Sensible Living for a Lifetime….
Development of the Sensible Women Initiative, Inc.
The Sensible Women Concept was conceived in 1995 by Dr. Lovely A. Thornton. The example, love, encouragement, humility, kindness, tenacity, and wisdom of Dr. Thornton’s mother (the late Mrs. Margaret Felder McClary) inspired her to write the poem, “A Sensible Woman.” This poem epitomizes Mrs. McClary’s spirit and ability to transform and transcend affective capacity to others. The Sensible Women Initiative will encourage women to embrace their God-given responsibilities and to emulate the example set by the late Margaret Felder McClary. Despite setbacks, disappointments, and hardships, Mrs. McClary believed that God has provided women a level playing field with a sure path to victory.
Dr. Thornton’s husband, Minister Michael Thornton, has stated, “My wife is inspired by visionary values and virtuous volunteerism. She has ventured and vested herself in a vocal conviction to victory over victimization.” Being a true “Man of Integrity,” Minister Thornton’s conviction, faith, and spiritual insight has propelled Dr. Thornton to a level of spiritual consciousness that feeds her tenacity. In addition to Minister Thornton, Dr. Thornton’s sons – Michael Jason, Marcus Justin, and Mikale Joshua – along with her father, the late Mr. Cecil McClary Sr., four brothers, and twelve nephews have given her a keen insight into the psyche of a man. With this knowledge, Dr. Thornton has wrapped herself in humility and has committed herself to bring more understanding to the perennial struggle that has developed between men and women.
A sensible woman understands that sensibleness is a simple concept, but its practicality is a difficult skill to acquire. The Sensible Women Initiative (SWI) embraces this challenge. SWI believes wholeheartedly in the power of common sense and unity. The perpetuation of these beliefs will be entrusted to the SWI Advisory Board. This board is a compilation of women representing various regions in the U.S. who are committed to the overall success and stability of girls, women, and the family. Each board member has unique talents, skills, and abilities.
During the 2012 year, the Sensible Women Initiative held a formal interest banquet in Cromwell, Connecticut. It was attended by over a hundred women and young ladies. During this time, SWI developed in several significant ways: Its membership expanded; it successfully become a non-profit, faith-based corporation; and it began the process of becoming a 501 (c) (3) federal tax-exempt organization.
The SWI held its 1st Annual Sensible Women Initiative Board of Directors/Advisors Meeting in Chicago, Illinois on June 14-16, 2013. The Chicago meeting was slated to further document the existence of the Sensible Women Initiative, Inc., formalize its organizational structure, cement its programmatic focus, and bring together a group of likeminded women from all over the United States who believe that “sensibleness is capable of squeezing the air out of non-sense!”
The contributions of the directors who were present at the Chicago meeting were greatly valued and appreciated by all concerned. The SWI continued to work diligently to build on these contributions and move forward as an organization that will be stronger, wiser, well-staffed, and equipped to meet the challenges before it.
During the 2014 year, the SWI secured its trademark logo, completed and filed it application for gaining its 501 (c) (3) – federal tax-exempt status, and begun the formation of its first chapter (Alpha Chapter) in Rochester, New York. It also continued its work in developing the SWI Curriculum; reviewed its constitution; further defined the responsibilities and services of its officers, directors, and committees; completed the SWI Standards and Procedures Manual; and updated its website. In addition, the SWI brought on board several well qualified directors who have expressed a willingness to join the organization in working with dedication, cooperation, professionalism, perseverance, and patience.
The 2nd Annual Board of Directors/Advisors Meeting was be held in Baltimore, Maryland on July 11-13, 2014. In a statement provide by Dr. Lovely Thornton, SWI President, she proclaimed: “SWI will stay the course, work through setbacks, and assist in providing a positive, sensible path for young ladies to follow.”
Following the Baltimore meeting, the SWI continued its organizational and developmental process. It began refining its procedures for establishing SWI chapters and making plans to establish its second chapter (Beta Chapter) at Towson University in Towson, Maryland. In late August, it received notice that it had been accepted as a “Public Charity Organization” and was certified as a 501 (c) (3) federal tax-exempt entity. It was also informed that its effective date of federal exemption was March 13, 2013. Thus, contributions made to the organization on this date and thereafter can be claimed as tax exempt donations when filing one’s Federal Income Taxes.
