

SO: Where exactly does money from the sale of Partners Cards go?

PG: The WRCI Auxiliary has made major contributions to the Institute since 1997. Some of these include: $1,603,500 in direct grants and donations to WRCI physicians, cancer programs in Arkansas and the WRCI Foundation; $550,950 to the UAMS Family Home and Cancer Institute Auxiliary Cancer Support Center (the Auxiliary is the largest monetary donor to the Family Home); $200,000 for a digital mammogram machine; $25,000 for the MIRT waiting room in Ward Tower; $22,000 to Dr. Steve Harms’ Breast Imaging Project; head and neck screening; tobacco cessation support group; post-mastectomy bras and pads; free wigs and caps for patients with hair loss; and much more. Learn more about the programs and mission of the WRCI at UAMS at www.Cancer.UAMS.edu.

SO: What’s new for this year?

PG: We have three presenting sponsors this year: Gene Lockwood’s, Highlands Oncology and Natalie and Win Rockefeller. There’s also a kick-off party at Iberia Bank from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 11.

Partners Card  
When: Friday, Oct. 24 - Sunday, Nov. 2 | Info: www.UAMSPartnersCard.com, 686-8286

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