Girls just wanna do good

PETERSBURG, Ohio – A group of six professional, young mothers from the Petersburg and Boardman areas are revolutionizing the typical “girls’ night out.”

The Mahoning County women get together casually for dinner and laughs once a month to lend support to one another and “remember who they are as individuals.” But recently, they realized perhaps their girls’ night out could lend support to others as well.

“We’re all about the same age (30-ish) with children, so we’re all going through the same things at the same time. Between our jobs and kids, we’re on the go from morning to night,” said Susan Bender of Petersburg. “It’s nice to take time out to share those experiences with someone who knows where you’re coming from.”

Bender, Kim Johnson, Patti Gibson and Connie Ortz were all members of Petersburg Presbyterian Church. That quartet met Liz Weingart and Beth Bean, both of Boardman, through Bible school activities.

“Have you ever just met someone and it clicked?” said Bender. “That’s what it was like for all of us.”

Doing good.

But there is more to their “GNO” than fun and games. The group believed helping others could also benefit them. They slugged their group “GNO for Good.”

The group started by raising money and collecting school supplies for Sunday schools, participating in community clean-ups, helping local churches and doing other small, but significant, acts of kindness.

“We try not to turn our projects into too much work. It’s important that we have fun. We all have so much going on already,” said Bender. “We don’t have any set goals of what we want to do each month or year, but everything we’ve gotten involved in so far has turned out great.”

Benefit cut.

GNO for Good is now committed to raising $5,000 to benefit Ortz’s aunt, Cheryl Zappia, a 38-year-old mother of two in dire need of a liver transplant. Ortz came up with the idea of asking for pledges for each inch she cuts from her hair. The money raised will go to Zappia’s medical bills and the cut hair will go to Locks of Love, an organization dedicated to making wigs for children who have lost their hair.

“Connie has only had her hair trimmed since high school, and her hair hangs to the lower part of her back,” said Bender. “She was talking about really needing a new look when the idea came to her. She will cut at least 10 inches off.”

After Ortz brought the idea to GNO, Bender talked to her hairdresser, Robert Duponty of Robert’s Hair Salon, who agreed to shut down the shop for the girls’ night out and to cut, highlight and style Ortz’s hair for free. He will also ensure the hair is properly prepared for Locks of Love. Ortz will have her cut April 23 at the salon, 1714 Boardman-Poland Road, near Poland, Ohio.

Bender says the group has already collected more than $1,000 and a group called ALL Branch 7352 has agreed to match up to $2,500 for the cause.

“Connie’s aunt is really ill. She’s on the donor list, but will need this money for her care,” said Bender. “We haven’t even really publicized the event and we’ve collected $1,000 just by word of mouth. It’s amazing to see the generosity of people.”

“Everyone involved benefits – Connie’s aunt will receive the money, Locks of Love gets Connie’s hair and Connie gets a new look, which always raises a woman’s spirits.”

Make a pledge.

To make a pledge for a dollar amount times 10 inches, send a check to Farmers’ National Bank, c/o Kim Johnson at 12065 Mallards Crossing, Petersburg, OH 44454.

“My aunt can’t believe I’m doing this, and I’m really excited to do it,” said Ortz. “She has six brothers and a sister, so everyone is trying to do their part to help. We’ve held a Valentine’s Day dance, car shows, craft shows and bake sales. She keeps a positive attitude, and that really helps (the family) deal with it.”

The group is already busy planning more activities to benefit other members and organizations in the area. Most of all, though, the group simply enjoys getting out together and doing something good.

“Being moms, it’s tough sometimes to feel like anything else. Our husbands have been supportive, which is a great help. This just gives us another purpose,” said Bender.

(Reporter Annie Santoro can be reached at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or at


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