Entrekin Book Signing

entrekin

Peachtree City resident and former FW cover girl, Jill Smith Entrekin, will be signing her lastest novel, Buck’s Junction, at Peachtree City Library on Sunday, August 4th, at 1:00 p.m.  Entrekin’s first novel, Start of Flint was released in 2011 by Room 272 Press and has maintained a 5 star rating on Amazon.

Publisher’s Description of Buck’s Junction:

Buck and Lonnie are cousins growing up together in a small Georgia town. They are both gifted athletes and altar boys who enjoy the sweet, simple pleasures of their small town life: watching the train roar through the Junction each day, gazing at the stars from high atop the water tower and hunting with the best bird dog in the county. For Buck and Lonnie, life in the summer of 1960 is good. That is until Uncle Elwood shows up. A mean, sadistic drunk who takes pleasure in tormenting others, Elwood sets his sights on Lonnie and Buck, and their once innocent, idyllic world will change forever.

In the great tradition of Southern writers, Jill Smith Entrekin paints a rich picture of life in a small Southern town featuring colorful characters and lessons about the strength of family and the inevitability of shattered innocence. Buck’s Junction will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and it will remind you that sometimes only a best friend can help you get through the hurdles life puts in your way.

The book signing on Sunday at Peachtree City Library will be followed by the awards ceremony for the “Summer in the Bubble” photo contest at 2 p.m.

For more information on Jill Smith Entrekin and Buck’s Junction, visit Room 272 Press.

Kristy’s Greatest Role, Kristy Van Meter

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Photos by Marie Thomas

Kristy (Cobb) Van Meter always loved acting, participating in school plays from the third grade on and, later, majoring in Drama at Furman University in South Carolina. Little did she realize back then that her life would eventually take on an unusual drama of its own.

Let’s set the stage for what has become a life filled with surprises, joy, humor, and a little craziness; it’s a family drama that’s taken more than a few twists and turns (but the ending’s a happy one).

Kristy and her younger sister, Holly, grew up in Reidsville, N.C. “I have special memories of Sunday dinners at my house, and at my aunt’s and grandma’s houses. All of our extended family living in the area would get together after church. It was always so much fun to be with everyone,” she says.

Then life changed somewhat. When Kristy was in high school, the family moved to Morristown, Tenn. for her father’s job. Kristy remembers that this was a tough move for her and her sister, but “it really strengthened our relationship. We just had each other; we didn’t know anyone else for a while, so we grew much closer.”

Dreaming as little girls do, Kristy remembers picturing herself married and the mother of four children, “two girls and two boys,” she says with a laugh. Her career visions back then were to be a veterinarian, a geologist, or an actress.

Clay and Kristy (center) with their children. Standing, from left, identical twins Tyler and Ford; on floor, from left, Truitt, Kate and Jackson (kneeling).

Well, the acting aspiration won out. Following high school, Kristy headed back to the Carolinas, this time to S.C., where she attended Furman University. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Drama with a concentration in Psychology, she moved to Ga., attending grad school at the Psychological Studies Institute and Georgia State University and receiving her master’s in Community Counseling with a certificate in Christian Counseling. These college studies would prove to be “so” essential for her later in life.

Following graduation, Kristy counseled at a therapeutic boarding school for adolescents in Dahlonega for three years. During that time she dated and fell in love with a longtime friend, Clay Van Meter. After marrying in 1997, they moved to Senoia in 2000 so Clay could open his insurance business in Peachtree City. Kristy continued working as an in-home counselor for families in crisis.

Then came the first real surprise: shortly after they moved, they found out that Kristy was pregnant with fraternal twins. Kristy carried babies Jackson and Truitt up to 33½ weeks, giving birth by caesarean on December 22, 2000. The babies were fine, but Kristy had developed toxemia and a blood disease, Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP), which put her in intensive care following the delivery. “The nurses gave Clay one-on-one instructions on how to care for the babies, since I wouldn’t be able to do much when we took them home,” she says. “So that was a good thing, and he did a great job.”

The triplets at 3 months old. From left: Tyler, Kate and Ford.

She and the babies came home on Christmas Day. “Boy, did our lives change,” she recalls. “We were overwhelmed, but we got a lot of help.”

Out of necessity, Kristy and Clay established a routine for caring for the twins. “We have friends who have twins, and one thing they told us was to get them on a schedule. Feed them at the same time, otherwise they would be waking us up all night. So if one woke up to eat, we would wake up the other one to eat as well,” Kristy explains.

Even with all the support from family and church and great advice, it was sometimes overwhelming to be a stay-at-home mom of twins; there was definitely a learning curve. Once, Kristy took her babies with her to stock up on a diaper sale at the supermarket. “I was carrying one in a sling, and then I carried the car seat into the store for the other one. Well, the car seat wouldn’t even fit in the shopping cart, so here I had one baby I was holding, and carrying the other one in his seat in my other hand, and then I was trying to get a big box of diapers…” She trails off and laughs. “You know, it’s trying to figure out the logistics of it all.”

Tyler, Kate, Jackson, Ford and Truitt at their Uncle Steve and Aunt Dana’s house. The triplets were 5 months old and the twins 3 and half.

