Gertrude McClellan Purdue

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Gertrude McClellan Purdue

Born in Ohio in 1909, Gertrude Purdue came into this world serving others. Through six wars, the great depression, and the Civil Rights movement, she’s been, in her own words, a handmaiden to the Lord. Her energy and dedication have benefited countless people. She’s the first to arrive for a meeting and the last to leave. She has a smile that lights up the room and a Salvation Army uniform that still fits.

The oldest of seven siblings, Gertrude was raised in Michigan and Indiana. The daughter of Salvation Army officers, she was serving doughnuts to servicemen and veterans by the time she was 9. At age 13, she was helping conduct summer camps for disadvantaged children. In a recent interview in The Commercial Appeal, she said, “We were children of the regiment, and I had a flock.”

She became a commissioned Salvation Army Officer in 1930. In 1934, she married fellow officer Bramwell Purdue. They had two daughters and a son and raised a foster daughter. Together the two served in five cities in the Southern Territory for almost 30 years.

The couple helped form one of the first USO clubs and went on to direct several others. In the 50s, W. B. Purdue served as divisional secretary while Gertrude worked with nursing homes and hospitals.

They came to Memphis in 1962 to serve as Area Commanders. During their years of active service they helped develop a shelter for abused and exploited women and children. Gertrude worked to develop social services including senior citizens programs and with the Junior League, established one of the city’s first daycares for low-income families. Working with the Memphis Parks Commission, she and her husband helped create Golden Age Clubs, recreational and learning clubs for senior citizens that were so popular that the parks service later developed their own.

In addition to her work with the Salvation Army, Gertrude has been a part of Church Women United since the group began, serving as both state and local president. When Myra Dreifus called asking for help on behalf of the Fund for Needy Children. Gertrude organized a “sew in,” with 250 women sewing 2,500 garments. The “sew in,” now known as a “sew out,” still exists. Following Dr. King’s assassination, she helped organize forums to bring people together to open lines of communication and foster understanding and unity. And she served on the committee that formulated plans for what is now the Memphis Inter-Faith Association.

Gertrude was a board member, officer and advocate for the YWCA when it was first addressed issues of race and women’s equality. This was during the time that the Y was one of the only integrated groups in town.

In 1973, the couple retired from the Salvation Army, but Gertrude kept on serving. A founding member of the Women’s Auxiliary, she’s still chief recruiter. She organized an early discount program for seniors, and played piano at the Adult Rehabilitation Center for 29 years. And she’s still delivers doughnuts at the VA Hospital twice each month.

Gertrude has received many awards but one tops the list. In 2006, she received the highest international honor the Salvation Army bestows: The Order of the Founder is given for superlative service to its mission and ministry. Her photo hangs at Army headquarters in Atlanta and is inscribed with her name and the words “servant” and “encourager.”

Gertrude has remained active in Church Women United and the East Memphis Quota Club and helps keep others motivated and on track. She’s optimistic and believes in setting an example of love. She has said, “….You never know what seed you sow today will grow down the line.”

This May, Gertrude will celebrate her 98th birthday. We know that over all these years, she has steadfastly sown many seeds and continues to do so today. She is certainly an encourager and an inspiration for us all.


Gertrude Purdue died at age 104 in May 2013.

Virginia “Ginger” Ralston

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Virginia “Ginger” Ralston

A native of Missouri, Ginger Ralston was born in Waynesville, raised in Lebanon and attended college in Springfield. She became “Ginger” the summer before her junior year while working a summer job with her friend Stella. Stella gave them both nicknames and Virginia liked Ginger so well that she’s been Ginger ever since.

She and her husband moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1955, where they lived for the next thirty years. There Ginger raised their three sons, was PTA president and worked diligently for the American Association of University Women and her local garden club.

While raising her family, she decided to follow in the footsteps of her maternal grandmother and her mother and enter the world of property management. When her grandfather died, her grandmother was left with four young children and no income. To support her family, she built three houses to rent to boarders. Her mother inherited one of the houses, which she in turn managed, resulting in college money for Ginger. After Ginger’s youngest child started to school, she bought a lot, built a 24-unit apartment building, which was soon followed by another.

It wasn’t until 1991 that Ginger became active in women’s political issues. That was the year that she discovered that her favorite aunt, Fairy, had died because of the lack of safe and legal abortion. Told by her doctor to avoid the condition, Aunt Fairy had two difficult and dangerous pregnancies resulting in two children. The third pregnancy resulted in this beloved aunt’s death. Ginger was at the university when this happened and never knew what had happened. When she heard the story in 1991 the political became personal and Ginger became actively pro-choice and actively involved in women’s issues.

