By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Elleanor Jean Hendley has spent her life making a positive impact on those around her.
Hendley worked first as a schoolteacher before transitioning into television news. She graced the small screen in Philadelphia for nearly three decades while working at CBS-3, first as producer and host of “City Lights,” then as the station’s education reporter.
But while navigating her powerhouse career, “E.J.” used her influence and exposure to create Teenshop Inc., a legacy that will undoubtedly last a lifetime.
“I never envisioned this program becoming what it has become,” said Hendley recently. The nonprofit, which she started in 1985, shapes the lives of girls aged 13 to 18 through weekend workshops on etiquette, job training, and more.
Over the years, Teenshop has touched the lives of thousands of young women.
“Teenshop is for any girl who has a goal,” says Hendley, who oversees four chapters — three in Philadelphia and one in Los Angeles. “Teenshop is just one part of the village that it takes to raise a child.”
Teenshop’s curriculum is based in large part on Hendley’s life. She says she was queen of her cotillion in Savannah, Ga., and later started an etiquette club.
And as a teacher and broadcaster, Hendley believes in education and proper presentation, which is why Teenshop programming includes a mandatory college tour, a summer leadership conference, speakers’ series, and an annual community service project called “Shoes for Life.”
Together, these experiences transform girls into young women who are ready to take on the world.
“All of our girls go to college,” says Hendley, “and many of our alumnae come back as college graduates and working women, and mentor the new class of girls.”
Hendley says she never had a “plan” for Teenshop. Instead, she says, a higher power pushed her to create the organization, which relies heavily on a strong base of volunteers who donate their time and talent to help the program move forward.
“We live on a shoestring budget,” says Hendley, “and we really, really hope we can generate more corporate support and more foundation support. But we survive because we have fashioned our programming so that regardless of the economy, we do not have to close our doors.”
Hendley says her future focus will be on getting the nonprofit to its 30th anniversary (in 2015), and on creating a more steady stream of funding to expand programming.
“It’s about being able to help people,” she says. “And we keep walking in faith.”
In the meantime, Teenshop is accepting applications for the 2013-14 year. For more information, go to www.teenshop.org.
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