Once they were mobile, the twins sometimes got into a little mischief together, playing off of each other’s curiosity and adventurousness. But Kristy and Clay remained patient and loving, and soon they began to consider welcoming another child into their family.

The Van Meters consulted with their doctor to see if it was advisable, considering the health complications that had come from Kristy’s pregnancy with the twins. The doctor said that complications were more likely to occur with multiples and first pregnancies, so he thought that chances of complications would decrease with Kristy’s second pregnancy. “He felt it was probably fine to get pregnant again,” Kristy says.

It wasn’t long before Kristy did get pregnant a second time; the couple was thrilled and excited. “I remember thinking, ‘This must be what it is like to have a single pregnancy.’” She pauses and laughs. “Little did we know! During our first ultrasound I immediately saw two sacs, and I uttered a little too loudly, ‘Are we having twins again?’ The doctor replied gently, ‘Right now there are three babies in there.’ Clay got white and real quiet. I started laughing and crying at the same time. Clay kept patting me and saying, ‘Everything’s going to be fine, everything’s going to be fine.’ We were so shocked!”

Clay and Kristy are not only great partners but also best friends!

This, too, was a risky pregnancy. The doctors were very watchful and cautioned Clay and Kristy that they could lose one, two or even all three. “Although we didn’t plan for triplets, once we saw all three heartbeats on the ultrasound screen, we were pulling for each one,” Kristy says.

Kristy, a petite woman, was on bed rest prior to the birth of their identical twin sons, Tyler and Ford, and a daughter, Kate, on January 20, 2004. Again Kristy was in ICU for four days after the triplets’ delivery. This time a heart condition—cardio myopathy, resulting from the way her heart had enlarged during the pregnancy—nearly took her life.

“I almost died after delivery,” she says matter-of-factly, adding lightly, “Clay was very happy I didn’t leave him with all those kids.”

Once more friends, church members and family rallied around this sudden family of seven with support, food, attention. Because Kristy was still healing from her heart issues and couldn’t get out of bed, friends and family contributed time and money, hiring night-sitters and enlisting church members to help stay through the night with the infants. “We were very blessed by that,” Kristy says emphatically.

After she’d healed, Kristy began scaling a new learning curve—this time as the mother of two sets of multiples. For a while when the babies were little, Kristy recalls, she and Clay “just did what we had to do, dealing with whatever was needed at the moment… it was like triage.” And when the babies grew into toddlers, the couple found that the challenges of parenting them evolved, too.

The Van Meters’ 2012 Christmas card photo taken at Starr’s Mill. Back from left: Ford, Kate & Tyler. Front: Truitt and Jackson

“When the triplets came, we actually turned our dining room into a play room, and we gated it off. Well, they would climb the gate. They would even climb over each other to get over the gate,” laughs Kristy. “And we had them in a nursery together—two cribs foot to head, a changing table next to it, and a third crib on the other side of the room. Well, they learned how to climb from crib to crib, and they would use the changing table as a bridge to get into each other’s beds. It was a little crazy.” Kristy and Clay solved that problem by installing crib tents, and later turning the tents backward once the babies figured out how to open them. “You have to get a little creative,” she says with a laugh.

“Creative” also included using duct tape to fasten diapers after the babies figured out how to pull them off, as well as painting one of the twins’ toenails with blue polish to be able to tell him apart from his identical brother.

Despite the challenges, though, having twins before triplets had its advantages. “When you have two kids, you can go man-to-man defense, but when you have more than two, you have to go zone,” Clay jokes. “I think having the twins prepared us to ‘go zone’ with the triplets.”

Parenting two sets of multiples came with other unique challenges, such as managing the individual needs of each child; early on, Kristy recognized that each child must be parented differently. “All of our children are very spirited.” She laughs and adds, “That’s more positive than saying they are strong-willed.” She and Clay balance being strict with being loving and flexible. “Most of our rules fall under respect—respect people, respect property. Show people you value them.”

It’s been nearly a decade since those sometimes-chaotic first years, and life has calmed down; the twins are now 12 years old, and the triplets are nine. “It still requires a lot from us, but the things we need to do are different,” Kristy says, also pointing out that like any other mother, she learns as she goes.

“In grad school I was a nanny for two families, so I thought I knew something about parenting,” she says with a wry smile. “But it is so different when they’re your own children. I thought I’d be a better disciplinarian, and I thought I’d have more energy. Like many families, we have great philosophies behind everything we do for our children, but I often wonder how good we are at implementing them. Parenting is so humbling. I think it is a huge refinement process for me.”

The days are busy but rewarding for Kristy.

And of course, like all moms, Kristy has her moments. “God gives me the strength for each day and that all sounds very noble,” she says, “but when I’m in the trenches of the day, that is not always my mindset.” When she begins to feel stressed, she might take a personal “timeout” and go to her room, walk outside and take a deep breath, phone a friend, or simply pray.

Although Kristy claims that she’s not as organized as she’d like, her children have an effective routine in place: a designated place for all of their school papers; the routine of having an after-school snack, followed by homework; the habit of having clothes laid out the night before school; and a chore chart that designates each child’s duties to help make the house run smoothly.