Since that time Ginger has worked tirelessly for the AAUW, the Women’s Political Caucus and the Unitarian Women’s Alliance, Women of Achievement and the Public Issues Forum. Ginger became well known as someone who could be counted on to be present – and representing multiple organizations – at any significant gathering focused on women’s issues and women’s needs.

Quoting a letter of support from City Council member Carol Chumley, “Mrs. Ralston’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and advocacy for women are remarkable. She is not often out-front but is always working diligently and steadfastly behind the scenes….She is probably the most knowledgeable person in Shelby County regarding the voting records of elected officials and positions taken by candidates for public office on issues affecting women and families.”

Many of us can attest to that. When we open our email accounts we’re very likely to find a message from Ginger updating us on the issues and providing contact information so that our voices can be heard by decisions makers at all levels.

Barbara King


for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Barbara C. King

Barbara King turned a volunteer slot with a local children’s charity into a career dedicated to helping abused children reclaim their lives.

Under her steady hand, the Exchange Club Family Center has grown sevenfold into one of the premiere social service agencies in Memphis.

Barbara grew up in East Memphis and graduated from East High. After a year in a Texas university she came home to Rhodes College to graduate with a B.A. in psychology in 1970. Married to Bob King right after graduation, the couple settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where for five years she was the program director for a preschool program for children with mental and physical disabilities. She was drawn to special education early – her best friend’s brother needed it – so when the couple returned to Memphis, she earned a Master’s degree in Education, specializing in early childhood special education.

While her three children were small, she began volunteering and one volunteer placement turned into a job – doing fundraising and public relations at the Les Passees Rehabilitation Center for children with neuro-motor disabilities. She stayed there for five years and along the way, learned about an agency that was about to go under. Barbara had gained strong experience as a fundraiser so the challenge of rescuing the Exchange Club Center appealed to her.
Lucky for them – and for the abused children of our community.

In 1993, when Barbara got to the center, in dilapidated quarters on Elvis Presley Boulevard, the three staffers and three programs were aimed primarily at child abuse prevention. The local center, opened in 1984, was one of dozens founded and funded across the nation by members of the Exchange Clubs.

Barbara moved the center to better quarters, first on Walnut Grove and then to a building the agency purchased on Union Avenue in 1997 and expanded in 2007.

She says that it became apparent that children dealing with child abuse also were being damaged by domestic violence in their homes. “It was just real obvious that was a form of child abuse whether they had scars or not,” Barbara says. “Yet at the time, they weren’t even considered a victim – so I wrote a mission to provide those services.”

Now open seven days a week, the center offers comprehensive services for children traumatized by violence and abuse as well as their families. The staff offers individual and group counseling for adults and children; educational services such as parenting training for first-time teen mothers and others at risk for child abuse and neglect; anger management for adults, teens and children; play therapy for children as young as two years and Parent Child Interactive Therapy for children under age 7.

The center operates a carefully structured and monitored program for court-ordered supervised visitation to help families shattered by battering.
The Exchange Club center is one of the leading training facilities for students in the fields of social work, psychology, and counseling with over 80 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level students from 8 local schools completing internship or practicums each year.

Today the Exchange Club Family Center- a private, non-profit agency – has a staff of 45, including a clinical psychologist and 19 licensed clinical social workers and counselors. The number of programs has grown from 3 to 23 providing services annually for over 5,500 children and adults who are involved in child abuse and family violence situations. About 10 percent of the center’s clients are from the Spanish-speaking community and are served by bi-lingual therapists.

Most astonishing, perhaps – the budget has grown from $225,000 to $2.5 million!

Barbara saw the potential for broader services to bring healing and renewal to children who had no voice and were deeply injured by physical and sexual abuse and domestic violence. She has worked tirelessly to build relationships with corporate leaders, government officials and non-profit colleagues to find resources necessary to make innovative and important programs happen.
Her steadfast devotion to the needs of children traumatized by abuse has brought hope to thousands.

Dorothy Orgill Kirsch


for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Dorothy Orgill Kirsch

Dorothy Orgill Kirsch has a simple rule about her wide-ranging volunteer work: it should be fun.

In more than 60 years of community service, Dorothy has become a model for how to fully engage in support of arts, animals, education, environment and youth to make our city better.

