Q&A: Debby Neely
Founder and Executive Director, 2911 Group
What is the vision of this nonprofit and what is the significance of its name?
The name of our nonprofit comes from the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Using 2911 is a perfect fit as our mission is to give young women ages 13 to 21 hope and a future by increasing their self-esteem and self-worth, raising their social awareness and helping them realize their potential.
What prompted you to start this initiative?
A young girl’s self-esteem hits its highest point at the age of nine. Young women are bombarded 24/7 with unrealistic images and messages that say, “You must look and act like this to be accepted.” These messages are having a devastating effect—poor body image, eating disorders, bullying, depression, self-defeating behaviors and even suicide. We decided to stop talking about it and do something to support our young women.
What have been some high points along the way?
The 2911 experience is about connecting, reflecting and growing through events, group work and individual development. We have witnessed young women go from attending to speaking at our conferences, standing in front of an audience that included classmates and sharing their story of bullying and depression, plus watching them take on leadership roles. We have heard countless stories of young women who bravely did the right thing for themselves and others. It is our honor to support them.
Tell us about the Countdown to Christmas fundraiser on Nov. 30.
We knew we needed to raise money to support more young women and we wanted to do something new and different. We held an innovation session with our board members and a few young women who had attended our events. The idea of a concert came from one of the young women. Making it a Christmas event seemed like a fun way to kick off the holiday season.
The Countdown to Christmas Concert will be at the Downtown Community Room at Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ, 15 W. Church St., from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 30. We will have eight musical groups performing, vendors available to get your Christmas shopping started and lots of fun throughout the evening. Tickets are only $10 for ages 5 and over and $5 for ages 4 and under. There will be opportunities to support young women. A link to buy tickets can be found at www.2911group.com.
Who was your mentor during your teen and early adult years?
I was very fortunate that the right people seemed to be around me at the right time. My mentors included family, friends and teachers who listened to me, gave me advice, asked me questions and cheered me on.