However, she says, “Keeping an orderly house is one of my struggles. For a long time, I’d beat myself up if I didn’t have a clean house or felt I wasn’t organized enough. But I’ve learned to say, ‘That’s okay.’ There are just some things I can’t pull off.”

And having an intimate understanding of the struggle to find balance as a mom has given her a unique perspective. “I know that it’s important that I give grace to people because I require so much of it,” Kristy says. “As women and mothers we need to give ourselves a lot of grace and extend it to other women. We can’t do it all.”

Despite her busy life, Kristy still makes the time to reach out and help others; just as she gives so generously to her family, she extends that giving to others outside her home.

Both Carolyn Mayo and Joanne Harman, Kristy’s close friends, can’t say enough about her big-hearted spirit. “Her giving always starts with deep insights into the person and their needs,” says Joanne. “She is always thinking and giving outside of herself.”

Carolyn adds, “She will rearrange her life to help someone and I’ve seen her do it. I think her counseling background has a lot to do with it. People will call her when life is hard. They know she can be trusted.”

“Many of us have good intentions,” Carolyn continues, “but she follows through. She shows up with a box of cupcakes or puts a gift on your doorstep. She is amazing.”

Kristy and Clay at Watersound Beach, summer 2012, with their family and with Kristy’s parents, Ken and Patsy Cobb, her sister and brother-in-law, Holly and Jonathan Lucenary and their daughters. Kristy and Clay’s extended family on both sides are very important to them.

Kristy’s younger sister, Holly Lucenay, agrees that Kristy does a lot for her and others. “She is always looking to the needs of others. She has a heart for everybody and anybody.”

Kristy modestly shrugs it off when asked about her giving spirit. She simply says, “That’s the way we were raised. Our parents were always very generous in serving other people and I think I picked that up from them.”

And then, even more unassumingly, she adds, “Sometimes I think my giving is kind of selfish on my part because it brings me so much joy. It is kind of a break for me. It is something I can do outside of my daily routine.”

With a life filled with family, what in the world does Kristy like to do if she has a rare moment to herself? “I love to read, and I often stay up later than I should reading after everyone else has gone to bed,” she admits.

She also enjoys taking photos of her half-dozen, camera-ready family members in action, capturing precious moments and memories. And, reaffirming her love for others, she says she likes to invest time in her close relationships. “That is very important to me,” Kristy says, “and I want to show people more hospitality by having them to my home—even if it isn’t perfect.”

What does Kristy see in the future for her personally? Eyes twinkling, she quickly notes that sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. That said, she envisions using her acting skills in community theater. In addition, when her children are older, she would like to use her counseling background and minister to others. And, she quickly adds, “I’d like to write. My dream is to write fiction, but I don’t know if that will ever come to fruition.”

Whatever the future holds, Kristy’s starring role in her family’s story keeps her life full and happy, and she’ll continue to teach her five understudies how to perform and attain their own places on life’s stages. And by her side is her husband, who never misses an opportunity to give her an ovation.

“No matter how long the day gets, no matter how many sick children she has at one time, no matter how loud the house gets, she remains the loving, genuine, wise, edifying, humble woman she has always been,” says Clay. “I know that other people have even questioned if she is too good to be true… and I am grateful to know and say that she is as ‘real’ and genuine as any person can be.”

 

Nancy Lewis Book Signing March 14th at Fayette Library

book signing

Business Coach and Motivational Speaker Nancy Lewis,
Co-author of “Real Women, Real Issues,” to Speak and Sign Books at
Fayette County Public Library on Thursday, March 14 at 7:00 p.m.

 

The Fayette County Public Library invites the public to a book signing by Fayetteville resident Nancy Lewis on Thursday, March 14 at 7:00 p.m. Nancy will talk about the new self-help book she has co-authored with three other women from around the country, “Real Women, Real Issues: Positive Collaborations for Business Success.” Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event, with proceeds benefiting the Friends of the Fayette County Public Library. The program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served, compliments of the Friends of the Fayette County Public Library.

Collectively known as “The Ebony Speakers,” Nancy Lewis, Debra Gould, Michelle Porchia and Carole Copeland Thomas have co-authored a book designed to help any woman find her own path to success in life and work. Nancy’s chapter, titled “Forget Networking … It’s All About Connecting,” offers guidance on the art and science of building and maintaining the kind of relationships that can help sustain the reader through turbulent times in the workplace and elsewhere. Those who seek partnership and collaboration with people whose skill sets complement their own can survive and thrive in today’s tough economic environment. Nancy outlines real-world strategies for initiating and following through on these vital connections. Other chapters in the book focus on finding balance in transition, building a new business, and staying the course with an ongoing business venture.

Nancy Lewis is president of Progressive Techniques, Inc., based in Fayetteville. The theme of her organization is “Developing a Better YOU!” She earned a master’s degree from Georgia State University in Urban and Public Affairs with a concentration in Human Resources. Nancy builds on her 20 years of training experience to work with organizations that want to grow their people, and with people who want to make a greater impact in their lives and careers.