Docent, board member, patron, advocate – Dorothy puts her heart and her self where her money is. She could be found at the Memphis Zoo teaching school kids in the Reptile House, financing talented newcomers with Ballet Memphis or sponsoring shows at Playhouse on the Square while leading applause from the audience.

Caring, genuine, funny, energetic, loving, merry – Dorothy regularly brings groups of her close female friends to theater and ballet performances, arts fundraisers and other activities.

“You live in a place, you want it to be the best it can be,’ Dorothy says. “You can’t just sit and hope it will be the best it can be.”

Dorothy was born and raised in the city where she married and was widowed twice, raised two children and curries a bevy of friends and admirers. Kirsch’s father, Kenneth W. Orgill, was secretary in the family business, which opened in Memphis in 1847 and is still Memphis’ oldest running business.

As a girl, Dorothy remembers “knitting thingamajigs” for World War II soldiers and volunteered at Calvary Episcopal Church and as a member of a high school sorority during her term at the Hutchison School. She majored in political science and minored in economics at Randolph Macon Women’s College in Virginia.

Back in Memphis in 1955 after graduation, her second cousin Edmund Orgill (Memphis mayor 1956-1959) helped her get a job at what was then Southwestern at Memphis. She laughs now about being paid “$75 every two weeks or something” for helping the woman who produced an alumni newsletter and items about students for area newspapers.

She soon met Thomas White, resigned her job the spring of 1956 and got married. But, shortly, the first in a series of tragedies struck. Her only sibling, Kenneth Orgill Jr., 33, who had been under psychiatric care for more than a year, had lunch with his parents, then drove downtown and jumped from the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge. It was the afternoon of Jan. 31, 1960.

At about 8 p.m. 11 days later, his wife, Nancy Wilson Orgill, asked Dorothy and Tom White to babysit her young children. Later that night a 1955 Oldsmobile registered to Kenneth Orgill was found still running on the bridge. Nancy Orgill, 31, was missing. Her body was found in the Mississippi River near Scott, Miss in April; his was not recovered.

Kenneth W. Orgill III, 5, and Elizabeth Orgill, 3, came to live with the Whites.
Eight years later, Tom White was killed when the Piedmont airliner he was aboard collided with a small plane over North Carolina. He was 37.

Dorothy was in her 30s, widowed, a single mother of two children in the near-perfect world of Ozzie and Harriet and Donna Reed. Her parents helped her with the children until in 1972, she married William F. Kirsch Jr., a Harvard- and Yale-trained attorney, bachelor and friend of her brother. He had helped organize the Memphis Arts Council in 1961. He was president of the Memphis Opera and Memphis symphony boards and a generous supporter of the art museums, ballet, colleges, Theatre Memphis and Humane Society
Dorothy was active with the Junior League, Les Passees, Calvary and the mental health board. One day in December, Bill phoned her and asked was there anything they might send extra money to and she said, “The zoo. I’ve always loved animals.”

That launched a critical partnership between the Kirsches and the zoo. Bill Kirsch was zoo board president in 1987 and Dorothy joined the board and was the first board member to do weekly training classes to become a docent. Bill Kirsch died in 1989 after a brief illness. Dorothy’s “infectious enthusiasm” has continued to nourish the zoo and a long list of arts, schools and more.

“I’m lucky enough to do the things I love,” she says. We – and her FIVE rescued dogs – are all lucky to live where Dorothy Kirsch steadfastly shares her time, energy and resources to make our community stronger. Dorothy Orgill Kirsch is our 2016 Woman of Achievement for Steadfastness.

Joyce Springfield-Collins


for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Joyce Springfield-Collins

Joyce Springfield-Collins won her first award for community service 40 years ago – and she just keeps going.

Growing up in Midtown, she saw her grandparents and parents always helping people. Her father often housed people in the back room of his barber shop. Her mother shared holiday meals with homeless people. She had family members in churches across the city in many denominations instilling in her a strong faith and passion for doing community service.

After graduation from Booker T. Washington High School in 1951, Joyce went to Washington D.C. to study at Howard University and work for the Department of Labor. Returning to Memphis, she worked for Judge Odell Horton, married Leon Springfield in 1952 and had her daughter Denise.

In 1966 she began what became a 25-year career with the US Postal Service in personnel and human resources administration and management with responsibilities in 11 states.

And always she was engaged in civic and social organizations, especially those in support of women and girls. She was chair of the personnel committee for the Orange Mound Day Care board and for the Girls Inc. board; she was secretary of the Memphis chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, board member and president of the advisory council at Goodwill Homes Senior Center; and trustee at St. John Baptist Church – Vance.

