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Southern storyteller says ‘Don’t Give Up’

photo@ledger-enquirer.com

Ronda Rich, a nationally acclaimed storyteller, author and syndicated columnist, brought laughter to Columbus on Tuesday as keynote speaker at the fifth annual “Power of the Purse Luncheon” held at St. Luke’s Ministry Center.

The event, hosted by the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley Women’s Leadership Council, drew about 600 people to the center for the “Wear One, Bring One” initiative, which collects new undergarments for women in need.

Rich shared a string of humorous stories about her life as a southern woman. In one story, she recounted difficulties trying to publish her first fiction book, “The Town that Came A-Courtin’.” She said the book was rejected more than 50 times, but she persevered and it eventually became a bestseller. It’s now a Reader’s Digest condensed book, and in 2014 the story premiered as a television movie starring Lauren Holly and Valerie Harper.

“One yes wipes out a thousand no’s,” she told the predominately female audience. “And if you stop, you will never find that ‘yes’ that you’re going to get. Don’t give up.”

The Women’s Leadership Council consists of about 400 women who give $1,000 or more to the United Way. The organization’s motto is “Women Helping Women,” according to a news release. On Tuesday, more than 2,400 undergarments were donated as a result of the luncheon, exceeding last year’s total of 2,083. Some women also gave money for women at United Way agencies to purchase undergarments through Goodwill or J.C. Penney.

“The number of women and girls impacted in our community is incredible,” said Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of the local United Way. “The ‘Power of the Purse Luncheon’ allowed women in our community to come together for fun, laughter and giving.”

Rich, a native of the north Georgia Appalachian mountains, is a former award-winning sports writer, according to a bio on her website. She exploded on the national stage over a decade ago with her bestseller, “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should),” now in its 33rd printing. A former award-winning sports writer, she now writes a self-syndicated column that appears in over 50 newspapers. Her latest book, “There's A Better Day A-Comin',” tells the stories of famous and ordinary people who triumphed over tribulation and setbacks.

In addition writing for various news publications, she has appeared on The View, Fox and Friends, The Other Half, Fox Sports and CNN.

Rich married to John Tinker, an Emmy award-winning television drama producer and writer from Hollywood. Tinker, who now lives with her in a rural area outside of Atlanta, turned down lucrative opportunities to produce a series of movies for Hallmark, Rich said. He wanted to developed shows that focused more on the bright side of life, but his agent thought he was making the wrong choice.

“Ladies and gentleman, the best decision, the right decision, isn’t always in black and white when you write it down, when you look at the money, or you look at the prestige, or you look at the perks,” Rich said told the crowd Tuesday “John Tinker went to Hallmark. He developed what has become the number one rated show in Hallmark history, called ‘Chesapeake Shores.’

“I’m so proud of you,” she said to her husband, who sat in the audience. “Thank you for making that decision.”

Alva James-Johnson: 706-571-8521, @amjreporter

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