The Fayette County Public Library is located behind the Fayette County administrative complex in downtown Fayetteville, at the southwest corner of Highways 85 and 54.  For additional information, please contact the library at 770-461-8841.

WWII WAC Helen Denton Book Signing Dec. 8

Denton, Helen aerial

Helen Denton, Retired Soldier and Author of “World War II WAC,” to appear at
Fayette County Public Library on Saturday, December 8 at 2:00 p.m.

The Fayette County Public Library is pleased to present local author Helen Denton on Saturday, December 8 at 2:00 p.m. to talk about and sign her new memoir, “World War II WAC.” The program is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served, compliments of the Friends of the Fayette County Public Library.

In 1942, young Helen Kogel got tired of watching the young men go off to serve their country, and decided to join them, enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). After serving stateside for a couple of years as a recruiter and as secretary to the post commander, she found herself in England, serving under Gen. Eisenhower. In 1944, Helen spent many days in a closed room, typing up the orders for Operation Overlord: the D-Day invasion of Normandy. For 50 years, she never told anyone – not even her husband Noel Denton (whom she met on Utah Beach) – about the significant role she played in the outcome of the war. Now, she tells all about it in a new nonfiction account titled “World War II WAC,” a collaboration with Robert O. Babcock. Visit the library on Saturday, December 8 at 2:00 p.m., and hear Fayette County resident Helen Kogel Denton talk about her top-secret assignment and other remarkable wartime experiences. The author will sell and sign copies of “World War II WAC” after her talk. The book is priced at $20, and a portion of the proceeds from copies sold that day will benefit the Friends of the Fayette County Public Library.

The Fayette County Public Library is located behind the Fayette County administrative complex in downtown Fayetteville, at the southwest corner of Highways 85 and 54.  For additional information, please contact the library at 770-461-8841.

Patricia Dablah, Kareen Underwood lead with Zumba

Photos by Marie Thomas

Photos by Marie Thomas

Muy caliente! Zumba instructors Kareen Underwood and Patricia Dablah are heating up the dance floors at gyms across Fayette County, helping both women and men melt away the pounds while having fun. Spend any time around them and you’ll see — their energy is contagious.

At first glance, Kareen Underwood seems to have it all: a career in education (she teaches at Brooks Elementary School), a second career as a highly successful fitness instructor, and a loving husband and talented son. But it wasn’t always that way for her.

Kareen’s story begins in San Jose, Calif. Growing up, Kareen loved to perform and attended Lincoln Center Performing Arts School, where she specialized in dance and voice. Her home life, however, was troubled. Her mother, a full-blooded Sicilian, was absent for long periods of time, and her Mexican father was often at odds with the law. He went to prison when Kareen was in the tenth grade, leaving her homeless and without anyone to look after her. She dropped out of school and moved from place to place, even sleeping in a bus station for several nights. Kareen admits she could have easily gone down the wrong path, but she knew she wanted something different for herself. “I believe that we do not have to be products of our circumstances or our environments,” she says. “God has given us free will and the power to choose.”

Kareen and husband Woody on vacation in Florida

Ever resourceful, Kareen found a friend who took her in. The friend lived with her sister, a single mother caring for several children in a cramped one bedroom apartment. “There were eight of us living in that tiny apartment! I slept on the couch. That’s how tight the Mexican community was,” Kareen explains. “We took care of each other.”

Kareen knew the arrangement wouldn’t be permanent, so she enrolled in cosmetology school and worked evenings to save up enough money for her own place. She finished cosmetology school by the time she was seventeen and was able to support herself on her own for the first time. Kareen worked as a hair dresser for several years, but deep down she knew she wanted something else.

After her father was released from prison, she moved to Tacoma, Wash. with him and continued to work as a cosmetologist. She also began taking courses at a local community college where she was able to obtain her GED. More than anything else, Kareen wanted to go to college, though she realized that paying tuition would be difficult on her salary. She found the solution to her dilemma in the United States Air Force.

Kareen served six years active duty in the Air Force during Desert Storm at Hahn Air Base in Germany. She distinguished herself, and was eventually awarded an Accomodation Medal, an Achievement Medal and a National Defense Medal. She was also able to put her love of music and dance to good use while in the military, beginning when she entered a talent show at her base and won first place in the vocalist category. She went on to audition for the USAFE (United States Air Force in Europe) Showcase and landed a spot, which enabled her to tour Europe with the performing group and visit bases in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey. “It was amazing,” she says of the experience. “I got to see Europe doing what I love most — dancing and singing.”

Kareen with her husband Woody and son Josh

Kareen’s son Joshua was born in Germany in 1990, and shortly thereafter she returned to the United States with baby in tow by way of Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. Although she was no longer in a relationship with Joshua’s father, she followed him to Dayton Beach, Fla. and finally did what she had always wanted to do: attend college. She went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida.

Kareen eventually married Robert (“Woody”) Underwood, an aircraft mechanic and fellow martial arts enthusiast, and the family moved to Georgia in 2000. She was first introduced to the dance/fitness movement by way of “Groove” — a pre-cursor to Zumba — at World Gym in Fayetteville, becoming a certified Groove instructor in 2006. She also taught Kick and Step classes.