She was so thoroughly involved that in March 1975 the Chamber of Commerce gave her its Woman of the Year Award for community service.
In 1986 she was on the Girls Club – later to become Girls Inc. – board and brought Oprah Winfrey to Memphis for the initial Lecture Endowment Series – An Evening with Oprah.

When Joyce retired from the postal service, she set out to travel and relax – but her old passion tracked her down. She was asked to join Habitat for Humanity and reorganize the Memphis affiliate. She said, “I didn’t want to do it, but I prayed and asked God if this is what he wants me to do, then give a sign.” After a “third sign,” she said, “Lord, I hear you. I’m on board.”

That began her seven-year stint as executive director for Habitat – work that she loved because she could see directly the results for people who needed help.

Her next opportunity let her finally realize a childhood dream of being a journalist. From her days as editor of her elementary school newspaper, she had wanted to write. For five years she was vice president/Memphis editor of Contempora Magazine and Tennessee Tribune. Then she joined Grace Magazine, eventually becoming editorial director. She authored stories on many local Memphis women for more than 15 years.

During this time she also helped Veronica Coleman create Mothers of the NILE, a membership group with a mission “to reduce the number of children entering the juvenile and criminal justice system.”

Accolades include the Coalition of 100 Black Women Woman of Wisdom (WOW) award; Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award, the highest given by the Rotary Foundation; 2008 Mothers of the NILE Founders award.
A colleague from Habitat said, “Joyce puts her money and her time into making our community a better place. She is a role model for all women to follow.”

Joyce Springfield-Collins at 84 is still serving: board secretary for the YWCA of Greater Memphis, active member Midtown Rotary Club, Sunday school teacher, church trustee, grandmother to three Eagle Scout grandsons, mother to daughter and son-in-law who are both ministers, faithful seller of seats for annual luncheons to support Girls Inc. and YWCA. And she and second husband Albert Collins have been married for 24 years!

For a lifetime of service to her community, for sharing her time, talent, leadership and personal funds to build and sustain organizations and agencies that make our community stronger – we salute Joyce Springfield-Collins as Woman of Achievement for Steadfastness 2017.

Mary Alice Hubbard McWilliams

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Mary Alice Hubbard McWilliams

Mary Alice Hubbard McWilliams crafted successful citizens and executives in many fields during more than 50 years as a senior high school mathematics teacher and leader in her church and community.

Teachers, engineers, legal and medical professionals, and government officials name her as the singular key influence in their education and success. Among them are Mayor W. W. Herenton, former city school Supt. Johnnie B. Watson, City Councilman Joe Brown, school principal Cassandra Smith and Spelman College professor Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles. They called her “difficult’’ and “tough as nails.’’ She says, “I’m firm. It must be right … I don’t play school.’’

Herenton has said, “What I loved about her was Mrs. McWilliams stayed after class with me and some of the other students who had difficulties. She would take her planning period and keep working through her lunch hour. She worked after school. She really cared about us.’’

Mary Alice grew up in Memphis in a family of nine children. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at LeMoyne-Owen College and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois with post-graduate work at Memphis State College.

She began teaching at Magnolia School in 1950 but soon transferred to Booker T. Washington High School where she taught Herenton and former school board member Carl Johnson. In 1971, she was moved to Memphis Tech, but returned to Washington High at Herenton’s request in 1986 and retired from Carver High in 1999.

She is one of four generations of educators in her family. “I always loved working with children. I believed everybody could learn and deserved to be taught.’’ She was the first black woman elected president of the Memphis Education Association. It was during her term that teachers bought the building on Flicker and negotiated their first master contract with the city Board of Education.

She was a strong advocate, leader and spokesperson in the Civil Rights struggle. She was a member of Women on the Move for Equality and committees that dealt with discrimination and social equality.

At Second Congregational United Church of Christ and with the national denomination, she was at the forefront in the struggle to deal with racism and sexism. She served on numerous committees, boards and as panel moderator and spokesperson. She traveled extensively for the church as president of the UCC Black Women’s Caucus and as a member of the national UCC’s Task Force on Women in the Church and Society, and the Advisory Commission on Women. She was honored as an outstanding national leader.

Mary Alice Hubbard McWilliams held her students to rigorous standards and high expectations, boosting them toward achievement and success while working just as hard for change and progress in the larger community and her church.

