“Funny, Caring, Honest”
She grew up in a household in the 50’s with 11 other siblings. She had 3 older brothers and was the oldest of the girls in the family. As a child, Debby recalls not seriously considering college because in her family it was more important for the boys to be educated because it was expected they would be the future breadwinners of their own families. They were encouraged to enter college while the girls went on to become secretaries. “That’s just the way it was back then.” It wasn’t until Debby started to challenge her own beliefs and desires that life began to change for her.
“Who was I? What did I want? I really wanted a purpose for myself.”
She had wanted to go to college, and as the years passed, her desire grew. However, she married, had children and devoted herself to being a full time wife and mother. She loved her life, but also had many self-doubts and insecurities. But to the outside world; she was a fully functionally wife, mother, and friend. She would often talk about going back to school and when her kids were all in school themselves she decided to give it a try. She signed up for one class at the community college. She recalls that the first time she had to take a test her hand was shaking so bad she could hardly write the answers. She did well and her confidence grew. She then went on to take enough courses to earn a two year degree.
“It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I had accomplished something for me. And I got A’s, turns out, I was pretty smart after all.”
By now she was in her mid 40’s, her kids were in college and unexpected circumstances forced her to face the realization that her marriage of 25 years was crumbling. She suffered an extremely painful divorce and described that period in her life as “PARALYZING”. She had no idea where she would go from here. Her whole adult life was defined by her marriage and her children.
“There was a moment I remember clearly when I heard my mother, who had recently died, tell me I could survive….that I could redefine myself, move on and fulfill my life.”
She went through with her divorce and received her master’s degree in social services at the age of 50.
“I do have a purpose. I had no clue of where to go from here, but you need to FOLLOW THE PATH, THE ANSWER WILL COME.”
Debby’s passion has always been to help others. She has spent a large part of her professional career working with battered woman that have been abused- physically and verbally. An advocate for helping women rebuild themselves and gain the confidence they needed to make their own way in society. When asked why she poured her heart and soul into others, she replied without hesitation,
“No one deserves to be abused physically, verbally, mentally or emotionally. I knew that I could help because I had learned to believe in myself, my beliefs and my right to be who I am. I believe that most women, at some point in their lives, need that reinforcement. And who better to teach that than other women?”
During her career, Debby has helped many woman escape the darkest moments of their lives. One of the biggest challenges for her was dealing with the systems and those who either did not believe or greatly minimized the experiences of the women who, consequently, often doubted their own reality. She spoke up as effectively as she could in an attempt to inform and enlighten those who did not see or understand the impact, but found it very difficult to break through the barriers of blame.
Although Debby is retired now, she still looks for purpose in her life. She is the manager of a newly opened women’s boutique resale store, Hope’s Closet, where 100% of the proceeds go to helping support homeless youth in the community. Debby had previous experience volunteering in a thrift store and had been part of a homeless youth committee at her church. She had thought of opening her own thrift store, but when the opportunity of Hope’s Closet came to be, she knew she was embarking on the right opportunity to continue to make difference. Along with several other women and partners of The Hope 4Youth Organization, the vision of Hope’s Closet was born.
“With the community support we have received, we knew we were on the right path and doing the right thing. I just KNEW it and felt it inside.”
What motivates you?
“Developing relationships with others. Diversity and different beliefs of others.”
What are you most proud of?
“Having found me. It has been a freeing journey, and it didn’t come easy.”
Who is your inspiration?
“I have been fortunate to have met some powerful influencers in my life. Several years ago I became interested in genealogy and through my search became aware of a thread of strength of will in the women in my family. I found some fascinating stories of love, loss, and most importantly, survival. These attributes have been passed along through the generations to the present and beyond, I hope. My parents stood strong in their belief that “ALL ARE WELCOME HERE” long before it became the important message today.
What is your definition of gender equality?
“Mutual respect and acceptance. It is really that simple. Being mindful and making eye contact when speaking to someone. I make a point to smile at everyone that I see. It’s simple kindness.”
Her advice to young girls and women:
“Learn all you can. Identify what it is your internal gauge is telling you. Trust your gut and go for it. Trust your intuition. Define your value system. Know it can change. Be ok to make mistakes, you will learn from them. Hardships equal positive outcomes. And always have someone in whom you trust, and accepts you for who you are right now this minute.”
How do you identify yourself as a Boudika female and the 6 attributes that are associated with being one?
“I have survived all of my battles so far. It’s having the spirit of survival within yourself. All of the attributes flow together. They are all needed in our daily lives.”