News 12 at 6, November 19, 2007
AUGUSTA -- A local group that helps young girls stay out of trouble is in a little trouble of its own these days.
Financial trouble to be more exact and the group's leaders say it's the fault of a local scam-artist.
The girls in the Smart Girls Club are learning a lesson these days, like how to avoid scams. But they're also learning, if they do get scammed, how to learn from it and move on.
For many of these girls, the Smart Girls Club is one of the few positive influences in their lives.
"It means a lot because if I wasn't in the group, I'd probably be at home doing bad stuff," SmartGirls Club Member Lizzie Talington said.
It's a reading club that teaches life skills and responsibility.
"It's fun; I get books. I love to read," Club Member Taylor Tomory said.
However, the whole group learned a tough lesson not too long ago, after group leaders say a woman named Cindy O'Tyson illegally charged thousands of dollars on the group's credit cards.
O'Tyson is now in the Richmond County Jail awaiting trial. Deputies say she's charged with ripping off hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of victims, including the Smart Girls Club.
In the meantime though, the Smart Girls have to pay back the debt and get moving again, which is something that's been easier said than done.
"Now we're starting back at zero because we have books to buy and meetings to sponsor and not to mention the food," said the group's Leader Pat VanHooser.
For a group that doesn't generate any revenue, that's a tough task. The costs for the books and the food add up. And then there's still the Christmas Party, which might be more Christmas than most of these girls will get during the holiday season.
Several thousand dollars are needed to keep the group running through the end of the school year. But hope remains and group leaders know there is plenty of good to go along with the bad in this story.
"It's also taught the girls a lesson. In life, things will happen that you can't control. You do your best to prepare for it. Sometimes you just roll with the punches, pick yourself up and let's go on," VanHooser added.
The Smart Girls Club meets every month at Tubman Middle School in Augusta. For more information on it, you can call 706-860-0116. You can also CLICK HEREto find out more.