What started as a simple service project five years ago, now serves hundreds of teens each summer — giving them a unique experience and opportunities to “blossom” in a number of ways as citizens and young women.
It was in 2008 that Mesa residents Carla Jorgensen and Debbie Forrest were asked to be in charge of a service project for girls who were attending a summer camp organized by a local unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We made bracelets with the words, ‘hope,’ ‘love’ or ‘courage,’ on them, then we donated the bracelets to Fresh Start, where women in transition receive all kinds of services,” Jorgensen explained.
As they planned the project, the two women discussed another need.
“We talked about the fact that the girls themselves are facing incredible challenges today,” Jorgensen said. “They, too, need to feel hope and courage in these complicated teen years.”
Out of that beginning, Time to Blossom was born.
Time to Blossom, now in its fourth year, is a unique program where young women — those entering seventh through 12th grade in the fall — spend time away from home in a fun and safe environment, while learning from speakers, entertainers and interactive workshops how to build confidence and character and make a difference in the world.
“Each year we think it can’t get any better but people come to us with ideas, help and speaker recommendations and it just keeps improving. This summer will be the best yet,” Jorgensen said.
Well-known youth speakers John Bytheway, Hank Smith, Ardeth Kapp and Vivian Cline will be among those offering classes this year and the girls will be entertained and taught by American Idol finalist Brooke White – a Mesa native — and award-winning indie-folk singer and songwriter Mindy Gledhill.
“They both have very touching stories when they were teens. In junior high, Brooke ate her lunch by herself because she didn’t have any friends, and Mindy tried out for many groups in high school and didn’t make them. I think the girls will really be able to relate to these talented ladies and, hopefully, it will give them courage and confidence,” Jorgensen said.
The girls will also be treated to a comedy night with the Scottsdale-based comedy team from Jester’Z Improv Comedy — Jester’Z is owned by Mesa residents Jef and Shurlin Rawls — as well as a fashion show.
“Down East is one of our sponsors. They generously give scholarships to young women. We also have the opportunity to use their clothing for our wardrobing classes and for the fashion show, and each girl has the opportunity to model during the fashion show,” Forrest said.
A focus of each year’s conference is the service the girls do for one another throughout the week, as well as a service project for an outside organization.
This year, that project will get back to the Time to Blossom roots, since, like the first project Jorgensen and Forrest planned together, the conference participants will be making bracelets for women who receive services from Fresh Start.
“Our service project is always a highlight of the conference. The young women feel such joy as they focus on those less fortunate and as they make a difference in their lives,” Forrest said.
Young women who have participated, and parents alike, praise the Time to Blossom program.
One mother noted: “… I’m not exaggerating when I tell you my daughter was glowing when I picked her up. I’ve never seen her so self-assured. A mere thank you doesn’t seem to hold enough gratitude that’s in my heart.”
These comments and many others make Jorgensen and Forrest and their team of 100 volunteers feel like they are reaching the goals they have set.
“The main goal of the conference is that when these girls leave, that they will truly know their worth and that they would see themselves the way our Father in Heaven and the Savior see them — and that they see others in that same way,” Forrest said.
This year, the first Time to Blossom session is Monday, July 15, through Friday, July 19; the second is Monday, July 22 through Friday, July 26.
A few spots are still available, but registration will close when filled. For a complete list of presenters, more information on the conference, or to register, visittimetoblossom.com.
What: Time to Blossom young women’s conference
When: Two sessions (July 15-19; July 22-26)
Where: Hilton Scottsdale Resort, 6333 N. Scottsdale Road