Zumba was just a natural progression for Kareen, as it was for friend Patricia Dablah, whom she met at World Gym in Peachtree City. “Patricia is from Guadalajara, like my father,” Kareen says. “Dancing is in her blood.”

But Patricia seemed the most unlikely of dancers at birth. She was born with a congenital deformity, club foot, which required multiple surgeries in her childhood. Her father, an oilman, moved the family to Ciudad del Carmen, an island in Campeche, where she learned to dance with friends, something her mother discouraged. “I don’t know if she was afraid I’d hurt my feet or if she thought I might be embarrassed,” Patricia says, but she continued to dance anyway. Her love of music and dance couldn‘t be subdued.

Patricia with her father Jose Mora and her brother Eduardo Mora in Guadalajara, Mexico.

When Patricia was a teenager, her parents divorced, and she moved back to Guadalajara with her mother. The following year, when she was just 16 years of age, her mother died. Patricia remained in Guadalajara and finished high school on scholarship, but she knew she had to further develop her skills to be able to enter the workforce and support herself. Hoping to give herself an edge in the job market, Patricia enrolled in English and computer classes.

As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Patricia was nineteen when she met and fell in love with an American studying medicine in Guadalajara. They married a year later and she followed him back to America in 1998. The couple spent time in Minnesota, where son Alexander was born in 2000, and New York, where daughter Victoria was born in 2002.

After another move to Washington state, Patricia, a stay-at-home mother, saw an advertisement for Zumba on the Latin channel. She ordered the Zumba DVDs and loved it. “I did Zumba in front of the TV!” she says. “It was so much fun to do and I loved the music!”

Soon Patricia was attending Zumba classes at the local YMCA, where she began to drop some of the weight from her two pregnancies. However, when she and her family moved to the Atlanta area in 2007, she had a hard time finding a gym that offered Zumba. “I couldn’t believe it — there was no Zumba here yet!” she recalls.

Patricia with her children Alexander and Victoria

World Gym in Peachtree City was the first in the area to add Zumba to their offering fitness classes. The classes were taught by Arlene Perez, who recognized Patricia’s talent and encouraged her to pursue certification. Patricia put it off, lacking confidence at the time, but then her world was knocked off-kilter when her grandmother died. Suddenly she found herself thinking more about what she wanted out of life. “I had been a homemaker for several years and I realized that I needed to do something for myself,” she explains.

She began by earning her GED after taking prep classes through Fayette County Parks and Recreation. She also studied at home and became a U.S. citizen. Bolstered by her achievements, Patricia finally worked up the nerve to attend classes for Zumba certification in Athens, but it took her nearly ten months to find the courage to actually teach a class. Her new friend from World Gym, Kareen Underwood, helped her along the way. “I remember telling her to look up,” says Kareen, “Project yourself — smile!”

Patricia’s first job teaching Zumba was at Ultimate Fitness in Peachtree City. As with most new Zumba instructors, Patricia’s classes started off small. “Once I taught a class to five people,” she remembers.

After two or three months of people peeking into the aerobics room to find out what all the noise was about, though, she had more than thirty people attending her classes. The gym was forced to start a sign-up sheet for Patricia’s classes because people were packing themselves into the aerobics room like sardines with no room to move. “I was up against the mirror!” Patricia says. “But I love teaching a big class. The energy is so amazing!”

Now Kareen and Patricia attend Zumba conferences together in Orlando every year. Both ladies have also participated in Zumba fundraisers. Kareen, who sees her work as a ministry, has organized and participated in fundraisers for organizations such as the National Breast Cancer Foundation and American Heart Association. She has also helped local organizations, including the Breast Cancer Survivors Network, based in Peachtree City, and Loving Me Phenomenally, a local organization that helps African-American teenage girls by working to prevent pregnancy, date rape and violence.

“The thing that makes Kareen and Patricia so special is that they are able to connect with their students,” says Art Sivertsen, Program Coordinator with Peachtree City Recreation and Special Events, who has worked with both ladies. “And both have what I like to call Zumba ‘swag’ — they are the best in the business.”

Today, Kareen, who earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, is in her seventh year of teaching. She’s come a long way from the teenage girl sleeping in a bus station. In 2011, she and Woody established Fitness Caliente, a physical training service, with the goal of helping others improve their quality of life and overall wellness through a personalized fitness program, weight loss, and proper nutrition.

Of course, Zumba is Kareen’s passion. “There are no barriers in Zumba. Everyone can do it and it makes people feel good,” says Kareen. She teaches Zumba six days a week, between Fayette County Parks and Recreation and World Gym in Peachtree City.

Patricia continues to focus on raising her two children, but balances it with a life of her own, thanks in part to Zumba. She currently teaches two nights a week at Glenloch Recreation Center and has recently picked up some classes at World Gym in Peachtree City. “You can transform your life if you really take the opportunities that you get,” she says. “I became a Zumba Instructor after being a homemaker for 12 years, and I met so many wonderful people and share this passion of mine — music, dancing and working out, all at the same time. It is in you to make those positive changes and have a better life.”

