2015 Naomi Red Carpet Recognition Brunch

BY HOLLY KESTENIS Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – It was the 7th Annual “Just For You Day,” at the Naomi Red Carpet Recognition Brunch held at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort, located at 501 5th Ave. N.E. The theme: “A Woman of Noble Character,” where 23 women were honored for their noble contributions to the community.

Women in their best dresses and hair done just right were treated to a morning of appreciation for their selfless sacrifices. Whether someone’s mother, friend or even a mentor, these seasoned women have spent countless hours of their lives in the service of others. For the seventh year in a row, worthy women were treated to good food, inspirational talk and a myriad of gifts as a small thank you.

Ruth Johnson and Jaida Taylor-Herring both served as Mistresses of Ceremonies, and kept the program moving with their loving personalities and anointed spirit.

“Everybody is somebody else’s mother,” Johnson said as she addressed the gathered admirers urging them to remember that although we set aside one day a year to honor those women in our lives that mothers give of themselves year round.

Organized by the Naomi and Titus 2 Covenant Alliance (NT2CA) that was established in 2009, the morning’s activities reinforced the mission of restoring aged women to the position of being teachers in the community. Naomis are encouraged to recommit to fulfilling God’s mandate and reestablishing a purpose for their lives.

Johnson preached to those in attendance extolling the virtues of a spiritual life in which one gives back to those in need and makes themselves a servant to not only the Lord, but also the people seen on the streets every day.

But before the honorees were inducted into history, crowned with a tiara, a sash laid upon their shoulders, the NT2CA took a moment to recognize Monica Smith, the 2015 Community Outreach Recipient.

“The women helped me through my journey,” said Smith who had to overcome many life-altering barriers in order to put a damaging past behind her. “I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, incarcerated,” she admitted. “I lost custody of my children.”

Homeless and in debt from student loans that had gone into default and child support that she couldn’t pay, Smith needed help and the NT2CA was able to offer it. She was admitted into the women’s residence and there she met many women who helped to encourage her to handle her unresolved issues. “I was angry,” she said. With no communication or life skills, Smith’s self-esteem was at an all-time low.

Today two and a half years sober, Smith now has a relationship with her children. She faithfully pays child support and has learned how to budget her money so that she can become debt free.

Enrolled in college, Smith, who now works at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, hopes to one day hold an administrative position and give back even more to the community.

Cindy Burnham also works at the free clinic as the Women’s Residence program director. The program helps to provide safe and supportive transitional housing for single, hopeless, women helping them to become capable of employment and independent living.

“Every single morning I get up, make my coffee, sit in my red chair, and I start my day with a prayer,” Burnham said. And her prayers are now a reality as more women in the community are in line to be helped out with the new housing being built. Transitional housing currently holds around 20 women, but soon will be able to accommodate some 50 women in need.

Burnham couldn’t help but to give a shout out to the NT2CA for their unwavering support over the last five years. “They turned up on the scene and ever since they’ve been a part of our life and we’ve been a part of theirs,” she said.

In fact, in the past year and a half the NT2CA has helped to raise the four million dollars needed for the new transitional housing residence. “When we gave our things away, had yard sales [and worked] with our new building NT2CA was there,” stated Burnham.

Naomis were lavished with the love and appreciation they truly deserve during the crowning ceremony. Presenters entered the ballroom with their gifts of love for the 2015 Naomi court.

Before the raffle that gave away a Dooney and Burke purse, a flat screen television and a portrait worth more than $600 all for the bargain price of $20 a ticket, Johnson took a moment to speak on the occasion. She touched on the need for individuals to mirror their lives in the reflection of Jesus and uphold the teachings of the Bible.

“Although sometimes it can be an uphill battle, and not just with teenagers, with adults too, we have to be reminded again of who we are,” she said, “and to know that there is no other God as great as the one we serve.”

Teralyn Hodge NT2CA founder and president rounded out the day’s festivities by presenting Smith with a monetary gift to help in her efforts to reach her goals while showing support for all her dedication in cleaning up her life.

“We are looking for women: mothers, your aunties, to become a part of this organization,” Hodge said noting that giving back goes far beyond the superficial red carpet. “We can help raise up these women.”

Of course Hodge and the members of NT2CA know it takes a village, which is why they plan to continue to work with the community, church organizations and businesses to cement their goal of making a difference.

The Naomi and Titus 2 Covenant Alliance Ministries is a nonprofit organization involved in various activities including lending services to displaced women, mentorships for adults and youths, character development programs for teens, as well as after school support programs for the youth of St. Petersburg.

For more information on the organization and upcoming events, check out their website at ntcaministries.net.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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