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  • Writer's pictureDurham & Durham

Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award Nomination

Durham and Durham, Inc. is so proud to announce the President of our company, Penny Durham, is one of the six finalists nominated for the prestigious Virginia K. Shehee Most Influential Woman Award! According to the website, it honors women who have made a difference and shown a commitment to philanthropy by helping children, the elderly, those in need, the arts, business development, education or other acts of caring through unpaid positions. Nominees must be influential in their business or organizations, have a solid reputation based on their experience, leadership and integrity, exhibit significant professional and community accomplishments, and build recognizable and lasting initiatives or changes in and for their business or organizations.

I want to brag to our friends and family about this award honoring my partner and Aunt Penny for all the unselfish, important, impactful and continual work she has done to make such a difference in our community. She said, “These awards should never be given to just that one person, but the whole “tribe” that makes and allows these individuals to stand out. NO ONE can, or does all this alone, and no one does it only for the recognition. Mostly we do it because it is the “right” thing to do, it gives us a way to give back to and enhance the community we have chosen as family. “

She also said, ”Send the Bio, it’s cheaper than paying for an obituary in the newspaper and they don’t have to wait till I die!”


I’m Penny Durham…

I am a hometown girl, born and raised. I was educated in Shreveport, from A.C. Steere, Broadmoor Junior High, C. E. Byrd High School all the way to Centenary College and post-graduate courses at LSUS.

My parents grew up and fell in love in the first grade at Elm Grove Elementary School.

I taught Women’s Health and Physical Education at Parkway High School while also serving as Senior Staff Volunteer for Shire House, an acute drug treatment center and part of Community Organization Drug Abuse Control. While traveling with an Air Force husband, I held teaching and counseling positions in Ft. Walton Beach and Homestead, Florida When I returned home, I taught in a private “School Away from School” for troubled teens who had been released from the public school system.

In 1976 I fulfilled my dream to work with my father, James Durham, in the accounting and tax consulting business he founded in 1947. I became President of the firm in 1986. I realized early on that I was in a position and had been given a unique opportunity as a woman heading a small business. I hired and mentored numerous young adult women from all social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. I also realized women often found themselves in unexpected and unique positions as the sole income producer and head of the family, sometimes with little resources or financial savvy. I became a Licensed Registered Representative, investment advisor, life and health insurance agent and Real Estate Agent. With my education and experience I formulated solutions to financial problems to try to prevent financial challenges. I developed and provided countless free seminars addressing the financial difficulties women face and how to organize, implement a plan, and set goals for a successful financial future.

In 1992, I joined the Board of Directors of the YWCA of Northwest Louisiana. The mission statement and the programs throughout the years have been dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all, diversity, addressing sensitive subjects such as racial justice, AIDS and the horror of abuse and violation. Over the years, programs have been in place to give women the skills, courage, safety, and strength to change their life and determine new beginnings for themselves & their children.

I served the YWCA in several capacities: President, Vice President of Finance, Chairman Strategic Plan Committee, Vice President of Special Events, Event Chair or committee member for several major annual fund-raisers including The Perfect Setting, The Annual Style Show, An Affair with Flair (A Wine Auction) and developing Rumble on the Red. I earned “Outstanding Achievement” award during YWCA membership drive, represented our local affiliate at the YWCA Leadership Development Institute, was a Delegate to National YWCA convention, Member Board of Directors for many years, and chaired Women Who Care, Share.

Recently, the YWCA made the decision to open Fab Finds, a social enterprise retail shop designed to resell gently used donated items as a fund-raising arm. Since the shop supports the mission of the YWCA, it supports the programs that empower women and girls who may not have the resources to shop mainstream retail outlets or may be underemployed. The shop provides extremely affordable, trendy, and fashionable wardrobes and accessories for women to wear to social events, religious services, job interviews or the workplace. The shop provides affordable wardrobe pieces to women who may just be entering the workforce or need to clothe their children. Fab Finds has entered partnerships with other nonprofit organizations in our community. The shop has instituted sound environmentally responsible recycling and upcycling practices. Items that are not suitable to be sold in the shop are recycled once again to other non-profits to help with their missions. I was Chairperson in charge of opening the original shop and the new shop when it moved to its current location. I was instrumental and mostly in charge of cleaning, remodeling, painting, decorating, and adapting both spaces for retail, securing the furniture, fixtures, and racks, hiring, securing donations, budgeting, writing employee and volunteer manuals, writing policies and procedures for the shop, training employees and volunteers. I also volunteered in the shop several days a week.

My mom was a 27-year breast cancer survivor, so I became passionate about and dedicated to doing all that I could to possibly alleviate the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis for the patient and her family and loved ones. My mission was to help give patients the courage to face this disease each day and hope for a brighter and healthy future. I gladly took on a leadership role in the “breast cancer community”.

