The Grow A Girl Network hosted its first annual Black and White Celebration on June 4 at Bethel AME Church in Hinesville.
More than 170 people attended the event, which featured guest appearances by Odessa Upchurch, the mother of domestic violence victim Savannah Smith, and world-renowned entrepreneur Lauretta Pierce, who served as the keynote speaker.
Pierce, who survived homelessness and a very violent domestic attack, is the CEO of Covenant Cookies, a confection company that produces a variety of handcrafted inspirational gifts.
Her most popular item is the Covenant Cookie — a "fortune cookie-style delectable treat with unforgettable flavor and a word of encouragement hidden inside."
Her story and her company have been featured on several media outlets, including TBN, ABC and Fox News network.
Pierce told her story from the heart to all in attendance, but she had special words for the young ladies involved with the Grow A Girl Network mentorship program.
"I wish when I was being molested ... when I was beaten almost to death, that there was a Grow A Girl Network. I wish I had an outlet," Pierce said. "You don’t have to go through all that I went through. You don’t have to settle for less ... and don’t ever let anybody defile your temple. What God has given you is something special"
To add to that, Upchurch told the young ladies to "always remember what you’ve learned here, keep it close to your heart, because it will keep you protected and it can save your life."
Cheron K. Griffin, who leads GAGN as its founder, said she was "awestruck" by the amount of support the event received and couldn’t thank her special guests enough.
"Our young ladies and the young ladies from Youth Challenge will never be the same," Griffin said. "I can’t thank Lauretta, Odessa and everyone enough, especially the mentors who help keep me and this program going. I just thank everyone."
The event ended with tears, hugs and special words from Griffin to the mentors and each of the young participants involved. Each girl and mentor received a bouquet of flowers for their work throughout the year.