As a recently divorced, single mother about a decade ago, Anna Scott needed a place where her 6-year-old daughter could stay after school.

She found Girls Inc. had an affordable program, where her daughter would also learn life lessons for girls and young women. In the nine years since, Scott said she’s seen her daughter, Autumn, learn skills such as leadership and independence.

“She was once the little girl looking up for direction, and now she is the one that the others look up to,” Scott said.

Girls Inc., founded 75 years ago, has served thousands of girls in Franklin and Johnson County, teaching them about conflict resolution, relationships, finances and other topics, while providing them with a place to play and learn outside of school.

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Membership has more than doubled at Girls Inc. since 2010, largely due to a concerted effort to reach out and offer more services to the community. While Girls Inc. maintains its in-house after-school programs and summer camps in a Victorian house near downtown Franklin, the nonprofit has put a focus on taking its lessons elsewhere to girls that might not otherwise have a chance to learn from them.

That has led to partnerships with Esperanza Ministries, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Pleasant Crossing Elementary School in Whiteland, the Johnson County juvenile probation and detention programs and Atterbury Job Corps.

More than 400 girls and young women have attended the programs since Girls Inc. began offering them a little more than a year ago, Girls Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sonya Ware-Meguiar said.

“We go where they are, so they don’t have to come to us,” she said.

Girls Inc. serves more than 500 girls through after-school programs, summer camps and outreach events, a number that has more than doubled since 2010.

With three full-time employees and another 13 part-time staff members, Girls Inc. heavily realizes on volunteers who perform a wide variety of services throughout the year, Ware-Meguiar said. More than 200 people volunteer each year at Girls Inc. Some come regularly to help girls with homework or assist with programs. Others will come once or twice a year for special projects, such as the United Way Day of Caring, Ware-Meguiar said.

And all that is done on a budget of $371,000 a year, with funding coming from the United Way of Johnson County, donations, sponsorship and membership fees.

Last year, a $200,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment allowed Girls Inc. to pay for training and materials, as well as hire additional employees for two years, focused on their outreach efforts. But the challenge going forward will be in finding ways to fund the staff who run the outreach programs once the grant runs out at the end of 2018, Ware-Meguiar said. Plans includes reaching out to donors and sponsors for additional money and also seeking contribution or assistance from the organizations Girls Inc. is partnering with, she said.

Over the past year, the need for more educational programs specifically targeted to girls has become clear, Ware-Meguiar said.

At Pleasant Crossing, the lessons began with a group of fifth-grade girls, but have expanded to include a fourth-grade class, she said. Ware-Meguiar also wants to expand outreach efforts into other areas of Johnson County such as Edinburgh and Trafalgar.

That search for funding comes at a time when Girls Inc. is already in need of donations to complete a renovation project that began last year, as the organization is in the midst of work to its Franklin headquarters, Ware-Meguiar said.

Girls Inc. recently completed the exterior portion of its renovation project with $103,000 of work including painting, repairs to the gutters and carpentry, and a new porch roof, storm windows, doors, rear steps, lighting and a wheelchair accessible ramp. After receiving a $50,000 facade grant from the Franklin Development Corp., Girls Inc. used fundraising efforts and a $13,000 low interest loan to pay for the remainder of the project, Ware-Meguiar said.

Now, they’re beginning the second half of the fundraising effort, and are looking to raise $200,000 over the next several years for interior renovations. Improvements will include a renovated kitchen that can be used for cooking classes, an expanded restroom on the second floor, a new basement staircase and a new entry on the west side of the building.

So far, about $13,000 has been raised toward the project, Ware-Meguiar said.

When the board of directors meets in November, they’ll work on brainstorming additional fundraising ideas for 2018, but with the amount of work that remains to be done, Girls Inc. likely won’t complete it for several years, Ware-Meguiar said.

By the numbers

Here’s a closer look at Girls Inc. of Franklin:

500: Girls served each year

13: full-time and part-time employees

200: people who volunteer each year at Girls Inc.

$361,000: 2017 operating budget

$211: cost of one semester of after-school care

At a glance

Girls Inc. of Franklin receives about 18 percent of its budget from the United Way of Johnson County.

The United Way of Johnson County funds 18 local nonprofit agencies and operates eight internal programs. United Way and the agencies it helps support helped 37,000 Johnson County residents last year.

If you want to donate or begin a giving campaign at your employer or organization, contact the United Way of Johnson County.

Address: 594 Ironwood Drive, Franklin

Phone: 317-736-7840


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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2702.