Chattanooga: where women are change-makers!

Chattanooga: where women are change-makers!

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From kindergarten until fifth grade, I was a proud Girl Scout.  My five years in the program helped me make friends, learn skills, and discover my love of outdoor adventure. Most importantly, though, my Girl Scout troop urged me to make the world a better place. The words of the Girl Scout Promise and Law were carved into my memory and remain with me today:


The Girl Scout Promise

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my co

To help people at all times,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.


The Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,

friendly and helpful,

considerate and caring,

courageous and strong, and

responsible for what I say and do,

and to

respect myself and others,

respect authority,

use resources wisely,

make the world a better place, and

be a sister to every Girl Scout.


Now, many years later, I’m so excited to be raising two girls in Chattanooga – where women are making the world a better place!

Chattanooga offers girls and women opportunities to grow, and there are a number of powerful women in leadership to serve as role models. Women are contributing their time, talents, and treasure to improve our world and community.

Here is a small sampling of the ways that women are leading the charge to change Chattanooga and the world.


Volunteerism is alive and well in Chattanooga! Women invest their time to improve our community in many ways, including non-profit board membership.

I work at the Public Education Foundation and more than half of our volunteer Board of Directors consists of women! Many board members show extraordinary leadership and initiative by helping with fundraising and lending ideas for new programs.

The Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga and Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute are two other local nonprofits that benefit women – AND are governed by all-women boards!

Women also volunteer their time in the Mayor’s Council for Women. The council was created by Mayor Berke to engage women in making policy recommendations to improve local government for the benefit of women. Well over 100 women stepped up to volunteer and use their voice.


In Chattanooga’s vibrant nonprofit and philanthropic community, many women use their talents to Take Action and make a career out of improving the world. Many of these women have risen to the tops of their organizations, including:

This list is far from exhaustive, but the point is many women in Chattanooga hold leadership roles in organizations that tackle issues of poverty, equity, and community improvement.


There are many philanthropic women in Chattanooga who donate their dollars to improve the lives of others.

No discussion of Chattanooga philanthropy can ignore the iconic Ruth Holmberg, who set the highest bar of service by giving her time, talents, and treasures over her lifetime.

But Ms. Holmberg is not the only hard-working philanthropist in our community. In my work at PEF, I have had the pleasure of working with board member, volunteer, and donor – Kitty Caldwell.

More than 15 years ago, she created a program called Passport Scholars. It is now run by PEF and provides low-income high-school girls with rigorous summer academic enrichment programs at colleges nationwide.

The experiences gained through the program exposes girls to a world full of opportunity. Passport Scholars gain knowledge, confidence, and a chance to travel that they might never have had otherwise. The program changes the lives of young girls – all because Kitty created it 15 years ago.

She not only sustains the program, but also takes a special interest in the girls who participate, and works to improve the program every year. Of course, not all of us have the resources to be philanthropists on that scale, but we can all do our part.

The Nightingale Network Women’s Fund of Greater Chattanooga engages women of all ages and income levels in collective philanthropy. They make grants to nonprofits that help women and girls, demonstrating that when we pool our money, we can affect big change!

There are many ways to change the world. The women and organizations I’ve described are just a few of the Chattanooga women who are leading and working to change the world.

We also have many women in business, government, religion, art, and other sectors who are using their time, talents, and treasure to change the world.  These women serve as role models for our young girls, showing them many ways to fulfill the Girl Scout Promise and Law.

Emily O’Donnell serves as Vice President of External Relations at the Public Education Foundation.  She lives in Chattanooga with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs.

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