Doris Aldrich can’t turn away from the cause she serves.
Doris stops to introduce herself to a woman who just signed up for help from the Partnering Ambassadors for Life and Service program just minutes before. Doris insists that the woman start the next day, which stuns the woman. As tears pool in her eyes, the woman hugs Doris as she whispered her thanks.
As the woman leaves, Doris turns to the volunteer who signed her up and asks if there was a space for her, and the volunteer shakes her head. Doris simply says, “We’ll work it out. At least, we made her happy.”
Doris Aldrich graduated from the University of Georgia in 1967 with a degree in music. While at UGA, Doris volunteered with a campus organization that helped international students cope with the culture shock of going to college in the United States. At the time, suicide rates for these students were extremely high.
After catching the volunteering bug at UGA, Doris volunteered internationally in Turkey, where she witnessed the lifestyles of the women there. They were abused, poor and dependent, and Doris wanted to help.
“These women had lost their dignity. Human dignity is extremely important, and these women had none,” said Doris.
Doris contacted several American non-profit organizations about the problems she experienced in Turkey. Since she did not have a background in development, she didn’t think she could do it on her own. When there was little response for the cause, she started Women to the World.
Doris is currently the founder and president of Women to the World, Inc. It was started under the church, Mission to the World, for tax purposes. Doris expanded her work to Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, and Kenya in later years.
When Doris returned from her international project to her roots in Athens, she vowed to take a break from volunteering. A pastor from a local church called Doris when she returned to Athens asking her to help a few pregnant teenage girls who had nowhere to go.
Her first response was no, but after researching programs for pregnant teenagers, she found nothing. She decided to help these girls, and then started her expansion to Athens.
Women to the World, Inc. expanded to Athens in 2007. The PALS Institute, where Doris is the director, provides the same help for local women, who are unemployed, dependent and have lost hope. Currently, the PALS institute is in the community center owned by Athens Housing Authority.
The program is divided into four segments: computer skills, GED training, life skills and faith. Women to World, Inc. is a Christian based organization, but Doris says they do not force religion on the participants. She offers the help and guidance if the women want it.
PALS is always looking for new mentors and volunteers. According to the leaders, they’re short on staff, so they have to turn a lot of women away.
“Women in Athens need this. We've had to turn women away simply because there isn't enough room. We hate to do it. It's a good and bad thing,” said Sue Alewine, who is one of the leaders at PALS.
Doris says that they’ve had a great turnover, that a lot of the women are getting jobs, so new women can come in and learn.
According to Doris, her program is the only program in Athens that doesn’t charge the women for the program. There is a $10 fee to join, but Doris said that although a lot of participants do not pay, she never asks twice. PALS pays for the GED testing and all of the books.
Doris has created a family amongst the women and men who mentor for the program. Every morning at the PALS institute, they all hug each other, and they give the same affections to the members.
Sandra Sue Appleby, a mentor at the PALS Institute for three years, reminisces on her experience with the program,“This place is wonderful. Doris is wonderful. I love it here.”