LEBANON — The reactions were just what Linda Herron was hoping for.
Oohs, ahs and plenty of smiles.
Herron wasn’t sure what to expect. Along with Marge Pettitt and Karen Claybaugh, Herron had set up a “Pay-It-Forward Tea” for members of the graduating class of the Linn-Benton Community College Turning Point Transitions program. The three women, Turning Point graduates themselves, felt the emotion as the current graduates entered the room.
“The class is so dear to our heart,” Herron said. “We have been inspired in so many ways.”
Turning Point deals directly with changing lives. Instructor Joanne Apter teaches six transition courses a year at LBCC, including one in Lebanon. She provides tools for building self-esteem to turn lives around for women who have suffered abuse, anger, stress, job loss or other problems.
“These three women have really come forward,” Apter said. “This tea is amazing. I think everyone from the class feels celebrated.”
The idea for the tea came about when, after graduation, the three women attended a similar all-college event at LBCC.
“It gave us a special feeling,” said Herron, 47. “We wanted others to have that.”
Besides a show of appreciation, Friday’s tea was a test run. The first step to a possible career. The three hope to start a business that provides catering and event planning for groups throughout the mid-valley.
“We’d love to deal with as many service agencies as we can,” said Claybaugh, 50. “We’re in the early stages. The idea is to make it a nonprofit.”
Plans are to cater specifically to women and inspire them to follow their dreams, Herron said. Themed events will be the focus.
“We would like to provide what the venue wants. It could be literature, crafts or another theme,” Herron said.
On Friday the focus was more about giving back.
“Joanne has meant so much to us. This is a small way to repay her and the program,” Herron said.
The three women did much of the baking themselves and used Pettitt’s skills as a former florist to put together decorations.
“I had forgotten that I even used to be a florist until I got involved in this class,” said Pettitt, 53. “We feel so empowered now.”
Claybaugh said the group has been laying the framework for the new business through networking and contacting officials to figure out where to begin.
“This is an electric group of women,” she said. “Thanks to Turning Point we know we can do anything we want.”