Girls Inc. receives $25,000 donation for new van

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - An area organization aimed at empowering young girls and women received a "bold" surprise Tuesday morning.

Simply You Mastectomy Boutique donated a check for $25,000 to Girls Inc. in Bay County.

"I had absolutely no idea," Niki Kelly, Executive Director of Girls Inc., said.

United Way helped in connecting the two groups.

The van will be used to transport girls in the east Panama City community, including Parker, Springfield, and Callaway.

Girls Inc. is currently working on plans to find a location to serve that area. The organization has facilities in Panama City next to Oakland Terrace Park and Panama City Beach provided by Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church.

The check doesn't just mean new wheels for the group, but it will also help create new opportunities for girls.

"You know, despite all of the huge advances that have been made for girls and women, they still face incredible barriers and challenges that boys and men just don't face and so our goal is to make sure that all of our girls have got the right skills and the confidence that they need to get out there to be healthy, educated, independent young women," Kelly explained.

Dawn Hancock, the owner of Simply You Mastectomy Boutique, said her daughter participated in Girls Inc.

"Well with Girls Inc., I mean they teach our ladies to be strong, to be smart, to be bold, and be beautiful. They teach them how to be independent and to have more confidence in themselves," Hancock said.

Jacqueline Flynn, the mother of a current Girls Inc. member and the Senior Finance Specialist for United Way, said the program has helped her daughter come out of her shell.

"When she started here, she was the shy, very quiet young girl and now she speaks her mind and she has the interests in things that I never would've imagined her having an interest in: in coding, in cooking," Flynn said.

"It's just amazing to watch and with some of the girls who've been with us for several years, to watch them grow up and see that confidence grow and see them actually follow their dreams, that is what it's all about for us," Kelly said.

The goal of Girls Inc. is to help girls plant their roots, grow, and reach for the stars.

In fact, one of the upcoming events members are looking forward to is a trip to Huntsville, Alabama for a space camp field trip.