I was instrumental in coordinating the effort to incorporate the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for the Shreveport-Bossier City Affiliate. I was the Founding and initial President of the Board of Directors for the first six years.

During my volunteer tenure with the Komen Foundation:

I did countless media interviews and stories

I was an integral part of the local Race for the Cure that grew from 700 participants to 6,000. The volunteer base started with about 10 people and grew to hundreds. I was Secretary, Co-Chairman, Committee Chair & Committee Member for the Race for the Cure®. I traveled to Rome, representing the local affiliate for the inaugural international Race for the Cure, and participated in the Boston and National Race in Washington, D. C. I conducted the “Needs Assessment” several years to determine how Komen could help our community more efficiently. I attended Komen training sessions, symposiums and seminars numerous times on Leadership, Education, Fundraising and Volunteer Development. I conducted countless public speaking engagements and seminars (with as many as 100 attendees) I was honored to be named BMW The Ultimate Drive® Co Chair, The BMW Ultimate Drive® Local Hero, National Hero of the Month. I was honored to be named Yoplait Race for the Cure ® Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award. I was honored to be named Local Chairman for “Lee National Denim Day”, a national fund-raiser by The Lee Company to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I was Charter Member Krewe for the Cure I continually received countless calls from people who were newly diagnosed (or had a friend) who need information, support, hospital visits, an “apron” after surgery or education

I was honored to be named The Eckerd 100 Salute to Women nominee.

In my capacity as a Volunteer with Breast Cancer Awareness, I was also:

• Member of the Board of Directors Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Science Center

• Member Partners in Wellness and Preventative Health Partners at Louisiana State University Health Science Center

• American Cancer Society Honoree “Community Treasure” for Volunteer Work

• Someone Special Volunteer of the Day for outstanding service to the community

• I was the Volunteer founder and facilitator of Cancer Awareness Network (CAN), a support system and networking group for women who battled breast cancer. The stated mission was to provide Compassion and Awareness, and to meet the Needs of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Monthly meetings were usually held at my home. I contacted over 300 women, arranged for the speakers or programs, and served the refreshments. I funded the group personally, but eventually, it was funded by the Encore plus program at the YWCA, partly through a grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

After my mother, Fabol Durham, passed away at 87 years old from Breast Cancer, I designed, developed, and built the Pink Ribbon Garden in Betty Virginia Park. It is dedicated to the strength, hope and courage of Breast Cancer Survivors and Co-Survivors. This public garden, dedicated in 2006, provides a serene place of reflection and serves as a reminder of the importance of proactive breast health and care, annual mammograms, and early detection of cancer of any kind.

I graduated from “The City of Byrd”. Back in the ‘80s I was asked by a group of Alums who had children attending C. E. Byrd High School to get involved with fundraising efforts to renew, revitalize and refurbish our Alma Mater. These efforts started with my appointment as a Committee Member of major fund-raisers Coach Cox Roast and Ultimate Reunion I & II. Eventually, the C. E. Byrd High School Alumni Association, one of the largest in the nation, was formed. I was Alumni Class Representative, Chairperson for “Keep the Hive Alive II & III”, President and Vice President of the Board of Directors. I am a Lifetime Member.

I am a Lifetime Member of the Northwest Louisiana Master Gardeners, which helps educate the public on best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship. For several years I volunteered to serve as Volunteer Coordinator for LeTour des Jardins, a tour of private gardens, the major fundraiser.

I was instrumental in forming the Claws Up Booster to support the Shreveport Mudbugs, a Tier II junior ice hockey team. The Boosters also support and fund youth ice hockey leagues in the Shreveport/Bossier area. I was President of the Board of Directors for two years and instrumental in introducing the team (most who had never been to Louisiana) to the Mardi Gras experience by providing an opportunity to ride on a float several years.

During the Haynesville Shale era, I formed and was President of the Board of Directors of a neighborhood association to help provide information to and organize property owners. I continue to be very active, as a Block Captain for Neighborhood Watch, to help with crime prevention and instill pride and unity in our community.

Because of my other volunteer activity, I also:

• Was appointed and served several terms as Commissioner under two administrations on the Shreveport Mayor’s Women’s Commission.

• Served as a Member of The Arc of Caddo-Foundation Board of Trustees, Chairperson of the Finance Committee and “Celebrating 50 Years” Committee member

• Was a member of Krewe de Les Femme Mystique.

• Was an Athena Award nominee four years

• Was named The Times Best Dressed, selection based on community service

• Was an Easter Seals Committee Member “Phantom Ball”, a major fund-raiser

• Was a Member Women’s Business Council of the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce

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