GITK has served 10,000 pre-teen girls and their trusted adults, guiding them through discussions about empowerment, body image, safety, and puberty.
In 2009, Lori Lander, a St. Louis mom, recognized a need for girl empowerment in the community. With her children quickly approaching the difficult teen years, Lori became very motivated to find avenues that would help her foster positive ways to openly communicate with her daughters about the difficult and critically important subjects that lie ahead. She was surprised to find that no other St. Louis organization had programming aimed toward both trusted adults and their pre-teen girls to address mental, physical, emotional and social challenges in today’s culture, so Lori created one: Girls in the Know (GITK).
Since then, GITK has served 10,000 pre-teen girls and their trusted adults, guiding them through discussions about empowerment, body image, safety, and puberty, including now 15-year-old Maddie Howell, daughter of Matthew Howell. Matthew’s wife and Maddie’s step-mom, Sarah Howell, is a working mom. She is an employee at a Wall Street investment bank and the owner of her own photography business, Sarah E Studios. Sarah has found that GITK programming has had a lasting impact on their relationship, especially because of the licensed female professionals the organization brought in to lead the conversations. “That’s the magic of the program. The trusted advisor in any topic that’s being discussed, helps the girls in the program learn there are people in the community they can reach out to for different things,” says Sarah.
The impact that GITK had on Sarah and Maddie’s relationship inspired Sarah to get more involved with the organization. After completing programming with Maddie, Sarah reached out to Gina Marten, GITK’s Executive Director, eager to volunteer for the organization by photographing their programs and to get the word out about the organization: “I wanted to use my voice, which were my photos, to get that message out into the world… I wanted everyone to learn about [GITK] and everyone to have the opportunity to have their daughter experience it,” Sarah explained. Sarah’s drive to empower more girls did not stop with her photography ー Sarah made GITK a family community service project for the Howell Family. In addition to bringing and involving their children in GITK events, Sarah’s husband, Matt Howell, joined the GITK Board of Directors as Treasurer and Sarah brought the organization to the attention of her extended family, which led to a transformational gift.
In 2016, GITK received a multi-year grant from Sarah’s maternal grandparents’ donor-advised fund, the Ruth and Frank Pratte Foundation of The Denver Foundation. Remembering her Grandma Ruth, Sarah says, “She [Ruth] was always such a strong woman growing up and volunteered in her community. She was very educated and always so poised and always gave of herself. Looking back, she’s probably my #1 female role model in my life. I really want to do that for others as much as I can.” GITK has used Ruth and Frank Pratte’s generous spirit and dedication to serve to guide their growth. The grants from the Ruth and Frank Pratte Foundation have allowed GITK to increase its board from 9 to 15 members and their staff from 2 to 5, giving them the capability to go from serving 100 girls in 2009 to over 1,000 in 2019. By 2029, GITK plans to educate and empower 10,000 girls PER YEAR in the St. Louis region. This year, GITK received a historic grant from the Ruth and Frank Pratte Foundation that includes support for an endowment fund, six years of school-based programming for underserved girls, plus operating funds to help achieve their #10KIN10 goal. “By naming our office The Ruth and Frank Pratte Empowerment Center, we plan to honor the generous and giving spirit of the Pratte Family and keep their memory alive and woven through our daily work,” says Gina Marten, GITK Executive Director.
The Ruth and Frank Pratte Foundation’s transformational gifts have set GITK on solid footing so that they may educate girls about their self worth, body image, safety, puberty, and pay the girl power forward in honor of Ruth Pratte for generations of young girls to come.