The Flower Girls first photo shoot

ST. PETERSBURG — This group of 20 young women experienced their first professional photo shoot last Saturday as part of the new 26-week training series created by the Gathering of Women, the same civic and social organization that brings us the annual Men And Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony each spring.

The Flower Girls, ages 5 to 17, is one of a growing number of out-of-school programs exclusively for young women and girls in south St. Petersburg, and especially designed for young women from lower-income households who often don’t benefit from gender-targeted programs.

This Oct. 24, the young ladies came dressed to impress as Gypsy Gallardo, CEO of the 2020 Plan, and Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Robinson Flowers guided them in creating their own profiles (soon to be published in the Power Broker magazine), and posing for full-body shots by digital media artist Robert Gallardo.

Flowers – for whom the Flower Girls group was named – will continue to support the series.

Deborah Figgs-Sanders, executive director of the Childs Park YMCA, which hosted the event said: “I’m grateful for these types of programs that start early with the young ladies. Teaching them self-respect, inspiring confidence and introducing to wonderful opportunities encouraging them to blossom into the beautiful young ladies I know they can be.”

“That’s the whole point of the new Flower Girls program,” said Samantha Richardson, president of the Gathering of Women. “Loving and training young women, focusing on positive social interactions and developing healthy attitudes.”

The project also focuses on increasing community involvement, developing decision-making skills and growing in tolerance for our differences.

The Flower Girls are making their way around town as well. The group has visited  The Museum of Science and Industry, the Strawberry Festival,  the Planetarium of St. Petersburg , Power Through Play (tennis and swimming), Gardening with Ava  and Star Gazing and Science at Vinoy Park.

The girls will continue their training series over the next several weeks tackling topics such as etiquette and healthy eating, financial literacy, and Introduction to Theatre.

Next winter and spring, the Flower Girls will participate in “Girls Write Now,” a literary arts training, as well as gymnastics and dance, modeling, and the science of gardening.

The 10-year-old Gathering of Women organization is gearing up for a fun-filled holiday season.

The group will host a fundraiser called Adult Game Night for their children’s Christmas party Nov. 21 from 8 p.m.-midnight at the St. Petersburg Country Club, which will take partygoers “back in the day” with games they played as children such as Monopoly, Twister and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

The Gathering will also host their annual Thanksgiving Dinner Nov. 24 for the children enrolled in their programs as well as with partner organizations in the community.

To learn more about the Flower Girls or register for the flower girls or Butterflies, call (727) 433-1352 or contact To connect with the Gathering of Women, email  or visit

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