The name alone — Top Ladies of Distinction Inc. — sets the bar so high that the Texas-based service organization might sound like an intimidating one to join.
But that hasn’t stopped a group of civic-minded women from forming a Top Ladies of Distinction chapter in Southern Nevada.
The Greater Las Vegas Chapter was chartered into the national group Jan. 5 during a ceremony at the Suncoast. The chapter has 20 charter members and becomes the second of its kind in the Las Vegas area, joining the Las Vegas Starlight chapter.
Rose Coker, Greater Las Vegas chapter organizer, said members meet monthly, as well as gathering a second time each month to perform a service project.
Top Ladies of Distinction, founded in 1964, is “a nonprofit educational humanitarian organization, and our purpose is to improve the quality of life in youths and adults,” said Coker.
Membership in Top Ladies is open to all women, Coker said, and the organization has more than 3,000 women and 4,000 teens in chapters across the country.
“Our main goal is to foster community,” Coker said, with a focus on such areas as improving the status of women, service to senior citizens, community beautification, creating community partnerships and serving youth. Its activities are funded by member dues, fundraisers and donations.
Top Ladies’ youth service efforts take place primarily through the affiliated Top Teens of America, “a leadership program to help build character and prepare students for college and get them involved in our community,” Coker said. It’s open to boys and girls ages 13-18, and each Top Ladies of Distinction member is required to mentor a teen.
The Greater Las Vegas chapter’s Top Teens of America unit has 24 charter members. The annual Top Teens membership fee is $7, and the program requires the participation of a teen’s parents.
Nationally, Top Ladies of Distinction chapters have partnered with such nonprofit organizations as the NAACP, United Negro College Fund, March of Dimes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, AARP and the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
Coker became acquainted with Top Ladies of Distinction when she was in Top Teens of America in Arizona.
“It was the first real organization I participated in other than high school band,” she said. “My first plane trip was to Ohio for a national Top Teens conference. So it’s full-circle for me as an adult giving back to students.”
Clair Hart, the Greater Las Vegas chapter’s first elected president, became acquainted with the group when her grandson became a member of Top Teens.
“I was with him every meeting, and I thought, ‘Hmm, he’s part of Top Teens; I should be part of Top Ladies,’” she said.
A distinctive Top Ladies of Distinction tradition is that each member is addressed using the title “Lady,” while their husbands are addressed using “Lord.” So do husbands take advantage of the title? Coker and Hart laugh.
“My husband is Dr. (Howard) Coker,” Coker said. “He said, ‘(Lord) might outrank this one.’”
Besides, spouses don’t receive the title for free.
“They have to participate,” Coker said. “They get a honey-do list.”