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After Hours: Judy Hicks—Leaving a legacy through Womenade

The first line in a poem called “The Legacy” reads: When I die, give what is left of me to children. When Judyhalloween mail small Hicks, a successful Re/Max realtor, first read that poem, she knew what her life passion would be—to work hands-on to make the lives of needy children better.

“I love real estate; I am good at what I do. But I do not want my legacy to be about real estate,” she says. Although she is not a biological mother, Hicks tells people, “Just because you don’t have children, doesn’t mean you don’t have children in your life.” The children in her life are those who live at daniel (www.danielkids.org), considered Florida’s largest childcare agency.

Originally begun in 1884 as an orphanage, daniel has grown into a childcare institution that provides mental health and social service programs aimed at improving the lives of at-risk children and their families. These services include therapeutic foster care for abused children, independent living services for homeless teens, intervention services for delinquents, and residential treatment for emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disruptive children.

“daniel probably sees 600 kids each day,” says Hicks. “They also have three residential cottages on Belfort Road, each with eight to 12 bedrooms, for kids who are removed from their homes because of some type of abuse. Some of these kids stay for 180 days and go back to their parents; some never go back to their parents; and some are adopted. Some live at daniel until they are 18 and on their own.”

Hicks’ love affair with daniel began in 1994. Then working as a new realtor in the Jacksonville area, she was asked to join daniel’s board of directors. That same year, her father passed away. Several months as his death, she decided to put together a book of memoirs on him to give to her nephews, who were then very young. “When I read ‘The Legacy’ poem, I realized I wanted to do more than serve on daniel’s board. That poem made think about what kind of legacy I would leave. What would people remember me for?” Those thoughts spawned the birth of Womenade (www.womenadejax.com), an organization of women who support daniel.

She explains, “Womenade is a dedicated group of women who come together three, four, sometimes five times a year. When we get together at each of these events, which are usually held at someone’s house, we bring a check for $30 that pays for dinner and wine, with the surplus going to support daniel.”

The first Womenade meeting was informal. Spurred on by the lines of “The Legacy” poem, Hicks invited a number of friends to her house, saying,  “Instead of getting together at a restaurant, come here with a covered dish and a check for $25. We’ll have a good time and support daniel.”

The organization is now in its ninth year. The women (no men allowed!) still get together at someone’s house, but instead of bringing a covered dish, they have dinner catered. “We decided to go the catering route after having six key lime pies show up for one pitch-in dinner,” laughs Hicks.

The group has raised about $90,000 so far, most just from the get-together events. “We did have a bachelor auction in 2006,” says Hicks. “It brought in about $26,000. And we may do other events in the future to raise money for a Womenade Classroom at a school being built on daniel’s campus. We have approximately $50,000, but need another $100,000 for a total of $150,000for that to happen.”

One of the projects Womenade takes pride in is daniel’s Literacy Library. “In 2009, we purchased almost $3,000 in books,” says Hicks, who says members of the group read to the kids, ranging from 6 to 17 years old, once a month. “We help them learn to read and watch them start loving books and stories.”

Reading is not the only thing Womenade does with daniel kids. The group sponsors “daniel Honors.” “Any kid who gets no F’s and at least one A or are on the A-B honor roll gets to have dinner with us,” says Hicks. “they also get a gift card and a goodie bag. Once kids get Honors, they get it time and time again.”

Working hands-on with the kids at daniel is providing Hicks with the legacy she wants to leave. But it is giving her something more. “I had great parents,” she says, “but we had a lot of turmoil growing up. There was always chaos and turmoil in our home. I felt I always need to heal as a little girl. daniel is giving me that healing.”

Judy Hicks is a Re/Max realtor. She can be contacted at 904-463-2877 or through her web page at www.judyhicks.com.

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How you can help Womenade and daniel

Womenade is a women’s-only organization, and all women are invited to belong. For information, go to www.womenadejax.com. All small business owners—men included—are invited to support Womenade’s efforts for daniel. You can do this in a number of ways:

• Direct donations. Go to www.womenadejax.com and click on “Donate.”

• Christmas gifts. Womenade reaches out to local small businesses to help provide holiday cheer to about 200 kids each year. Companies can sponsor a child or a cottage or even a food basket. All donations are welcome, no matter how small, says Hicks.

• Coffee service. Womenade has recently partnered with Fazzini Coffee & Tea and will receive a portion of profits from coffee sales. (See “Brock Fazzini: Coffee, Tea, and Trees, http://advantagebizmag.com/archives/3403.) Monies raised from this partnership will go toward building a Womenade Classroom at daniel.

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The Legacy

When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry
Cry for your brothers walking beside you.

If the sun should rise
And find your eyes
all filled with tears for me;
Put your arms around anyone
And give them what you need to give to me.

I want to leave you with something…
Something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people.

And if you cannot live without me,
Then let me live on in your eyes,
your mind and your acts of kindness.

You can love me most
by letting hands touch hands
and letting go of children
that need to be free.

Love does not die—people do…
So when all that is left of me is love…
Give me away…

—Author unknown 


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