In El Dorado, Ark., a small town near the Louisiana border, the local Boys & Girls Club is teaching young girls that their voices have power: power to say “no” to negative behavior, power to call attention to issues that affect them and power to change the world around them.
The Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado was the only organization in Arkansas, and one of 10 in the nation, selected to participate in Verizon’s Because Voices Have Power social media campaign.
The digitally-focused campaign was designed to raise awareness of domestic violence and unhealthy dating relationships. For every “message of hope” submitted via text (#94079), Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #VoicesHavePower, Verizon donated $3 – up to $20,000 total – to the Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado.
Nationally, the campaign generated 38 million social media impressions. El Dorado earned the maximum grant amount of $20,000.
“This campaign was about starting the conversation that could save a young girl’s life,” said Grant Laisure, district manager of retail sales for Verizon Wireless in Arkansas. “In order to break the cycle of unhealthy dating relationships and domestic violence, we must educate young men and women at an early age so they know the boundaries of what’s acceptable, and that there are resources available if they need them.”
Kathey Perry, resource development director for the Boys & Girls Club of El Dorado, said grant funds will be used to support the club’s SMART Girls program. The prevention-based curriculum teaches young ladies to make positive choices and take a stand against being victimized.
“The SMART Girls program gives girls the knowledge and courage to speak up about issues that affect them,” Perry said. “We also want to empower them to say ‘no’ to negative behaviors and show them ways to get out of difficult and dangerous situations.”
Perry said she expects to work with 75 girls annually during the school year and an additional 75 to 100 during the summer camp program.
“We were excited to hear that Verizon wanted to partner with us,” Perry said. “Through our participation, we’ve learned that Verizon is a strong supporter of domestic violence prevention programs, and we were ecstatic that our club was chosen to be among the many organizations Verizon supports throughout the year.”
Participation in the program was easy, she said.
“Once we received the campaign materials, it was relatively easy to get the ball rolling. We started on our website and our Facebook page, and I sent out several hundred emails to my contacts,” Perry said. “Some of our major supporters (Murphy Oil, Murphy USA, United Way of Union County and First Financial Bank) sent out the information on their websites and Facebook pages to increase support for our program.”