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Foundation honors Roswell’s ‘Remarkable Women’
by Joan Durbin
January 08, 2014 12:44 PM | 2900 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Winners Pam Billingsly and Dotty Etris
Winners Pam Billingsly and Dotty Etris
For more than five decades, a nonprofit foundation begun by Roswell resident Leita Thompson has flown under the public radar. Thompson, an early female banking executive, helped other working women in areas such as housing or retirement assistance and disability care, as well as giving them social and professional recognition.

In 2001, her namesake organization, the Leitalift Foundation, donated more than 100 acres of prime, undeveloped land to the city of Roswell. The acreage had been Thompson’s home until her death in 1978.

That land on Woodstock Road is now part of Leita Thompson Memorial Park. The foundation that also bears her name is still active, carrying out Thompson’s mission. “Our current and only goal is to help deserving working women to have fuller lives,” said Zachary Henderson, the foundation’s vice president. “We do that in the form of grants and scholarships.” At its annual scholarship and awards dinner in November, the Leitalift Foundation inaugurated the newly created the title of Roswell Remarkable Women and gave that honor to Executive Director of the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau Dotty Etris and Bulloch Hall Site Coordinator Pam Billingsley.

“It was an outgrowth of our program of remembering Roswell’s remarkable women from the 1800s to the present,” Henderson said. “The criteria for the award were that a recipient do outstanding, dedicated community service work, both outside and as a part of their career, and that they have been doing it a long time.”

Billingsley has led programs and events at Roswell’s historic Bulloch Hall for more than 25 years. Etris has given “tireless, creative efforts” to the CVB since she became its director when it was founded in 1992.

Etris said she was both surprised and honored to be selected as one of the first two women to get the award.

“Zac mentioned that it is given to someone who had contributed significantly to the community over many years.  It was indeed an honor.  And, of course I think so very, very highly of Pam Billingsley that the honor was even doubled to receive it along side her,” Etris said.

“As I mentioned when I accepted the award, when I came to Roswell as a young single mother, I was inspired, encouraged and mentored by some really remarkable women, Frances McGahee, Emily Dolvin, Tilly Wood, Helen Owens, Sally White and so many others. They helped me gain confidence and for that I will always be grateful.”

“If I have earned the honor of this award, at all, it is because of the strong remarkable women who helped me along the way.”

Also at the annual dinner, the foundation awarded 15 scholarships, bringing the total grants and scholarships since the nonprofit began its gifts in 2001 to 169.

“Our ‘Little Foundation with a Big Heart’ is proud to be a vital part of the Roswell community,” Henderson said.

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