Deborah Harris’ Delta Girls is an organization she’s had on her heart for five years.
“I wanted to branch out and do something for the girls locally here,” said the founder.
This will be the inaugural year of the all-girls organization open to students in grades K-12 throughout Leflore County.
“It’s something that we want to incorporate here in the Delta,” said Harris, who is leading the organization with her sister, co-founder Tanisha Baxter. “We want to bridge the girls together, to be together, to do things together, to love one another. That’s what we are hoping to do with these girls and to build something in them that will last a lifetime.”
Harris and Baxter are both longtime Greenwood-area Girl Scouts leaders.
“We pretty much work as a team,” Harris said. “We’re going to always do everything as teamwork.”
Delta Girls will focus on character development, community service and empowering young girls.
“We are going to teach the girls to do what we have always taught them — to become young ladies, respect themselves, respect everything around them and entrepreneurship,” said Baxter. “It’s all about growing up.”
Harris said she wants the members to feel a sense of ownership and pride as members of Delta Girls.
“I want them to know they are important, and they can do anything that they put their minds to,” she said.
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Harris and her sister grew up in Carroll County, and both sisters now live in Greenwood.
Harris, a member of the J.Z. George High School Class of 1988, is married to Byron Harris and has a daughter, Frankesha House, and a son, Byron Harris Jr. She’s worked at Atmos Energy for 22 years, which is also the same amount of time she’s been active in the Girl Scouts as an adult.
As children, Harris and Baxter were both members of the Girl Scouts. Harris said she was a Daisy, Brownie and Junior Girl Scout.
Her involvement as a leader in the Girl Scouts organization began when Harris’ daughter was 5 years old.
“She brought the application home, and I filled it out. I went to the first meeting, and I joined there,” said Harris.
She first began serving as a troop committee member.
“I graduated up to assistant leader and eventually became troop leader,” she said.
From the start of her service, Harris was dedicated to the organization. During her first year with the Girl Scouts, she was pregnant with her son. Late in her third trimester, she continued to attend meetings.
“I had a Girl Scouts meeting that Saturday, and I believe I went into the hospital that Monday,” to give birth to her son, she said.
Harris has also served in other roles for the Girl Scouts, including being a member of the executive board, a member of the executive search committee for the Girl Scouts CEO, and was service unit manager for the Greenwood-area since 2009, which included overseeing seven troops. Harris was even crowned Girl Scout “Cookie Queen” last year.
Baxter began helping out Harris with her Girl Scouts duties.
“I told her, ‘You need to join Girl Scouts,’” Harris said.
So Baxter joined in 2009 and started out as an ambassador leader, helping her sister with members in grades 11-12.
Baxter’s true calling, however, was working with the younger girls in grades K-3.
“She stayed with me for a year, and in 2010, she branched off and did her own troop,” said Harris. “She’s been successful with those girls for 10 years.”
Harris, along with her daughter, is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts, and she said the decision to retire from the organization was a tough one.
“I shed some tears on that. I did,” she said. “I want to see someone younger come in like I did and start and build what I did. ‘OK, now I’ve left this here for you. You continue it; Mrs. Harris is about to start something else now.’”
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Although Harris enjoyed her time with the Girl Scouts, she has had a desire to form her own all-girls group. And her sister was on board since day one, she said.
“I told her the idea, and she said, ‘You ready now?’ ‘No.’ And every year she would ask, ‘You ready?’”
The sisters make a balanced duo. Harris is the one who comes up with ideas and ways to accomplish them. She enjoys working with the older girls. Baxter is the one who is good with baking, arts and crafts projects, and is nurturing. She enjoys working with the younger girls.
“I’m excited to do this with her now,” said Harris.
Harris’ goal with the group is to make joining and participating in Delta Girls accessible to all.
“Because Greenwood is considered rural, we’re not able to do what the other kids are doing,” she said. Since Delta Girls is local, “I can do things here, and people have property where they don’t mind the girls” gathering for activities and events.
Harris said the group will also promote diversity and strive to make each member feel important.
“We want to teach them togetherness,” said Harris. “It’s real important to me, because I feel everybody’s equal, and I think everybody should be treated equal.”
The Delta Girls logo is a bright pink peace symbol with a cotton boll in the middle.
“We want to promote peace among the girls, and we want them to know about the deep roots of Mississippi in cotton,” Harris said.
As members, the girls will make commitments such as being loyal and trustworthy, being generous and kind, being dependable and creative, being nice and open-minded, being community oriented and “keeping an open bridge between my fellow Delta Girls.”
Baxter came up with the Delta Girls motto: “On today and henceforth, I will cherish each day and commit to my Delta Girls rules.”
The group will also hold fundraisers.
Delta Girls consists of different age-group levels — Delta Diamonds, Delta Sapphires, Delta Pearls, Delta Jades and Delta Rubies. Harris and Baxter already have a group of assistants ready to help out with each age level.
Registration for Delta Girls is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday outside of the home of Harris, 103 Falcon St.
The registration fee is $25, which includes a one-year membership from August 2020 to July 2021.
“My goal is 50 girls. If we get more, we’re not going to turn them down,” said Harris.
Currently 13 girls have already preregistered.
Activities, which may include COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, are scheduled to begin in August.
“I’m just ready to go forth with it, and I am just ready to give it my all,” said Harris.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or email@example.com.