Kareen Underwood and Patricia Dablah remind us that we are not just victims of our circumstances. These two ambitious, hard-working, and tenacious Fayette women overcame adversity and defied the odds — and that is inspiration for us all.

 

 

An Unexpected iPad Moment

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iPad does WHAT?!!

As many people do, I frequently bring my iPad along to Starbucks when I stop in for a weekend coffee. Our local Starbucks has nice big tables where, many times, one may end up making new friends.

One such morning recently I had a wonderfully unexpected moment with my iPad.  The type of moment that even just a few years ago would not have been possible because I would have been hauling around my laptop, which no one ever asked about. As I went to find a seat, an older gentleman asked me about my iPad. He said he wanted to get one but was overwhelmed by it because he did not even have a computer.

 

I LOVE showing folks how to use technology, so I sat down and started showing him how I could get on the internet or check my e-mail with a single click.  He wanted to see more, so I showed him a few of my favorite apps.  This lead to me opening Google Earth…as he said “your iPad does WHAT?!!”

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I typed in our location, to give him an idea of how it looked from above.  Then I asked him the name of a favorite place he had lived.  When it zoomed in, his eyes lit up and he got a huge smile!  Landmarks he still recognized were clear as day.  Then his eyes got cloudy and he asked if I could look up a cemetery for him. Sadly, he had lost a small child early in his marriage.  Well, a few clicks later my iPad was displaying what he had waited so long to see- from a different perspective but the same place he remembered.  He told me it had been years since he had been able to visit, because it was all the way across the country. That moment, as he gazed  at the image of his daughter’s grave, I wondered how many others have been able to reconnect with a lost place so special to their heart.

We moved on after a few minutes, and I showed him how he could access movies, tv, and radio.  I also showed him how he could use video to make phone calls to his grandchildren.  As a widower, he feels as if he has too much spare time. The iPad was just the thing he now wanted to help fill the days, connect with loved ones, and have fun while he is out and about!  Of course, he could do these same things on a laptop or sometimes even a desktop computer, but the iPad seem so much more accessible to him.

Rebuild your own connections

I encourage everyone with a computer of any type to take their own trip down memory lane!  Get the scrapbooks out.  Look up those places in them you have forgotten about then find them on Google Earth!  Share your life journey with your family – if you have children they might love seeing where you grew up!  Think about the friends you had when you were there.  Then look them up on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.  Reconnect.

Help an elderly relative to also re-connect to their past!  Their friends may not be using social media, but they can more easily be found now by using the internet.  The joy you can bring someone by showing them their favorite places is immeasurable. Perhaps they want to see a house they had lived in, a favorite vacation spot, their college, or a place they had worked.  Everyone has places they hold dear to their heart.  Sharing those places can build connections.

Three Things to remember:

1.  Sometimes towns change (some grow, some die out), or there are new buildings where old ones once stood.  Be sure your loved one is ready. Not everyone wants to “take a trip down memory lane”.  Respect your loved ones wishes if they are not ready. Keep in mind that, just as towns change, so do people.

2. Take it slow the first time you look up your past or someone else’s. You may be surprised at how emotional it can be, and you will want to savor it.

3. Have Fun!!

If you have family or friends who do not know how to use  computer, this is a great way to get them started! Let them know that it can be used to bring people together. Who knows? They may even want to start making video calls!

If you take your own trip down memory lane, please post it in the comment section! And, as always, if you found this article helpful, please share!

Kim Julian

Busy Biz Girl

on Twitter@busybizgirl

Facebook.com/busybizgirl

www.busybizgirl.com

 

photo credits:

freedigitalphotos/images/markuso

freedigitalphotos/images/arztsamui

Heart of Gold…Deanna McCurdy

Photos by Marie Thomas

Photos by Marie Thomas

The Augusta 70.3 Half-Ironman triathlon race began at 7:30 a.m., but because of how it was set up with over 3500 participants, my swim wave didn’t begin until after 9 a.mAs I watched the athletes before me begin their race, calm came over me. No longer was I anxious about swimming in the Savannah River, worried about the heat of the hot September day or whether I could even finish the race. It was now time for me to do what I could do, to make them proud, to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles, for my sweet little girl.

 

It’s a lovely warm morning in late March, and Deanna McCurdy is sipping a latte at an outdoor table at a Peachtree City Starbucks. Wearing running gear (shirt, skirt and visor plus a pair of bright blue trainers) and relating her daughters’ latest escapades, she might easily be mistaken for a typical stay-at-home mom who’s relaxing after a morning run.

Except she isn’t. Mom, yes; runner, yes. Typical—no, not at all. Deanna has discovered a way to draw on her talent as a runner and her love as a mother to serve a greater purpose, inspiring and galvanizing others along the way.

A Peachtree City native, Deanna (who grew up as Deanna Walsh) began running track when she was in junior high school, at the encouragement of one of her teachers at J.C. Booth. “Back then, I really didn’t like running,” she admits. But despite her lack of passion for it, Deanna found she was actually pretty good. “Since it was something that I could do fairly well, I stuck with it on and off through high school, eventually running cross country for Coach Charles Buckle at McIntosh High School my senior year,” she says. She would parlay her talent into a college scholarship, running cross country at the University of Evansville, a small Division I school in southern Indiana.

