Women Celebrating Women
The word inspire is defined as the act of filling someone with the urge or ability to do something, and here in Chattanooga, we have no shortage of incredible women who motivate those around them day in and day out. Whether they intentionally set out to be a role model or random acts of kindness are simply in their DNA, these women are making the world a better place. Read on to learn more about the individuals who encourage others to be the best version of themselves told by those they inspired most.
Photography by Rich Smith
inspired: Beth Bragg Henon | inspiration: Mari VanderWoude
“Mari has helped generations of young people feel seen and valued.” –Beth Bragg Henon
One of the first women I met in Chattanooga gave me a gift we all long for: the feeling of being known. Her beautiful smile and intentional questions communicated an immediate sense of familiarity and value. This is the same gift Mari VanderWoude has given to more than 20,000 middle school, high school, and college students over the past 18 years.
They call her “The Glue” in her behind-the-scenes role as office administrator for Young Life Chattanooga, but Mari’s work has extended far beyond her title’s borders into teacher, counselor, pastor, and second Mom. Most inspiring is that, with thousands of students from 15 schools coming in and out of her life (and through her always-open office door), she still has the vision to hone in on the “one” – the one who needs a friend, the one hungry for a home-cooked meal, or the one from a broken home who needs to experience the unwavering love of a faithful Father. That’s what keeps students coming back to see her well into their careers and often with their young children in tow.
One of my favorite Scriptures is about a lonely woman who describes God as “the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). Mari has helped generations of young people feel seen and valued. In that way – and in so many others – she definitely has her Father’s eyes. HS