On Thursday night, GreatNews.Life’s All About the Girls Part 7 (AATG) event invited talented women from the Region to share each other's company. AATG attendees enjoyed drinks and hors d'oeuvres while intently listening to each speaker.
There was time to mingle before and after the main event, but when speakers shared their stories, audience members hung on each and every word. A raffle was drawn in which four winners won gifts including a kitchen aid and dinner with two speakers.
The focus of the evening was the concept of “True Grit” and what it means to be gritty and a woman.
"Grit means having perseverance and passion, working toward your goals over time, determination no matter your IQ or your innate talent, having resilience, and getting up when you fall down. We all have storms during life. But grit is being able to have the resilience to get back up and go on—to move on," said Kaye Frataccia-Seibert, community leader.
To have grit is to persevere, but women with grit are more complex than being confident and indomitable. The speakers at All About the Girls exemplified the intricacies that women possess. They each told a story about themselves, their grit, and what it means to be a woman with true grit.
“My dad taught me when I was really young that if you weren't where you wanted to be, then go work. Outwork everyone else and you'll get there,” said Jenny Craig-Brown, executive director of GreatNews.Life and AATG host. "If it depends on me, it will happen or I will die trying because I have grit. Every woman here tonight has grit. I chose these ladies specifically for their grit from Megan's firefighting to Nicki's starting her own businesses, plural."
“When I think of the phrase True Grit, I think of the brave women who jump out of planes to serve our country,” said Megan Applegate, a certified public accountant at Applegate & Company, PC and volunteer firefighter and medical responder for Long Beach Fire Department. “I think of the female officers patrolling our communities day and night. But when I had the opportunity to sit down with the other speakers prior to tonight's event and learn about their lives, I realized we have a lot of gritty, determined, persistent, and courageous women here in Northwest Indiana. It took some time and some convincing, but I finally accepted that I am one of those gritty women as well.”
Some women know that they are gritty. They have been told so their entire lives, even by being called bossy on the playground. Other women have to be reminded. AATG was all about reminding each other—speakers and attendees alike—of their strengths and celebrating them.
“It's to highlight and celebrate these accomplishments and inspire others,” said Cindy Lopez, owner and operator of Merrillville Florist and Tea Room. “There are some very young women here tonight. My 16-year-old niece is here tonight. I'm talking to you. You need to know to trust in yourself and have the confidence to follow your dreams. Everyone in this room has a story to share and an accomplishment to celebrate. We just happen to be on the stage.”
Each speaker touched on how women encourage and stand in solidarity as a demographic. Support is how women encourage girls to be gritty. Buffy Adams, director of development at St. Jude House, leads by example.
“You may have already asked yourself, why in the world is St. Jude House—a domestic violence shelter, a nonprofit that serves hundreds of women and children each year—Why are you a continuing sponsor of All About the Girls? The answer is really quite simple,” Adams said. “Anytime a group of influential, empowered, intelligent, gritty women gathers, St. Jude House wants to be in that room. It's your awareness, your action, and your attention that's super important in the domestic violence space.”
Nicki Caylor, CEO and founder of Running Vines Winery and Aftermath Cidery & Winery, supports women and the community through her business.
“I had to learn to be a leader and hold those around me accountable, versus being everyone's friend and worrying about if they'd like me,” Caylor said. “In 2020, we all know what happened: COVID. I will tell you that it forced me to slow down, dig deeper, and yet again make decisions based on the health of our business and the restructuring of our company to survive the pandemic. I am so thankful for the amazing community that surrounds us and that has embraced my small business to grow and make Porter County proud.”
When a trial approaches a woman with grit, she conquers it whether that trial is internal or external.
“It's about my perspective, and I choose my thoughts and actions. If I don't like my thoughts, which happens quite often because I'm so hard on myself, I do my best to change them,” said Julie West, founder of the Play for Jake Foundation. “I figure out a way to step forward. I choose to look at the good. I choose to be open-minded, and I choose to offer grace to myself and others. Everything we do in life comes down to choice in our responses. I do fail sometimes, but I choose to focus on the times that I don't fail, and I try to learn from them.”
Being a woman, with as much grit as one can get, still encompasses pain and struggle. That is why taking time to celebrate life and what it means to be a woman is distinctly valuable.
“Women, we are miraculously made. We work. We raise the children. We clean the house. We prepare dinner and get it on the table. We go to the grocery store. We take the children to their games and piano recitals. We make doctor's appointments,” said Dr. Vanessa Allen-McCloud, president and CEO of Urban League of Northwest Indiana. “Some of us have been through a divorce. Some of us the big word: cancer. The heartache. Having a child. Losing a child. Not being able to have a child. We have one breast removed and then the other breast removed. We take care of our parents who are dealing with Alzheimer's. Through it all, we remind ourselves that we have an inner strength."
In the Region, All About the Girls is a key part of taking time to value the complexities that womanhood has to offer.
“We want to provide not only a spotlight for these ladies on stage, but shine a spotlight on someone to look to as a positive influence and someone to relate to,” Craig-Brown said. “All About the Girls is just that, it's all about the girls in our lives who make us better—who makes us want to try more, who inspires us.”
All About the Girls has a spillover effect. Every woman enters with their values, and every other woman elaborates and encourages until everyone’s perspective has been reevaluated and changed. With this newfound knowledge, attendees step outside of All About the Girls considering girlhood and womanhood unlike they did before.
The lens of true grit does this especially well. Grit becomes a motivator and a reason to accept others who are struggling. Whatever grit may manifest as it is within every woman is to be celebrated and be carried, with purpose, into every interaction.
All About the Girls Part 7 would not have been possible without these sponsors:
St. Jude House
Edward Jones Investments
1st Source Bank
American Licorice Company
Bronze Sol Tanning Salon
Century 21 Alliance Group
Community Healthcare System
Flanagin's Bulk Mail Service
General Insurance Services
Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Inc.
Hammond Urban Association
Kuraray / MonoSol
Latitude Commercial Properties
Merrillville Florist & Tea Room
Strack & Van Til
Supersonic Sounds, LLC
Surf Broadband Solutions
Wise Guys Discount Liquors