Women of Minorities Empowering the Neighborhood (W.O.M.E.N) is a new service-based club on Mercer’s campus aimed at mentoring Macon-Bibb County minority girls.
Co-Founder and Co-President Sheridan King, a freshman, said she was inspired to start the club after observing a “disconnect between Mercer University students and people in the Macon-Bibb community, as well as the financial need in the community”.
“I think that’s something that, as students, we talk about addressing, and you know we write papers about it, but we don’t really figure out how we can fix it,” King said. “So that’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to implement something that we could really and truly be giving back to the community.”
The club will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays at Loaves and Fishes to make hygiene packets and wash clothes for people who utilize the ministry.
“It’s also difficult for homeless women to access things like feminine products and things like that,” Tiana Phoenix, co-founder and co-president of W.O.M.E.N, said.
Macon ranks No. 3 in the nation for concentrated poverty, according to an article from USA Today. Concentrated poverty rose in Macon by 14.4 percent from 2010 to 2016. It now affects 23,814 residents.
Children in Macon are deeply affected by poverty, with 46 percent of residents under the age of 18 living below the poverty line, according to Kid Count Data Center.
In cities like Macon that suffer from large income disparities, it is often minorities — especially women and children — taking the brunt of the consequences. In 2018, the Washington Post reported that “nearly 35 percent of blacks in Macon live in poverty today, compared with less than 13 percent of whites, according to 2012 to 2016 census data.”
Starting next fall, W.O.M.E.N. plans to address these problems further by partnering members with girls at Hartley Elementary School for mentorship. The mentors will meet with their elementary school student every week.
“We work on homework, and then on the second and fourth weeks, we would focus on different topics, like for 5th graders you know, maybe about like hygiene and things like that,” King said.
Member Michaela Jones said she was eager to join W.O.M.E.N.
“It’s such an important thing to do because a lot of Macon youth don’t have the best of lives, so whenever we can get the chance as college students to empower them and uplift them and encourage them, I believe it’s too good an opportunity to pass up,” Jones, a junior accounting and Spanish double major, said in an email to The Cluster.
Jones believes the elementary students will not be the only ones benefiting from this club.
“Students can also gain something from this experience. The kids are so friendly and caring. They attach to you so quickly and you really develop a cute relationship that you’ll never forget,” Jones said.