Women We Admire

by Amanda Wallace

Talethia Edwards

An Unexpected Difference Turns Into the Greatest Love of All

Life has a funny way of working out differently than we thought it would and Talethia Edwards is no stranger to the curveballs life can throw at us. However, she also has learned that gifts and new perspectives can come through the challenges, if you learn to roll with the punches and make the most out of life’s surprises.

 A graduate of Florida A&M University, Talethia had dreams of “making a difference,” with plans to go to law school before becoming the first-ever female African-American Supreme Court Justice. However, plans have a way of shifting, and “making a difference” is often not what we expected it to be. “My husband always wanted a lot of children,” Talethia said of the first amendment to her life’s plan. Law school was put off when she married her husband and began her journey becoming the mother of seven children, all born within nine years of each other.

When Talethia and her husband moved into a home on Tallahassee’s south side, within weeks, Talethia said, they noticed things that made them uncomfortable with their home’s location. While she was able to see the community’s elementary school from her front yard, she decided to drive her children out of the school zone to attend a different school. Talethia wasn’t comfortable with her children going to the school where they lived, because of the amount of crime and dangerous behavior that she was witnessing in the Bond community.

Regardless of her concerns, Talethia was active in her new community, serving on the Smith-Williams Advisory Board. After attending the Neighborhood Leadership Academy, hosted by the city of Tallahassee, she found herself being approached about the area’s need for a leader. Talethia decided that she needed to be a part of the solution to her neighborhood’s problems, and after much prayer, she asked herself, If I don’t do something, who will? That question led her to the decision to take on the leadership role in her area—building a neighborhood association from scratch, naming it the Greater Bond Neighborhood Association and focusing on “bringing unity and cohesiveness back” to the area. A part of that can be seen in the motto she created for the area: “Building a Greater Community Together.”

As if being a wife, the mother of seven children and community leader wasn’t enough, Talethia continued to follow her passion for helping people by founding the H.A.N.D. Up project. H.A.N.D. stands for Helping Alleviate the Need and Deficit, and Talethia says it is a “hand up rather than a handout.” While the program was created as a way for Talethia to help members of her community receive items they were in need of, such as food and clothing, it grew into a way for Talethia to share money-saving techniques with those individuals in order to help them achieve long-term financial stability.

I don’t need a street named after me. I just want to make a difference.

While Talethia continued to make progress, she was clearly making deep impressions as she did so. She wanted to paint the picture of what the Greater Bond Neighborhood could be. Her neighbors and the city, did see the picture she was painting for them, and in June, Talethia was named Leon County’s Neighbor of the Year.

Recently, Talethia came to a realization. She says, “I was choosing not to send my children to a school that I had never even set foot in.” She knew that part of the “sustainability” she wanted was not “walking away from your neighborhood,” but rather to become even more active within it. Talethia made her way down to Bond Elementary School, met the administration and learned about some of the amazing programs they offer.

Again, Talethia felt the pull to be a part of the difference she was hoping to see created in her area and has moved all of her school-age children over to Bond, where they will attend school with the children from their own neighborhood, which is one more link in the chain that strengthens the community.

While Talethia says she used to spend a great deal of time “thinking about how I wasn’t clicking my heels on the halls of justice,” she is beginning to see the way that her original plan is not as “divine” as the one laid out before her. Life has worked out a little differently, but Talethia says, “I don’t need a street named after me. I just want to make a difference.” While she says there is still a long road ahead of her, the difference she is making within her community and the lives of her children will last for generations.

Talethia Edwards and the H.A.N.D. Up Project can be reached at [email protected]

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