By LOIS KINDLE
When Lea Manningham recently traveled to Ohio to attend a friend’s wedding, she met another guest from Texas who turned out to be an angel in disguise.
The woman, Porsha Thompson, owns and operates the Virtue of Beauty Hair Studio in Houston, and one of her passions is making stylish wigs for women who have lost their hair due to alopecia or cancer treatment.
She and Manningham, the founder and CEO of Girls of the World in Apollo Beach, discovered they had mutual interests and formed a new business relationship. Thompson, who has alopecia and dreams of starting a nonprofit group to teach women how to make wigs to donate to others, was delighted to learn how Manningham started a sewing class in her nonprofit group to teach young girls the art of sewing and benefit others with their new skills.
After visiting Manningham’s website, Thompson offered to fly from Houston to instruct a class for the girls about sewing handmade wigs.
Juanita Harold, whose daughter Kendall is a member of Girls of the World, donated all of the materials and supplies for the class, and Manningham thanked her by naming the project after her.
Due to time constraints, four girls with advanced sewing skills participated in Juanita’s Project: Tierra McClain, 15 (Lennard High School); Desiree Dyer, 12 (Eisenhower High School); Alyse Roberts, 9 (York Innovation Academy); and Xahra Yani, 8 (Winthrop Charter School).
They learned how to draw a pattern on a skull cap, how to sew hair on the cap and how to shape it into a beautiful style.
“In addition to using their sewing skills, they also learned the importance of being patient and helping someone feel beautiful,” Manningham said. “They also had fun.”
Desiree’s mom, Shana Dyer, agreed.
“She really enjoyed it. She loves to sew every day, and the things she learns at Girls of the World she [uses] at home to do other projects. She’s done things like repairing a pair of her own jeans, sewing up a friend’s stuffed animal and making heart pillows for babies in NICUs (neonatal intensive care units).
“Girls of the World is an incredible program,” Dyer added. “Lea is like a second mom to the girls. They can go to her for advice any time. She teaches them to have self-esteem, how to love themselves and be self-reliant. She’s amazing.”
Manningham plans to make and distribute a flier announcing the availability of the four newly made wigs to solicit names of women in need of them. Two names will be drawn by mid-December and the wigs donated. Thompson is flying back in January to provide free makeovers to both recipients, and Jeff Dobish, of South Shore Studios, a free photo shoot.
A helping hand
The Community Foundation Tampa Bay recently donated a total of $8,000 from its Durwood and Janet Seville Fund to Girls of the World. The initial grant of $6,000 and a 1:3 matching grant of $2,000 was made in response to a Critical Needs List Request Manningham submitted after Hurricane Ian.
The funding covered damages and losses suffered as a result of the storm, including the replacement of essential equipment and technology, office supplies, personal hygiene items and snacks.
“We are so grateful to the Community Foundation Tampa Bay for partnering with us, so we can continue to make an impact in the lives of our girls and the community,” Manningham said. “It would be impossible for us to do what we do without the support of such generous donations.”