Fayetteville woman gives to help kids

Marny Penix
Marny Penix

Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Marny Penix was 11 or 12 years old, her mother asked her and her brother if they would like to give some of their belongings to children less fortunate than they were.

Her mother, Ethelyn Gibbs, then a relocation specialist in the community development office for the City of Fayetteville, was working with residents of dilapidated housing who wanted to turn one of the houses in their neighborhood into a community center for their children and stock it with games, books, encyclopedias and other items.

“That’s what lit the fires for us trying to help out,” says Penix, who focuses a lot of her giving on children.

A marketing assistant for marketing and special events in the office of development and university relations at Fayetteville State University, Penix returned to work in February after raising her daughter, now a second-grader at William T. Brown Elementary School.

Penix volunteers as a tutor at the school, helping kids with reading and math and doing “whatever else is needed.”

She also is serving as president of the school’s parent-teacher association for the second straight year, and helps solicit funds for the school, including its participation in the county-wide Reading Rocks walk-a-thon.

For three years, she has volunteered as an art teacher for the Bible school at her mother’s church, Bethel A.M.E Zion, and also volunteered last year as an art teacher at her own church, Parks Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.

And for the past two years, she has been a member of the E.E. Smith Academic Excellence Giving Circle.

The giving circle, which is housed at the Cumberland Community Foundation and aims to raise $50,000 by Dec. 31 to secure another $50,000 in matching funds from NCGives, already has raised roughly half that amount.

Now in its second year, the giving circle has recruited 26 members and additional friends.

The group in September will host a “lead and learn” reception at Highland Country Club to thank its current members and friends, and recruit new members.

With members each contributing $500 the first year and $250 this year, the giving circle has made three grants – one each year to provide transportation for children at Ferguson-Easley Elementary School attending math and science camp, and another to provide t-shirts and lunch for students at Lucille Souders Elementary School attending the county-wide science Olympiad.

Both elementary schools are in the district for E.E. Smith High School, a predominantly African-American school.

Penix graduated from E.E. Smith in 1986 and then earned a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in marketing, at Fayetteville State.

Now, she hopes to pass on to her daughter, Kennedy, the passion for giving she learned from her own mother.

In her classroom, Kennedy helps her fellow students with their reading and math.

“She loves to help,” Penix says.

And when she is running errands with her daughter, and meets someone who asks about the giving circle, Kennedy typically “goes into her spiel,” Penix says. “She says, ‘It helps children like me,'” Penix says.

“You can’t save every child,” she says. “If you touch a child besides your own in a positive way, I think you’ve helped society tremendously.”

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