‘We need each other’: Commission advocates for underserved women 

A group of women in Lebanon County are tackling the struggles of women in their community, offering programs and scholarships important to success. 

On the surface, and from the outside looking in, the Lebanon County Commission for Women’s sole purpose for existing is to promote and advocate for women, their rights and their issues. But what these calculating females understand is that by making local women’s lives a little better, they also make Lebanon County a better place to live as a whole.

 “Women are becoming greater advocates, not only for what they need, but for what they want,” said Amanda Davis-Buie, the chair of the Lebanon County Commission for Women. “It’s because women are becoming more comfortable. Society has allowed individuals, and especially women, more freedom. In the past, women had their place. But I think people forget that there’s enough room at the table for everyone.

 “We’re powerful,” continued Davis-Buie. “We’re independent. But that doesn’t mean we have to take the positions of men. We get the best results when we work together.”

Headquartered within the confines of the county courthouse, at 400 S. Eighth St. Lebanon, the Lebanon County Commission for Women was created and is overseen by the Lebanon County Commissioners.  Up of 19 civically- and socially minded local women, the Lebanon County Commission for Women’s specific and stated goals and mission include advocacy, education, financial literacy, health care and youth. 

 LCCW meets formally six times a year, but its work is constant and on-going, said Davis-Buie.

“To me, the mission is to uplift the women of Lebanon County,” said Davis-Buie, a 40-year-old resident of North Lebanon. “We want to highlight women’s accomplishments. We have a lot of wonderful things happening in Lebanon County, and we want to share them with people. We want to promote awareness and be a catalyst for change. I think the need is great. Our hardest job is reaching the women of Lebanon County and letting them know that there are resources available.”

The Commission for Women’s mission has manifested itself in the form of four main projects. 

LCCW sponsors the Lebanon County Women’s Hall of Fame, which to date has honored the career accomplishments and contributions of 124 local women, and the wildly popular Glass Slipper Dress Sale, a program that makes formal wear affordable for young women seeking to attend school dances and proms. The commission also promotes learning of life skills through athletics and running with its Girls on the Run program for pre-teenage females from all six of the local school districts, as well as an extensive scholarship and grant program.

 “For me, my favorite is the scholarship program,” said Davis-Buie. “I’m a huge advocate for furthering education and I know the need locally is great. I also know that the grant committee has helped so many young women and when you have someone who has been helped through the Glass Slipper sale come up to you in tears, it’s so moving. We have so much fun, but we also impact other people’s lives.”

The commissioner was spearheaded by Josie Ames in 2003, but today it looks a lot different than when it started. Initially it was a way to monitor and report back to the county commissioner on issues facing women, Davis-Buie said. 

“I have no idea how many women we’ve helped, but I can tell you that it’s been numerous,” said Davis-Buie. “Just in the diversity of professions of the women who sit on the board, it’s about bringing in people who women can gain from.”

Reese Arnold, a junior-to-be at Cedar Crest High School, participates in the commission’s mentorship program. Arnold has been awarded a scholarship that will be applied to her pursuit of a career in the field of psychology.

 “I was really excited when they asked me to do it,” said Arnold. “I think the main idea is just to help women out there feel powerful. I learned a lot about leadership and setting a good example. They were amazing mentors to me. It was a good experience, giving back to the community.”

 “I just want women to know how powerful they are, how intelligent they are,” said Davis-Buie. “They need to be out in the community, they need to be advocating for change. I want accountability. I want awareness. We need to open our mouths and share what we are blessed with so we can grow together. Lebanon is very isolated, but we have some great individuals.”

 While the commission has accomplished a great many things during its initial 19 years of existence, Davis-Buie continues to look to the possibilities of the future.

 “My hope for the future is that more women become involved,” said Davis-Buie. “We want to introduce younger women to the Lebanon County Commission for Women. It’s a way to make a big impact on your community. We want to provide greater opportunities for connecting.”

 “I think the Lebanon County Commission for Women exists to help other women in our community,” said Arnold. “Just to let them know that we’re all here for each other. I’ve learned a lot about how women didn’t have rights in the past. I think women are respected more now. We can go into any field that we want to. We’re respected now.”

 Old habits are difficult to break, and change can be hard. But the resolve of the Lebanon County Commission for Women is both consistent and persistent.

 “I think the way it views men and women, society tends to overlook women in some instances,” said Davis-Buie. “When women look at society, they look at it on a deeper level. It’s about digging just a little deeper. We need each other. We need to make sure things are operating the way they should be.”

Author

Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is a seasoned writer and journalist based in Lebanon, PA.

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