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Spotlight – Thelma Campbell – The Lady with the Green Thumb

By: Serena Minott, Minott Gore, P.A.

orig_13219_008Thema Campbell knows a thing or two about making things grow. She has a healing touch – a proverbial “green thumb” – that brings plants, and people, back to life. She’s a self-described country girl who credits her nurturing ways to an idyllic childhood in rural Georgia, where she was raised in a farm environment surrounded by a large loving family with her grandparents and cousins.

Leaving the comforts of her family home, Thema followed her {sweet}heart to Miami when she was 18 years old. While that love didn’t last, her affection for South Florida did, so she stayed, making Miami her home for the next 39 years. In the ensuing years, Thema married and had three children. She studied at Miami-Dade Community College (now Miami-Dade College) and later worked as a legal secretary at the Miami-Dade County Public Defenders’ Office. It was her time at the PD’s office that exposed her to the lives of girls and children who lacked the loving support and nurturing family experience she herself had received growing up.

Thema started volunteering her spare time to help underprivileged and at-risk youth in after-school programs. It wasn’t until she met then Florida state representative Carrie Meek that Thema realized she could turn her passion for helping children into a profession. Ms. Meek recognized Thema’s volunteering efforts and suggested to her, and her two colleagues at the time, that they could actually get paid for the volunteer work they were doing. Thema picked up on that nugget of advice and helped to write her first grant in 1989 on behalf of Concerned African Women, Inc.

Ten years later, Thema had the knowledge and experience necessary to go out on her own. Having seen the lack of community resources to serve the interests of at-risk young girls, Thema founded Girl Power in 2000. Based in Liberty City, Girl Power is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization serving girls ages 11-18 through a multi-pronged approach that includes after-school programming, a post-arrest diversion program for girls who would otherwise enter the juvenile system, a Sister Circle mentoring program, an alternative school suspension program, and a Girls Choir, which showcases the hidden talents of girls at Girl Power and in the greater Miami community. For the year 2013, the girls who participated in the 8-week Girl Power post-arrest diversion program had a zero percent re-arrest rate.

Working with at-risk girls and their families is a full-time occupation for Thema and her staff of eight. The hours are long and the work can be grueling. Some of these girls have experienced unspeakable abuses and their lives are a far cry from the loving, nurturing experience Thema had as a child. She knows this, and says that’s why she was called to do this work. She knew she had something of value to offer these young women and could make a difference in their lives. Girl Power’s mission is just as the name implies – to empower girls, to level the playing field and to teach them that they matter, that they are loved and valued. Spend a day at the Girl Power facility, where most of their programs are offered, and you will see first-hand this mission in action. You’ll find Thema Campbell there, with her green thumb, nurturing some beautiful young seedlings.

The Women’s Chamber recognized Girl Power with a Thelma Gibson Award of Excellence in 2012 and will be supporting the organization’s efforts for the upcoming 2015-2016 term. Girl Power is located at 6015 NW 7th Avenue, Miami, FL 331327. For more information, please click here.

Five Things You Ought to Know About Thema:

  • Hobbies: Traveling, planting and movies I see 4-5 movies a month when my schedule permits.
  • How do you reconnect with yourself: Morning meditations and every day before work
  • What’s on your nightstand: Alarm clock, a plant, O Magazine, a bottle of water, and Advil PM
  • Who inspires her: My grandmother – Mama Hattie and the girls who attend Girl Power. They affirm my work each time they walk, run and skip into the building.
  • Best place for a power meeting: Soyka