Mamie McCullough brought her homespun message of inspiration and determination to an audience of friends of the Pearl Griffin Memorial Latch Key Program Tuesday night, and found dozens of her own friends as well.

McCullough, an alumna of Howard Payne University, identified numerous local residents who she said helped her as a student and who have remained friends for decades.

The “I Can” lady, who worked for Zig Zaglar before becoming a successful motivational speaker and author in her own right, delivered a succession of observations that had the audience alternately laughing and applauding in agreement.

Taking cues from passages in her books, McCullough urged her listeners to ask “what” not “why” when faced with challenges in life.

“Don’t be a ‘whyner,’ ” McCullough said. She said that’s the approach she took after the unexpected death of her husband, and after being diagnosed with cancer.

She also praised the board members and other volunteers of the Latch Key program and their dedication to the young people of the community. She also expressed her appreciation to the parents of children enrolled in Latch Key for their efforts to provide for their children and continue to work outside the home.

She recalled the dedication of her own mother while she was growing up in rural Georgia. After the death of her sharecropper father, her mother resisted relatives’ suggestions that the older siblings be sent to work in the fields while younger ones be sent to an orphanage.

“Mother always insisted that we go to school and go to church,” McCullough said, “and that’s all we needed.” The only book they had was the Bible, she said.

McCullough said she grew up thinking that if she ever had a house with screens on the windows and paint on the walls, she would consider herself rich.

“I have that now,” she said of her home in Dallas, “and every day I stop to appreciate it.”

McCullough distributed forms that had blanks for people to write down two things each day for a week for which they are thankful.

Latch Key board president Jeannette Pattillo presided at the meeting, at which new board members Tim Espinoza, Liza Weckworth, Ann Willard and Ben Goode were introduced.

Retiring board members are Nada Austin, Mary Espinoza and Beverly Humes.

Incoming board president Glenda Lemke was also introduced.

Recognized for their support of the program were Dallas and Linda Huston, Dr. and Mrs. Seale Cutbirth, Dorothy McIntosh, Dr. Robert Hogue, Pauline Hochhalter, Brownwood Regional Medical Center, Don Byrd, Pecan Valley Kiwanis Club, Howey Enterprises and Don Howey, Sligers Produce and James and Cullen Sliger, and TexasBank and C. Norman Tinkler.