Nancy Bogatin

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Nancy Bogatin

When Nancy Bogatin opened the Studio of Advertising and Art in 1956, women who worked were called “working girls.’’ Those in advertising were expected to be models, not managing partners in their own agencies. Doing the expected was not on Nancy’s “to do” list, then or ever.

For more than 50 years, as a business, civic and volunteer leader, Nancy has made changes across Memphis.

Nancy graduated from Central High School in 1943 and earned her journalism and advertising degree at University of Missouri in 1946. She worked briefly as a copywriter and program personality on WMPS radio in Memphis before big-city lights lured her to a job as promotion director, and later as sportswear buyer, for Sears, Roebuck & Co. in New York City, her hometown.

In 1952, after, she says, “visiting my mother once too often,’’ Nancy returned to Memphis to marry Irvin Bogatin. Although most wives in their circle did not work, Nancy “got a little job’’ as director of special promotions as Lowenstein’s opened for business. A year later, her first entrepreneurial venture opened, a women’s ready-to-wear specialty shop called Casuals, Memphis. She was its owner, merchandiser and operator for three years, until she and Martha ‘Ham’ Embree opened the Studio. Eventually, as Nancy says, “we had the best retail roster in town,’’ among them Seessel’s, James Davis, Haas and Catherine’s.

After 25 years, in 1981, she sold her interest in Studio of Advertising and Art and formed NEB, Inc. For a decade, she continued working as an advertising consultant for clients while also performing the same service for not-for-profit groups on a pro bono basis.

She was the first woman to hold top leadership posts in several Memphis organizations. She headed the boards at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Goals for Memphis, Memphis Literacy Council and the Friends Foundation at Brooks Museum. Nancy was also vice president of the Memphis Arts Council board.

In recent years, despite a fight against cancer, Nancy has been an increasingly important leader in key education initiatives. She is especially devoted to Partners in Public Education, which she helped found. She has served as chair and continues to advocate and bolster the organization. She was a member of Mayor William Morris’ Task Force on Education, the Memphis Youth Initiative, the president’s councils at Rhodes and Christian Brothers University, the Governor’s Education Commission for Tennessee 2000 and was co-chair of Memphis 2000 education initiative.

She also is very involved in The Grant Center, whose mission is to strengthen non-profit organizations through education and support.

Nancy Bogatin’s consistent service, leadership, energy and creativity have made Memphis a more dynamic community. Even after a lifetime of achievement, and 12 years past her “retirement,’’ she continues to work steadfastly to give all Memphians a chance at a good future through a good education.

Fannie Belle Burnett

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Fannie Belle Burnett

Fannie Belle Burnett has devoted her professional life to raising money for good causes – and raising the next generation of fundraisers.

When Fannie Belle became the fourth executive director of Girls Club of Memphis in 1964, her only work experience was as a volunteer church youth director and mother to her own four children. But she knew how to take charge. She had worked for an employment agency and rose to become regional manager for Tupperware. She later became the primary support to her children and shared her home with various cousins.

When she joined the Girls Club, the board had just purchased its first facility and assumed a mortgage of more than $30,000. That year’s audit funding was $11,000 and girls’ memberships totaled 100. During Fannie Belle’s 14-year stint, the agency paid off its mortgage, added two centers, diversified its clients and staff, produced girls who received national recognition and tackled serious issues of growing up female in our society.

Under her leadership, Girls Incorporated of Memphis earned a national reputation for program excellence in areas like sexuality, employment and discrimination. By the late 1970s, Girls Inc. of Memphis had a budget of more than $400,000 and served 3,000 young people in three centers. In 1978, Fannie Belle became the first National Director of Program Development for Girls Inc. Under her leadership, three program areas were developed – youth employment, juvenile justice, and family life education. In addition, she was a critical participant in planning and executing the first nationwide conference dedicated to exploring the needs of girls – The Wingspread Conference – “Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Women.” Since Fannie Belle had honed her skills in fundraising, especially grant writing, she led the team that secured the funding to build the Girls Incorporated National Resource Center in Indianapolis. Today this center serves as the hub of research, program development and training for Girls Inc.

In the 1980s, Fannie Belle returned to Memphis. She worked in development for Youth Service Memphis/USA, and then established the Support Center of Memphis to help foster nonprofits. She was cofounder of the Memphis Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives and helped raise millions of dollars for the Memphis Zoo, Memphis Theological Seminary and Memphis Botanic Garden. “She seems to have always been operating on two tracks,’’ her nominator said, “seeing to the needs of her organization and bringing along others in the field.’’ In 1992, she was named director of LeMoyne-Owen College’s capital campaign. Three years later she became interim vice president for investment and helped manage the school during a search for a new president.

