“It’s a place where a girl gets to be Captain of the team, not just the cheerleader on the sidelines.” That’s the phrase that has stuck in my head since my phone call with Cathy Duffy Cullity, CEO of Girls Inc. of New Hampshire. But Cathy wasn’t just talking about sports; the analogy spans across a full spectrum of activities, programs, and support opportunities that are on offer to young women and their families across the state.
Girls Inc. is a national organization with 90 chapters all across the US, working to ensure that every girl knows that their potential is limitless. Girls Inc. of New Hampshire covers the greatest geographical area compared to its affiliates, spanning all of NH, up to Portland, ME, and into Vermont. They have three centers – in Concord, Manchester, and Nashua – that run the full gamut of their services.
The organization offers after-school programs, summer camps, and activities during school vacation weeks. They also run early learning centers that offer spaces to both young boys and girls, and they have school residencies that cover topics such as bullying, online safety, and body image. “Last year we had residencies in 38 schools, and this year I predict an increase,” Cathy said. “We can offer support and information that schools aren’t able to give, from our nationally-recognized curriculum.”
If all of that doesn’t seem enough to fill the time of the dedicated team of part time employees and volunteers that keep this organization going, they also run a unique Leadership Academy. This program allows girls to explore New Hampshire and all the wonderful opportunities this state has to offer. “It’s a chance for the girls to see what they may be able to do in their lives – by seeing other successful businessmen and women.”
Not all of the programs are solely for young people, however. They also run Cafe Lauren in Manchester and the Burke Street Cafe in Nashua. These spaces provide free nutritious weekday dinners to girls and their families. On occasion, Cathy and her team noticed that some participants would save food from a program, stuffing it in their pockets and taking it home. “We recognized a need: girls were arriving starving, having not had food from elsewhere, and sometimes they’d try to take food away to give to their hungry siblings at home,” Cathy explained. Often families find traditional meal services daunting or scary, and many other programs only offer food to children, as adult meals are not reimbursed by the government for non-profit organizations. “We wanted to ensure that families in need had a place to sit together, to enjoy a meal – without worry.”
Cathy’s passion for her work is evident. And, after working with Girls Inc. for 18 years, she can think of no better place to share her knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. “My mom, a single parent, used to stand us Duffy girls in front of the mirror and tell us we could achieve anything – that’s what I want to give these girls, too.” And she does – but it takes a lot of hard work and, of course, money.
They have several revenue streams, including providing food services to preschools and private educational institutions, and they receive some state and federal funding. “But it’s our private donors that keep us going,” Duffy adds. They hold several events annually, including their hugely successful auction, which is supported by countless NH businesses, and their Road Race, which takes place this year on October 4th in Concord, NH. “Girls from our programs will be running the 5K and it should be a great family event,” said Cathy.
Young women face many challenges as they mature into adulthood and sometimes schools, friends and families can’t provide all the support they need. That’s where organizations like Girls Inc. can step in, giving a guiding light or a new experience – showing a girl that they can thrive regardless of the obstacles that may be in their path.
If you would like to share your stories about a great non-profit organization or individual who is Doing Good in New Hampshire, then do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.