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Columbus: Hundreds gather to raise money for financially strapped Girls, Inc.

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -
The financially troubled Columbus chapter of Girls, Incorporated honored participants and worked to raise money at a packed inaugural luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

News of the Girls, Inc. Garrad Center closing due to a $350,000 deficit struck some in the community hard. 

An online petition has garnered over 100 signatures pleading to administrators to keep the center opened. 

At least 600 people gathered at the Saint Luke Ministry Center in Columbus to honor the program and raise money to help keep  Girls, Inc. thriving in Columbus. 

"Without Girls, Inc. I wouldn't be able to speak my mind. I wouldn't be here," said Girls, Inc alumna Katie Jenkins.

Jenkins, 21, was awarded $20,000 by the program to continue her education at Wesleyan College in Macon. She said summers spent at Girls, Inc helped her find her passion.

"Summer theatre-- I started when I was eight, and it helped me learn that I was in love with theatre and that's why I'm a Theatre major now," Jenkins said.

To help motivate the girls and the 600 people in attendance, Jeanette Walls shared her story of escaping poverty and becoming a New York Times Best Selling Author.

"I was the poorest of the poor," Walls proclaimed. "For a long time I lived in shame about my story."

The nonprofit organization serves 1600 girls a year. According to officials, many are from low income families. Walls says getting over shame and feeling of inferiority were paramount in helping her achieve success. 

Organizers report raising upwards $80,000.

"it makes me feel great to see so many people behind Girls, Incorporated," Jenkins said.

Executive Director Dorothy Hyatt said although the program is having financial problems she believes the community will step up to make sure the program sticks around. 
     
Hyatt was happy to report they did meet their fund raising goal at the event.

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