Amanda Wright; Alpha’s Guiding Force

Plant City woman a guiding force at Tampa nonprofit for women in crisis

By Ernest Hooper, Metro Columnist
In Print: Friday, February 18, 2011

After enduring a rape that left her pregnant, the woman arrived at Alpha House of Tampa not just as a victim, but as a survivor determined to become a great mother and chart a better life for her son. Look no further than this inspiring story to understand why Amanda Wright finds time in her busy schedule as a legal assistant, wife and expectant mother to volunteer for the nonprofit. “She really tugged on my heart,” said Wright, who lives in Plant City. “I saw in her eyes how brave she was. She still looked at her son and loved him regardless of how he came about.”

It’s this inspiring resiliency, combined with Christian faith, that has led Wright to become a guiding force at Alpha House, which services pregnant and parenting women in crisis and helps them break the cycle of poverty and abuse.

Over the past three years, Wright has emerged as a top volunteer, leading diaper drives, speaking at fundraisers, serving as a baby sitter and literally remodeling a donation room into a boutique.

For such efforts to come from a 28-year-old is somewhat uncommon, according to Alpha House director of development Cathi Hardesty. Teens often volunteer to gain community service hours to prepare for college. Stay-at-home parents carve out volunteer time during school hours. Seniors step up to remain active.

Connecting with young professionals, however, can prove more challenging as they focus on developing careers and starting families, unless you find a way to pull the heartstrings of someone like Wright, who marvels over how Alpha House lends strength to fragile souls.

“They build confidence in the girls,” Wright said. “I love that about Alpha House.”

The love began in 2008 when Wright attended the nonprofit’s annual New Lives Breakfast. The heartwarming stories of how these women — some with no family support, some who have endured homelessness — overcame their hardships to create real promise in their lives inspired Wright to make a donation.

But something told her to do more. She says it was the Lord.

Wright says divine intervention guided her to initiate the diaper drive at the law firm Hill, Ward and Henderson, where Wright works. She arrived at Alpha House in an SUV teeming with Pampers and Huggies. But that was just the beginning. She soon began spending time with the women and extending simple acts of kindness, such as photographing the families in front of the Alpha House Christmas tree.

Then came the task of renovating the donation room. It’s an important facet of Alpha House because many of the women arrive with only the clothes on their backs. The room was overwhelmed with clothes and needed organization. With the help of financial donations and other volunteers, Wright and her husband, Brady, turned the room into a mini boutique where the clients could feel invigorated choosing outfits.

In addition to her job and philanthropic work, Wright and her husband help in-laws Amie and Chris Cherp publish Overflow, a monthly Christian magazine available at Publix, Sweetbay and other local stores.

Wright said the reward for her volunteer work will come “when I meet my Father in heaven.” Yet her work also is about connecting with the women of Alpha House on a personal level. She now serves as chairwoman of Alpha House’s Artemis Guild, a young professionals’ group that raises money for the organization. She would love to see more young professionals do the same.

“I would say look at the lives they’ve led, and then look inside themselves and see what they can do to help,” Wright said. “If you really care about the community, it’s important to build up the people you live around.”

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