GOODLAND — The girls traveled a great distance to get some sewing instruction and not just in miles. Five young ladies, with their two chaperones, came down from their homes in Athens, Georgia, to the Goodland home of Donna and James Inglis, as part of the Young Designers Sewing Program.
The girls, all black, from the lower end of the socio-economic stratum and considered “at-risk,” came and stayed with the Inglises, spending three days and nights in Goodland, getting intensive instruction not only in sewing, but also cooking, deportment, and even fishing.
When a reporter stopped by to visit, the crew had just returned from an angling expedition, departing from the dock behind the waterfront home. The trip was captained by Jim Inglis, although he said he hadn’t taught them much.
“We didn’t catch anything, but they did learn how to cast,” he said. “They were steering, too, but I had the throttle.” One girl reported she had a bite on the line, and pulled back her hook with “half a shrimp the fish got the other half.” The girls saw their first pelicans and osprey, and were thrilled to have porpoises following the boat.
Being exposed to new experiences and other people’s lives is critical to the program, said Young Designers founder Lillian Kincey, who accompanied the group.
“It’s social skills, manners, appropriate dress things they’ll need to succeed in life,” said Kincey of the focus of the program. “We try to give them self-esteem, with heavy doses of self-discipline. A lot of them have problems with that.”
Her students all come from low-ranking schools, but have been identified as having leadership skills. Kincey said they are at a crucial stage in their development, and in essence, could go either way.
“These are students who have potential. Without a little mentoring and guidance, they may not reach their potential. We try to give them confidence to bring it out.”
Kincey was full of praise for Jim and Donna opening their home to the group, spending time with them, and giving them a chance to experience life from a different vantage point.
“We stress travel. I believe travel teaches in a way that the classroom cannot,” said Kincey. One of the students, Kyala Connor, has dreams of becoming a pediatrician, so Kincey is arranging a visit to a hospital.
The five girls, ranging in age from 9 to 13, had come from Orlando, where they visited Universal Studios and Wonderworks, a science-themed attraction. To them, the Inglis residence seemed as exotic, and they were clearly having a ball. They lounged in the great room under the 24-foot coffered ceilings, and swarmed up the spiral staircase to take in the view from the widow’s walk, four stories above the ground.
Two of the girls each night were deputized to help with the cooking, and they got to pick the menu. Kyala and Raissa Kaninda, 10, were the designated cooks’ assistants, and they chose steak and mashed potatoes, so they were working away with the potato masher, although the lion’s share of the work fell to Donna Inglis and her friend, Sybil Brannon, visiting from Birmingham, Alabama.
The hosts met Kincie at a sewing school in Huntsville, Alabama, and Donna knew right away she wanted to help with the program.
“It was a no-brainer. I deal with these kids all the time” in her volunteer work as a guardian ad litem, said Donna Inglis. She is treasurer of the Voices for Children Broward, the fund-raising arm of the Broward County guardian ad litem program. Jim Inglis serves as treasurer of the Goodland Civic Association.
If having a pack of tweener girls take over their home caused them any issues, you wouldn’t have known it. Donna delivered hugs along with her cooking tips, and Jim was gearing up for a repeat fishing trip the next day. The girls did get some practice in on the four sewing machines set up in the great room, and showed off the fringed scarves and bath mitts they had made so far.
Some of the items they sew will be donated to benefit others, which is another lesson of her program, said Kincey.
“They may not be the richest, but they can always do something to help someone else.”