The McCurdy family on a much needed spur of the moment trip to Disney World in 2009, just two months after receiving Hayden’s diagnosis.

Once she’d graduated from college and moved to Cincinnati, she considered giving up the sport, but for some reason she felt she couldn’t. “I wanted to be a ‘normal’ twenty-something, staying out late on Friday nights, sleeping in Saturday mornings, but something kept nagging at me,” Deanna explains. “Something kept telling me that God gave me a talent and I was supposed to use it. I didn’t fully understand this thought, but continued to run, trusting that a bigger picture would eventually be revealed to me.”

Deanna then moved back to the Atlanta area, settling down in Marietta. Within months of her relocation, she met her future husband, David McCurdy, who was also a Peachtree City “old-timer” (his family had come to Peachtree City in 1972). Like Deanna, David’s idea of fun was to get outdoors; their dates included mountain biking, hiking, camping, and of course, running. Deanna credits David with helping her begin to truly enjoy running, especially on trails. They were married in September of 2002.

In 2005, the McCurdys gave birth to their first daughter, Hailey. “She is so much like the two of us, full of energy, creative, and a lover of sports,” Deanna remarks. After her birth, Deanna and David backed off competing in races, but had fun running the trails up by Kennesaw Mountain. Even as she continued to wonder why she was drawn to running, Deanna signed up to coach a Girls On the Run group and would practice with the older girls while two-year old Hailey, the “team mascot,” ran around the fields as the girls trained. “I began to think that maybe this is what God had intended me to do with my running abilities,” Deanna says. About the same time as she allowed that thought to develop, the McCurdys found out that they were pregnant with their second child.

I made it through the swim, and happily passed people all along the bike course, reflecting on how much fun it was to be touring the Eastern Georgia and South Carolina countryside. As soon as I began the run, though, I discovered what so many of those tests God had been giving me were all about.

Hayden crossing the finishline at the 2011 Race for Riley, 2011. With Hayden is Amy Murray, Principal at Joseph Sams Schools and mom, Deanna. This was Hayden’s first “tot trot fun run”.

In March of 2008, Deanna gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, sweet little Hayden Grace. Unfortunately, Hayden stopped breathing at home when she was a week old. She was rushed to Scottish Rite Hospital, and Deanna and David spent the next 10 days with eyes fixed upon her, watching her every breath, waiting for answers. They were sent home with a cart full of monitors and medications, and with the diagnosis of severe reflux with aspirations to the lungs.

For the next six months, Deanna and David slept in shifts every two hours. Little Hayden rarely slept and was continuously plagued with sinus and ear infections as well as bouts of pneumonia. However, throughout all of this, she constantly smiled and rarely cried. “I would drag myself out the door for a run, seeking solace and prayer time on the trails, oftentimes crying out to God in anguish, wanting to know why he would make such a beautiful little child suffer so much,” Deanna recalls.

By the time Hayden was nine months old, Deanna and David began to notice that although she could sit up by herself, she made no attempts to crawl, talk or explore the world around her. “She would sit in the middle of a room for hours, perfectly content mouthing the toys around her, laughing and just being her happy little self,” Deanna explains. When Hayden was 16 months old, the McCurdys brought her to a pediatric neurologist and learned that her happiness could be a symptom of her problem. As further testing confirmed, Hayden was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome (AS), a rare, neuro-genetic disorder that involves a missing segment of the maternal 15th chromosome. Characteristics of Angelman’s include seizures, inability to speak, sleep and balance disorder, cognitive impairment, and as Deanna had noticed, an overly happy demeanor.

Temperatures soared to above 90 degrees and the sun came beating down. I shuffled along, having no idea what my pace was, feeling my skin alternating between goose bumps and tickling numbness. I hunted down water and ice at each water station, ready to be done, but never thinking of quitting.

The McCurdys moved back to Peachtree City in December of 2009. “We wanted to give our girls the type of childhood life that both my husband and I had,” explains Deanna. “Old and new friends welcomed us back with open arms. We quickly learned that even when Hayden was really sick, a golf cart ride could make all things better for a little while.”

The McCurdy family at the 2011 Race for Riley.

The couple joined both the Peachtree City Running Club and Tri-PTC, looking forward to getting involved and giving back to the community. “But Dave and I were far from triathletes and the thought of swimming in a lake sent shivers up my spine,” Deanna remembers. “I struggled through panic attack upon panic attack each time I attempted to swim in Lake Peachtree, remembering the water moccasins I would see swimming around while fishing there as a little girl. I think I would have quit that sport completely had it not been for the encouraging club members and that little voice in my head that kept telling me to continue.”

That year, Deanna continued to improve her running times and challenge herself a little more with each new competition. She completed her first triathlon in July 2011 in Blue Ridge, GA, finishing 2nd in her age group, 8th overall. The following month she came in first in her age group at the Peachtree City Sprint, then First Place Overall Female a few weeks later at the Callaway Gardens Triathlon. After the triathlon season ended, she ran the Peachtree City Classic 15K, a race that she remembered from growing up here, but that always had been too intimidating for her to run.

