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North Georgia Women's Expo celebrates success stories
2nd annual event at Brenau Downtown Center offers attendees fashion, prizes, networking
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Beth Downs with Northeast Georgia Health Systems shows off her attire during the Belk fashion show Saturday during the North Georgia Women’s Expo in the Brenau Downtown Center in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Full interview with Gov. Nathan Deal

Wherever there are women gathered, there is sure to be fun, fashion, and fellowship.

Such was the case at the second annual North Georgia Women’s Expo, where women came together to hear speakers, visit vendor booths, and win prizes, among other things.

The second annual event was presented by The Times. WomenSource, a nonprofit, helped organize the on-stage presentations that ranged from finances to parenting while the newspaper presented interviews with inspiring women as part of its monthly “Voices” storytelling series.

“This is our second year doing the Women’s Expo. We had a wide array of exhibitors and droves of women who turned out to to see and experience all of the goods and services they offer,” Times Publisher Charlotte Atkins said.

“We gave away thousands of dollars worth of prizes and had a spring fashion parade finale this year. Attendees and participants alike seem to enjoy themselves.”

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit WomenSource.

Tamira Butts came because a friend of hers who works for WomenSource suggested it, and that she would return next year.

“We timed this year’s expo in tandem with the Brenau University Women’s Leadership Colloquium that was held Friday in an effort to create a two-day synergy that we hope will continue to evolve into a full and engaging weekend of activities for women,” Atkins said. “We plan to keep adding layers each year.”

Butts was one of the winners of an oil change giveaway. Other winners walked away with baskets from businesses and vendors, a Michael Kors handbag and other items.

The Times also interviewed several women on the main stage for its monthly Voices event. One was Christie Grice, the first female battalion chief with the Hall County Fire Services. She started off as an EMT, but climbed the ladder and became an EMS coordinator and a business service chief before becoming the battalion chief.

“My first year was really challenging,” Grice said. “It was really difficult for me.”

In her male-centered job, it wasn’t always easy for her to be taken seriously.

“I could do the exact same job they could do,” Grice said.

After a while, she became a part of the family and felt like a sister to her colleagues. She attributes this change to a meal she prepared for the crew and won them over.

Balancing her work life and home life can be difficult, since most of her kids are involved in a sport or some other form of activity.

“We network with other parents,” Grice said. She also keeps a weekly calendar, which helps with scheduling out the week and reducing stress.

One of the Expo’s vendors, Beautiful Feet Ministries, works with people who find themselves in the adult entertainment industry and want a way out.

“We love on them,” said Deb Eposito, a volunteer.

The organization donates meals, and volunteers call and pray with the individuals. They also offer resources, like jobs and help getting their GEDs, or replace personal identification papers that may have been stolen.

“We try to inform the community,” Outreach coordinator Christina Robeson said.

The group gets together twice weekly, once on Tuesday and once on Friday, to reach out to women who may be suffering in the sex trafficking or sex entertainment industry.

Another vendor, Packing Pink, helps women learn how to defend themselves.

“We are teaching women to be safe, responsible gun owners,” Anna Hawkins Van Nostrand said. “I learn something new every class.”

Packing Pink offers courses and instruction on gun safety, as well as shooting range practice.

Thea DuBose studied and got her degree in criminal justice, but now she’s working as the owner and founder of Naturally Posh Photography.

“It’s where God has put me,” DuBose said. She felt pulled to do something else with her life after having a child.

Her photography focuses on newborns, children and family portraits.

Other sponsors included Brenau University, Belk, Farmer’s Insurance, Milton Martin Honda, The Longstreet Clinic, Northeast Georgia Health System and Pinnacle Custom Signs.

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