Now retired, Fannie Belle volunteers her skills with many groups. Another nominator captured her legacy: “Fannie Belle has mentored children, youth and adults, ‘walking her talk’ with a firm but gentle manner. Indeed, Memphis is a different place, and a better place, because of her steadfast vision in a future that is brighter than our present.”

Lois Freeman

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Lois Freeman

For decades, Lois Freeman has worked steadfastly for equal rights for women and minorities, for voters’ rights, for opportunities for individuals with disabilities, for better lives for children and for open community dialog and discussion.

Raised in segregated communities in a loving family environment in East Tennessee, Lois married and moved to West Tennessee in 1951. In Memphis she became conscious of the inequities of society and began what was to become a lifetime of activism. In 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights struggle, Lois was one of a biracial group of women who began the integration of restaurants in Memphis simply by showing up for lunch at a different location every Saturday. After the addition of women to the Civil Rights Act in 1972, she became active in voter registration drives in Mississippi. There was still an atmosphere of violence so workers drove unmarked cars and spent nights away from the communities in which they were working. More than 30 years later, she was recertified by the Department of Justice as an official election observer.

Recognizing that the way to change is through politics, Lois has served as president of the Memphis Women’s Political Caucus and has been active in the Democratic Party. Through these organizations she has worked on behalf of candidates who support the causes in which she deeply believes. Among those whom Lois has helped elect to public office are Judge Bernice Donald, U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman, City Councilwomen Mary Rose McCormick and Barbara Swearingen-Holt and State Representatives Carol Chumney, Henri Brooks and Kathryn Bowers.

Throughout her career in human resources, Lois observed all kinds of discrimination in the workplace. In the late 1970s, Lois cofounded the Equal Employment Opportunity Council of Greater Memphis. This marked the beginning of a network referral system and exchange of job information, which resulted in improved job opportunities for minorities and women. She served as president of the organization and was a member of the Governor’s Committee for the Handicapped.

Always interested in women’s issues, Lois has worked with the YWCA since 1985. She chaired the 1991–1993 Abused Women’s Services Committee and oversaw the opening of a second shelter. Lois is a founding member of the Public Issues Forum, a group dedicated to providing a medium for the public discussion essential to a healthy and progressive society.

Believing that children are our future, Lois serves on the board of Tennessee Mentorship, a group that works with at-risk children ages 3–6. She also is active with EdPac, which promotes opportunities to improve public schools and endorses effective school board candidates.

When asked which of her many endeavors has been most meaningful, she identified her work during the Civil Rights movement. What Lois has learned from her life of activism is that our future lies in appreciating diversity and respecting cultures different from our own. Lois’ steadfast efforts over the decades are clear proof of that belief.

Elizabeth Toles

Women of Achievement

for a woman with a lifetime of achievement:

Elizabeth Toles

One of the quiet heroines in Memphis is Elizabeth Toles, a former schoolteacher who has been steadfast in her support for others for all of her 79 years. During her 32 years in the classroom, before retiring in 1975, she was highly regarded for her kindness, her emphasis on excellence, and her active community service.

Elizabeth was born blind and left motherless at three weeks of age when her mother died. Her sight in one eye returned at age nine and she has proceeded to spend a lifetime teaching others how to overcome obstacles. Elizabeth has received numerous awards, citations, and recognition from all walks of life. In 1969, during the days of heightened racial tensions, she donated half a commercial building at 1277 Mississippi for the Memphis Police Department to use as a community service center – because she saw the need.

She currently pastors the Church of Good Fellowship, which she began in 1985. She strongly advocates tithing so much that she gives 10 percent of her church’s monthly income to help college students. Her church donates another one percent of its monthly revenue to MIFA to help feed the hungry. She teaches Bible study at King’s Daughters and Sons Home and sponsors a Thanksgiving dinner there annually.

The praise for Elizabeth’s good works is voluminous. She has been written about in national publications and received recognition from mayors, governors and the U.S. Congress.

She has helped send young people to college, provided stability for children whose families were in crisis, and given money anonymously to help many people – young and old – with their dreams. At her church’s Pastor Appreciation Day, one young woman said, “When I was a little girl, I thought Elizabeth Toles was a millionaire. She helped everybody!”

Her life has been an example of steadfastness – devotion to God and devotion to helping others.