Supporting Women to Share Their Stories of Struggle

Tonia Alexander

Tonia Alexander

Volunteer Spotlight: Tonia Alexander

Since 2008 Tonia Alexander has been a volunteer for The Women’s Initiative’s Challenge into Change Writing Contest, an annual celebration of women’s stories of hope and healing. As a member of the Challenge into Change Committee, she helps guide the vision for the program and the culminating event at the Virginia Festival of the Book, our largest outreach event of the year. A Senior Self-Sufficiency Specialist at the Department of Social Services, Tonia also continues to inspire her clients to share their stories in each year’s contest.

Tell us about how you got involved with The Women’s Initiative originally.

I have shared each year’s book with so many women who may have been facing some type of struggle. I wanted to show them they aren’t alone. I think it can be empowering to know that, ‘Hey, my sister, my friend has overcome these things, and if they can, so can I!’
This year’s Challenge into Change book debuts at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

This year’s Challenge into Change book debuts at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

I have always found myself looking for resources that would serve my clients—something sustainable in the community that they would be able to access long after their time with me. I first found out about The Women’s Initiative when I was looking for a resource for a client who was dealing with major depression and I was trying to find a place that was very welcoming to her. The Women’s Initiative was nearby, so we were able to walk over and inquire about the services that were available. Charlottesville has a lot of resources, but it was great to have a resource directed towards serving women. We were able to make use of several opportunities available right from the beginning.

What inspires you to volunteer for Challenge into Change?

Over the years I have found that sometimes people will not be successful as they move towards self-sufficiency because of the additional stressors they’re dealing with. It has felt great to be there for these women—not only are they able share their stories in writing but their voices can be heard.

I have shared each year’s book with so many women who may have been facing some type of struggle. I wanted to show them they aren’t alone. I think it can be empowering to know that, ‘Hey, my sister, my friend has overcome these things, and if they can, so can I!’

How would you describe the impact of the Challenge into Change program on the authors who participate?

Every woman’s story is different, and it has made each book different over the years. Whether you’re sharing the first book or the most recent, there is always a woman that the book is able to speak to. Challenge into Change creates a connection between the authors and the readers that you can’t find in other books and I think that’s powerful. To be able to read the words of women from our own community, our own neighbors, to have an opportunity to share an encouraging word with a neighbor or a sister in a town that continues to heal, that is impact in itself.

All are welcome at this year’s Challenge into Change Celebration on Wednesday, March 20 at Carver Recreation Center.

This article is adapted from our 2019 Winter/Spring Newsletter.

Barn Party raises $118K for vital care

Photos by Brook Robinson

A gorgeous autumn day at Bellair Farm set the stage for an unforgettable 2018 Family Barn Party. Over 500 guests joined the fun and $118,000+ was raised in support of vital mental health care for women in need. Yeehaw! As volunteer Indigo Day shared, “It was epic.” Monica Prichard, Kristin Cory and Erika Jack’s talent and can-do leadership made all the difference. We thank our superb co-chairs, committee, volunteers, sponsors, in-kind vendors and supporters for their belief in our mission! Because of you, women in our community are finding renewed mental health and wellness.

Interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer for the 2019 Family Barn Party on Sunday, September 29? Contact Director of Philanthropy Kerry Day at (434) 872-0047 x103 or kday@thewomensinitiative.org.

SPONSORS

BLUE RIBBON
Bend Yoga
Investment Management of VA
Loring Woodriff Real Estate
Manchester Capital Management
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital

RED RIBBON
Red Light Management
Wells Fargo Advisors

WHITE RIBBON
Carter Bank & Trust
McGuireWoods
Old Dominion Capital Management
Union Bank & Trust
Virginia National Bank
Volvo of Charlottesville
Woods Rogers



COMMITTEE
MEMBERS

Kristin Cory, Co-Chair
Erika Jack, Co-Chair
Monica Prichard, Co-Chair

Maylisa Baldwin
Marie Bourgeois
Catherine Brown
Pam Calary
Kristin Clarens
Hobby Holmes Cole
Bridget Davis
Cynnie Davis
Marcela Foshay
Cassie Guy
Bebe Heiner
Christy Hickey
Laurie Kelly
Barkley Laing
Natasha Lawler
Jill Lerner
Maggie Noland
Susan Sheeran
Heather Sieg
Emily Westlake
Melanie Zink

This article is adapted from our Winter/Spring 2019 Newsletter.