In a sea of silence one voice was heard.
Convicted felon Diana Morgan spilled her past to 120 lady golfers at the kickoff luncheon in Cottonwood’s Lady Niners’ annual Member-Guest March 19.
One week later, golfers learned that $7,197 had been donated to Gina’s Team, Morgan’s benefactor. It was the largest gift the group had received.
“I…once…was you…” Morgan quietly revealed as she told her emotionally charged story of her descent into a life of heroin addiction to stop the pain after being raped in 1992. “I lost my husband, my kids, my home, my car and my business.”
Morgan was nearing the end of her third term in prison when told to attend an education session led by Gina’s Team, the non-profit local organization chosen to benefit from the Lady Niners’ golf tournament.
Today, Morgan has regained her life and credits Gina’s Team which assisted her in every step since she left prison, even “the dress I’m wearing today,” she said.
“This is the first time we have combined a fun golf day with helping others,” noted co-chair Karen Kishpaugh, “and the response from members, friends and businesses was overwhelming. Today’s success is due to the efforts of many including my co-chair Leslie Swan and 12 committee members.” Kishpaugh introduced and recognized her team to a standing ovation.
Gina’s Team is named for Gina Panetta who died of leukemia at 26 in prison without medical care. It was co-founded by Sue Ellen Allen, Gina’s prison cellmate and Chris and Dianne Panetta, Gina’s parents. The organization’s overriding principle is “Education, not incarceration, is the cheapest form of crime prevention.”
Since 2011, 510 women are Gina’s ATHENA Team graduates with 322 released from Perryville prison. Only 18 have returned resulting in an unprecedented recidivism rate of 6 percent. The national rate is 60 percent.
In Member-Guest team golfing action, winners were:
Flight 1 (front 9): 1st Sandy Eeds, Bette Lu Buchanan, Peggi Boyles and Susie Rinaldo, 2nd Diane Hill, Marilyn Spence, Nancy Hamilton and Janie Toth, 3rd Moe Schoenwalder, Ruby Meyer, Mickey Luttman and Cathy Kinnick; Flight 1 (back 9): 1st Judi Mora, Mary Kent, Dolly Schaedel and Dee Monsonis, 2nd Dixe McQuaid, Karen Bailey, Marilyn Lloyd and Jane Johnstone, 3rd Julie Schneider, Pat Stead, Sue Schafer and Sandy Johnson
3/12. Low Gross – Flight 1: 1st LynnTanner, 2nd Gail Wooldridge, 3rd Bette Lu Buchanan; Flight 2: 1st (tie) Pat Best and Betty Ennis, 3rd (tie) Judy Conaway and Cathy Sullivan; Flight 3: 1st Diana DePree, 2nd Judy Wolfstich, 3rd (tie) Sandy Jackson and Judy Nicely
3/26 (three clubs) – Flight 1: 1st Jan Lien, 2nd Karen Kishpaugh, 3rd Gail Wooldridge; Flight 2: 1st Pattie Seiberling, Vickey Ricketts and Judy Howell; Flight 3: 1st Cathy Kinnick, 2nd Sandy Jackson, 3rd (tie) Irene Morris, Judy Nicely and Val Volk