By Dorany Pineda
Since Helena M.Titus, or Pastor T, can remember, she had always wanted to be a mother. But because of reproductive issues from a young age, her doctor told her she would never have children.
After surgery one gloomy January day, as Pastor T lay in her hospital bed crying about the children she would never have, she opened her Bible to a random passage that said: you will have more children than the women who actually bear them. She fell asleep asking herself: “How could that be?”
When she awoke, so did the idea for her nonprofit Powergirl Ministries. Through the organization, Pastor T realized she could teach girls all she knew about life.
“There were girls all around me,” Pastor T said, “So I thought, why not share with those girls who were all around me what I would have shared with my daughters.”
And since then, she’s done just that by teaching and motivating young girls and women into making wise and healthy life decisions.
In 2007, around the time of the nonprofit’s launch, graduation rates in the Los Angeles Unified School District were low, and studies showed that girls’ school performance dwindled around middle school when puberty began. So Pastor T looked at ways she could help them.
The first was through physical health, which was inspired by Pastor T’s own health issues.
She asked: “How can we get girls to understand the importance of physical activity and incorporating it into their everyday lives?”
The second was teaching them what healthy relationships look like.
“Powergirls is essentially a health and wellness initiative,” Pastor T said. “It’s designed to celebrate, to inspire girls and to provide validation for the experiences that young women have in urban communities.”
The organization is primarily event-based, Pastor T added. Girls learn about self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, careers, healthy lifestyles, relationships and more through workshops, keynote speakers, direct instruction and informal mentoring by volunteers.
Its flagship event, called the Back to School Leadership Lunch, is held every year in late August or early September. Its goal is to encourage girls to stay in school and do well. During the lunch, participating girls can receive backpacks filled with school supplies.
In December, the nonprofit hosts a holiday fundraiser where one young woman is acknowledged “for being outstanding in overcoming obstacles in her life.”
Among its numerous other annual events is the Powergirl Competition, a six-week program aimed at finding the organization’s next young woman spokesperson.
But of the hundreds of girls who’ve been uplifted by Powergirls Ministries’ programs, Pastor T knows there are countless more who also can benefit from them. That’s why she hopes eventually to expand locally and internationally to share the organization’s motto: “Teach a girl, change the world.”
“If you teach a girl, you change a commnunity,” Pastor T said. “A lot of the things that happen in our community could be really addressed and prevented early on if we could get young women to really understand who they are and the power in which they sit.”
Executive Director: Helena M. Titus, or Pastor T
Years in operation: 11
Number of volunteers: 6
Annual budget: $175,000
Location: 3818 Crenshaw Blvd., Suite 355, Los Angeles, 90008