During the 2015-2016 year, we maintained a cadre of highly skilled and dedicated women who are busily developing standard operating procedures for their departments, creating curriculum and other materials, identifying fund raising sources and projects, and making plans that will positively impact the overall success of the organization. We engaged in two media blasts and launched the SWI Website (January 15, 2015) and Facebook Page, both of which have been well-received and highly complimented. We created the SWI Chapter Charter and Management Manual and the SWI Member Handbook: Guidelines for Community and College Chapters. Both documents are critical to our development of local/college chapters. We made great strides towards the development of our first two chapters – Alpha Chapter in Rochester, New York and Beta Chapter in Towson, Maryland. In addition, we held our 3rd Annual Business Meeting/Conference (July 9-13, 2015) in Columbia, South Carolina, where we reviewed our year, made plans, held very effective meetings and workshops, fellowshipped, conducted the Beta Chapter Induction, witnessed the removal of the Confederate Flag, and launched our 1st Annual Wind Beneath My Wings Banquet.
In 2016 (July 15-17), SWI held its Annual Business Meeting/Conference in the Flower City of Rochester, New York. It was a great success! SWI directors from thirteen States attended this event. We provided a talent extravaganza, seminars, break-out sessions, a luncheon, parade, picnic, induction ceremony, inspirational concert, and a formal banquet – for approximately three hundred attendees. Young ladies from Towson University and Delaware State University participated in the SWI Induction Ceremony. A total of seven young ladies from Towson were inducted into the Beta Chapter, and seven from Delaware State University were inducted into the Gamma Chapter. After successfully establishing the Alpha Chapter, in collaboration with George Mathis School #4 in Rochester, SWI’s Board of Directors decided to sever ties with School #4 to focus on developing a more inclusive SWI Community Chapter and/or a chapter in collaboration with a charter school.
We continued our efforts during 2017 (July 14-16). SWI’s Conference was held in Hanover, Maryland, with over 200 in attendance. This conference was devoted to developing camaraderie among members in addition to providing interpersonal training, a talent show, concert, formal banquet, and a trip to The African American Museum in Washington, D.C. Also, during the fall of 2017, SWI sponsored seven members of the Beta Chapter to attend a Women’s Retreat in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In addition, the Beta Chapter established the SWI Cares Project. In December, SWI Beta Chapter shipped four crates of items to a Homeless Shelter (Through the Storm Project) in South Carolina that houses Teenage Mothers. This effort also supported those who were adversely affected by the 2017 hurricanes. Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, SWI and the Beta Chapter were involved is several community service projects in the DMV area that provided hundreds of items for those in need.
SWI’s 2018 Conference was held in Alexandria, Virginia on July 13-15 at the Hampton Inn and Lee Community Center. It too was a great success! Our theme was “Rising Above!” The renown Mikki Taylor, Essence Magazine’s Editor-at-Large, delivered our keynote address. Mikki spoke to our souls and challenge us to a higher level of being. Her book signing event added an extra boost for SWI’s members and guests alike. Four students from Towson University were inducted into the Beta Chapter. During this conference, SWI launched its Mental Health Initiative. Our Director of Mental Health, Dr. Valerie Oji, is a pharmacist, a mental health expert, and a Harding University Associate Professor in the School of Pharmacy. Dr. Oji provided training and gathered information that will assist her in exploring and identifying key mental health service needs and barriers to seeking mental health services. This is an ongoing effort that will be addressed each year.
Assisting young ladies in developing a sensible mental wherewithal is a notable endeavor. However, the key is consistency and availability. SWI will continue to serve as a conduit from which our young ladies can thrive. Our 7th Annual Conference, held on July 12-14, 2019, in Savannah, Georgia, was another step in the right direction. Mary McNeil, SWI Chaplain and 2nd Vice President and her daughter, SWI Director Danyel Hall, gave SWI a hearty welcome to Savannah and served as the hostesses for conference. Zandra Young, former United States Army Combat Medic now SWI Director, was our keynote speaker. To say the least, she did an outstanding job! Director Young challenged us to stay the course and continue to assist young ladies in becoming a catalyst for social change. Also, during this conference, Dr. Wiletha Williams, a champion of natural scientific living, introduced SWI to Seven Health Destroyers, Seven Pillars of Health, Support for Common Challenges, along with other holistic approaches to wellness.
In addition to our workshops and Wind Beneath My Wings Banquet, SWI presented over $25,000 in scholarships. SWI’s Butterfly Inductee, Maya Henry, received SWI’s $20,000 Presidential Scholarship. We were also honored to provide roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations for six Beta Chapter members – among which were three new inductees. Every year, SWI is becoming stronger and its vision clearer. We were elated to add seventeen new directors to our membership roster.