5th annual conference focuses on women's struggle to juggle the events of their lives

Tonya S. Grace/Kentucky New Era

Friday's Women Empowerment Conference at the James E. Bruce Convention Center was the fifth such event to focus on women and their lives.

Elaine Thomas shook her hips in rhythm to the music before settling back into her seat.

She'd just heard Britteny Richardson, an exercise physiologist at Baptist Health in Hopkinsville, talk about dealing with the kids, being a wife, holding down a job and still finding time to help others.

And she was in for yet another highlight of the event: Following Richardson's talk, Thomas and the other women at Friday morning's 5th Annual Women Empowerment Conference at the James E. Bruce Convention Center, got to hear a panel of speakers who have experienced the "juggle struggle" for themselves.

They listened as Anna Gentry, a mother of three sons and the owner and vice president of Duguid, Gentry and Associates, shared her desire to work out in the early morning hours of a weekday.

She tends to hit the snooze button more than once, leaving her struggling to fit exercise into her day.

"My dog's been getting me up at 5, and I kind of hate her for it," added Kate Russell, another panel member who said her early-morning exercise habit is her "me" time -- something she has to do.

Russell admitted to her audience that her daughter grabs something out of the laundry basket to wear for the day; it's clean but not folded, said Russell: "I hate to fold laundry," she explained.

Panelist Melissa Spur noted that the drive to preschool in the mornings is one of her favorite things in the day because of the conversations she has with her young child. She relies on her husband's help with after-school activities and has found success by organizing things on Sundays for the week ahead.

Spur said she has also carved out some extra time for herself in 2019.

"I drink hot tea and read just to have some time," she noted.

Mary-Elaine Horn moderated Friday's panel discussion and drove the audience to laughter with passages she shared describing a woman who must be all things, filling roles from Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy to parent volunteer at school and a pursuer of hobbies.

Make time for yourself, she urged her listeners, but don't forget that your kid needs to dress up as a book character on Monday and that she must wear something yellow on Thursday.

Make sure your kids eat their vegetables. They need to be healthy. But so do you.

"Make sure you enjoy your life," Horn noted at one point, "because all of this will be in the past."

The annual conference featured a keynote address by Mary Holland, the pastor of New Life Ministries, a welcome from Eugenia Snorton-Davis of the West Kentucky Workforce Board and a narration presented by author W.C. Child, who read passages from her book, "Not Yet a Woman."

This year's conference theme of the "juggle struggle" focused on the struggles that most women have in juggling their personal lives, husband, children and a family, with work and outreach to others.

"I know what a juggle struggle really is," observed Richardson, a wife and mother of three sons, who explained that "I love my job. I love what I do, but I'm also a wife and mother."

She noted that women attempting to balance their lives as mothers, wives and workers on the job sometimes lose themselves because they're taking care of everybody but themselves. But she also pointed out that exercise can help with that, and Richardson, who's worked at Baptist Health for the past nine years, urged the conference-goers that they cannot conquer the world if they aren't healthy.

In the midst of the conference, she got them up and moving.

Coaxing them out of their chairs, she led them through impromptu exercises that included standing on one leg, stretching their arms into the air and holding their bodies in a squat position.

"Oooh, don't that feel good?" she asked the women.

In their chairs, she had them stand up and sit down repeatedly.

Such exercises, she said, were something they could do at home or work.

Following Richardson's presentation, many of the women mingled on the conference room floor in the convention center; others continued to move to music that was broadcast throughout the room during a break in the meeting, which also included comments from retired Army Colonel Wanda Simon and from Henry Snorton lll, who is executive director of the Minority Economic Development Initiative.

The initiative hosts the annual conference.

Participant LaVerne Walker, who came from Clarksville, Tennessee, at the invitation of Billie Todd, said she thought the event offered some very interesting speakers. She was particularly inspired by Child, whose excerpts from her book and comments about her work as an author has encouraged Walker to go back home and gather her own notes on her family's genealogy.

"My cousin and I are working on a family genealogy book," she explained.

And Child, she said, has given her the incentive, to follow through with that project.

The women's conference also featured Traci Mason of WHOP radio and DeeAnna Sova of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library as masters of ceremony for the event.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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