Women’s group reaches community

Sunday, August 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:21 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Four years ago, Juanita Washington was asked to serve as treasurer of the Missouri chapter of Women of Purpose International. She thought she would be the bookkeeper.

“Oh yeah, that’d be easy, no problem, I thought,” Washington, a Columbia resident, said. “I could do my books and get out of there. But the more I got involved, the more I was interested and stuck with it. I couldn’t pull away.”

Now vice president, Washington says she was attracted to the Christian-based service group because of its energy and dedication to God and community. However, the group also supports its members, she said.

“When we meet, we have testimonies of what we’ve been through, and we support each other,” Washington said. “We want a place to fellowship where we can give our own points of view — just to get out of the house and say, ‘I had a bad day at work and I’m asking you all to pray for me.’”

The Missouri chapter, based in Columbia, got its start in 1995. The Women of Purpose was founded two years earlier in Portland, Ore., as a ministry to inner-city women. Now more than 20 cities and five countries have active Women of Purpose groups.

The Missouri chapter’s new president, the Rev. Deloris Hill of Columbia, took over in July. Hill said the mission is to “strive to strengthen the body of Christ through the prayerful pollenation of every ethnicity, denomination and social status.” She said the group encourages excellence among all women.

As part of their commitment to excellence, the women perform community service and missionary work. Members took a mission trip to Africa last winter, and now work with Project Mercy to send donations to Africa. The women also team up with the Young Ladies of Purpose, a similar organization for girls ages 12 to 18, for events such as the Princess Bootcamp in July and a mother-daughter banquet this fall. The Young Ladies of Purpose meets once a month in Hill’s home.

“My favorite things would be the assisting others with their spiritual needs in their time of need,” said Maymie Carter of Hilldale. Carter joined the Women of Purpose after attending a promotional luncheon because she wanted to do missionary work.

“It’s like a vine,” Carter said. “We don’t just stay in one spot — we reach out to others.”

Carter has been involved in the group for four years and now serves as treasurer. She said the Women of Purpose’s next venture will be to purchase a home. The “House of Love” would be used as a counseling center for women and men in cases of crisis, Carter said. The group is still looking for a house or office that fits its vision, location needs and checkbook.

“We would like to stay within the downtown area in the community so people could walk to us — or on the bus route,” Washington said. “We’re trying to find something that will just get us started.”

The Missouri Women of Purpose meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at St. Paul AME Church, on Fifth Street and Park Avenue. The women perform outreach services at a variety of churches in Columbia on the fourth Monday evening of each month. All women are welcome to attend the meetings. The group’s next membership luncheon will be in October.

“We want to open up to other women of different faiths and minorities,” Washington said. “We’d like to venture out into the community even more, too, to white churches to do networking with them.”

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