Personality: Pamela B. Smith

Spotlight on president of the Richmond Metropolitan Chapter of The Charmettes

12/17/2020, 6 p.m.
Pamela B. Smith was first inspired to join the Richmond Metropolitan Chapter of The Charmettes 25 years ago.

Pamela B. Smith was first inspired to join the Richmond Metropolitan Chapter of The Charmettes 25 years ago.

Attending one of their cancer fundraising events, she saw first-hand the solidarity and passion among members as they worked to support research in cancer treatment and finding a cure for the disease. It proved to be a deeply motivating moment for someone who had no experience of any kind with the illness.

Now, 25 years later, Ms. Smith is leading the local chapter of The Charmettes as its latest president.

“I knew this was a fight I needed to be a part of — trying to make a difference in the quality of life for others,” Ms. Smith says.

Founded in 1951 by Gwendolyn Baker Rodgers and Frankie Drayton Thomas in West Palm Beach, Fla., The Charmettes has grown to more than 500 members in 19 chapters nationally. The Richmond Metropolitan Chapter was founded in March 1991 by Edna P. Rodwell and currently has 24 members.

In a region and nation filled with groups and nonprofits working for the public good, The Charmettes sets itself apart through its focus on cancer through a sisterhood of African-American women. This has resulted in long-term support of cancer research, including more than $730,000 contributed to the Howard University Cancer Center in Washington.

Local members are tasked with supporting the national organization’s mission and goals and the civic needs of the area community.

“I believe that the best strategy for achieving our goals is understanding and utilizing the gifts and talents members bring to the chapter,” Ms. Smith says.

The Richmond resident served in a number of roles with the organization before assuming the top leadership position in August for a two-year term. She wants The Charmettes to take an even more active role in the community. This, she says, will largely be done by spreading the importance of cancer education, including the need for proper eating habits, exercise and regular checkups.

The chapter has multiple special projects, including providing care bags, cards and other gifts for the elderly, the young, the sick and overlooked.

“COVID-19 is making us truly show the love we have for the community,” Ms. Smith says. “It has brought us back to the beginning and the reason The Charmettes was created by our founders.”

Meet a leader in compassion for others and this week’s Personality, Pamela B. Smith:

No. 1 volunteer position: President, Richmond Metropolitan Chapter, The Charmettes.

Date and place of birth: June 17 in Richmond.

Current residence: Richmond.

Occupation: Criminal background specialist/legal assistant.

Education: Graduate, George Wythe High School, 1982; computer science course, University of Richmond; and fair debt collection seminars.

Family: I am a widow with two daughters, Candace Carey and Monay Boisseau; three stepdaughters, Tiajuana Smith, Tichaundra Storman and Torie Cunningham; three sons-in-law; two grandsons and two grand-daughters.

The Charmettes is: A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that contributed more than $730,000 to the Howard University Cancer Center to support cancer research and services. In 2006, the chemotherapy infusion center was named “The Charmettes Inc. Gwendolyn B. Rodgers Chemotherapy Infusion Suite” in honor of The Charmettes’ long-term generous support.

When and why The Charmettes was founded: June 17, 1951, with the West Palm Beach Charmettes being created. Two friends, Gwendolyn Baker Rodgers and Frankie Drayton Thomas, recognized the need for an organization that would bring women together with similar ideas, principles and backgrounds to organize themselves to utilize their skills, talents and resources for community impact.

When Richmond Metropolitan Chapter founded: March 1991 by Edna P. Rodwell.

Mission of organization: The Charmettes is a sisterhood of dedicated women committed to improving the quality of life within our communities through advocacy, education, service and support of cancer research.

Brief profile of members: The diverse membership includes educators, nurses, social workers, business owners and employees of government and the private sector.

What members do: Support the mission and goals of the national organization as well as the civic needs in our local community.

When I became a member: August 1995.

What attracted me to the organization: I attended one of their fundraisers and to see women so sisterly and passionate about trying to find a cure for cancer blessed my heart. Even though I never experienced someone with cancer, I knew this was a fight I needed to be a part of - trying to make a difference in the quality of life for others.

When elected president: August 2020.

Why I accepted position: Although becoming a president of any organization is a big step, I prayed and thought hard before I decided to accept the position. We always have had great leaders. I needed to look inside myself to find out what could or would I do differently than the leaders before me. I needed to make sure it was not just about holding a title in an organization. So I truly believe I accepted becoming the president because I wanted the Richmond Metropolitan Chapter to become more involved in the community.

How one can become a member: Must be a high school graduate, age 21 or older and of good moral character.

How COVID-19 is affecting mission: COVID-19 is making us truly show the love we have for the community. It has brought us back to the beginning and the reason The Charmettes was created by our founders. No matter what I have asked of our Community Service Chair Bonita Grant, in crazy hours of the morning, late nights by texts, email and phone calls, she truly has brought it to life. The members could not be thanked enough for the love in their heart. COVID-19 will not stop the Richmond Metropolitan Chapter from carrying out its mission.

No. 1 goal or project as president: To become more active in the community by spreading the importance of cancer education, proper eating habits, exercise and regular checkups for men and women.

Special projects: Westport Nursing Home (110 Seek & Find activity books with “thinking of you” cards); Cancer Benefit Brunch (April 2020); Chapter’s 30-year anniversary (November 2020); Gift cards for Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Brook Road Campus; Care bags for Convenant Columns Manor; Gift from the Heart basket for cancer patient; Brookhaven Nursing Home (care baskets for residents); Adopted child program (support to a child with cancer); and GRTC appreciation bags for women bus drivers, which included cancer awareness literature, hand sanitizer, tissues, beauty products (donated by Walgreens), masks, candy, snacks and a bottle of water.

How community can contribute to projects: By supporting our events and by financial support as well. Donations can be mailed to: Richmond Metropolitan Chapter of The Charmettes, P. O. Box 1152, Richmond, Va. 23230-1525.

How I start the day: By thanking the Lord for another day and praying that whatever went wrong yesterday doesn’t take up too much of today.

Three words that best describe me: Diligent, loyal and reliable.

Best late-night snack: Popcorn.

How I unwind: A nice hot Epsom salt bath and a glass of wine.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Roller skate.

Quote that I am most inspired by: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:13

At the top of my “to-do” list: Plant my rose bushes.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: To always remember there are people who are less fortunate, so always be willing to give a helping hand.

Person who influenced me the most: My mother, Virginia B. Boisseau.

Book that influenced me the most: “When Women Pray” by Bishop T.D. Jakes.

What I’m reading now: “Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven” by Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Next goal: To continue to support, educate and work to find a cure for cancer. To add the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute to our list of community service projects.