“I crossed the finish line 1st Overall Female and spotted my mom overcome with joy, which turned me to tears as I walked up to give her a hug,” Deanna remembers. “All the emotions of the past few years got caught up in my throat. I reflected on how life took me around the country, but now I returned to where it first began, across the street from Huddleston Elementary school, the Fredrick Brown Amphitheater, and the BMX track that my husband’s father helped build back in the early 80’s. I also realized in that moment that I loved running and needed it to be myself, not all consumed with life as a mom of a child with severe special needs.”

Deanna also found inspiration in local Christian artist John Waller, whose song “While I’m Waiting,” included the lyrics, “I will run the race even while I wait.” For many months, those words would ring in her head as she went out for a run. “With the past three years of sleepless nights, the worry and struggles or raising my little Angel, I felt the need and calling to take those lyrics to heart,” she says. “What’s unfolded since then has been an amazing journey of hope, faith, and self-discovery.”

The 2011 Race for Riley, Miles for Smiles teammates. Deanna McCurdy, Lene Ladefoged, Linda Bauer, Cheri King, Mary Manthey and Laura Bender.

Acting on her desire to make a difference, Deanna began a charity running team, Team Miles for Smiles, in January of 2011. Over the past fourteen months, they have grown to over 75 members, many local, but also as far away as New York, Texas, Colorado and even Australia, thanks to social networking and internet technology. They have raised over $70,000 for the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (F.A.S.T.), a non-profit-organization whose sole purpose is to fund research to ultimately cure Angelman Syndrome.

“Deanna makes life look simple to outsiders looking in, but her days are extremely hectic, with barely a moment to breathe, eat or sleep,” her husband David remarks. “Her job is full-time: raising the children and working with Miles for Smiles, getting Hayden to multiple therapies, volunteering at both schools, going to the kids’ events and games, not to mention doing training when she can for some of the goal races. And after all that, I still can’t outrace her! That’s inspiring.”

Nora Elwell, Deanna’s longtime friend and Miles for Smiles teammate, agrees. “As a friend, I’m inspired by her positive energy, humble nature, and kind heart. As an athlete, I’m inspired by her to set goals for myself to be a better runner and triathlete. It’s easy to make excuses as to why I can’t go exercise, but when I think of all that Deanna does in a day, and yet she still finds time for exercise, my excuses seem ridiculous.”

Finally, last September, Deanna set two goals: to raise $3000 for F.A.S.T. and to do it by competing in her most difficult race to date, the Half-Ironman Augusta 70.3 race. She would swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles for her sweet little Hayden—and for herself, too.

I spotted my husband sporting his Miles for Smiles shirt all along the downtown Augusta run course, taking photos. Once I even saw him holding Hayden’s hand while she was attempting to walk. I remember beginning to repeat Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

David, Deanna and Hailey (age 6) at Tri the Mountains Sprint Triathlon in Blue Ridge, Ga. David and Deanna competed in the triathlon. Hailey raced in the kids race.

This mantra willed my legs to carry me through the final miles of the race. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours, 52 minutes, learning only later that I placed 2nd in my age group and was the 5th Overall (non-professional) Female. I earned a spot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas next September. And over 40 people had donated to my fundraising, surpassing my original goal of raising $3000 by over $4000 more.

Deanna’s goal for Team Miles for Smiles is not only to continue raising money to fund research, but also to encourage people to set a goal that they once thought impossible and help them reach it. “I have been blessed to see parents of children with Angelman Syndrome cross the finish line full of smiles and tears themselves, friends and neighbors finish their first 5K, triathlon or marathon,” she says. “I think I am almost as excited as they are when they achieve their goal.”

Jaydene Reardon, a fellow runner and friend, has also noticed Deanna’s growth as a leader over the past year. “Since starting the ‘Miles for Smiles’ team in Atlanta, I’ve watched Deanna take on a mentor role and help others to reach their own personal goals,” she comments. “She stands behind each team member and motivates each of them along the way. With her own running and triathlon achievements, she’s able to inspire other busy mothers to realize that anything is possible.”

“I think part of her success in racing and fundraising comes from her just loving what she does and genuinely having fun with it,” David says. “Hayden’s condition gave her the ability to harness love and success for a greater good.”

“I don’t like planning too far ahead because life has a funny way of flipping you around, just when you think you have figured out where you are going to be and how you are going to get there.” Deanna says. I wonder what life will be like this September, what Hayden will be able to do, how many participants we will have on our Miles for Smiles team, how many goals will have been reached, and what discoveries lay ahead in the research world. I look forward to the future, and embrace every challenge along the way because I truly believe that God gave me this life, this little angel, and while I try to teach her a little about our world, she is teaching me how to fly.

Want to support or join Deanna’s team? For more information about Miles for Smiles, visit www.miles-for-smiles.org.

More About Angelman Syndrome:

Hailey and Hayden hiking at Kennesaw Mountain. Hayden didn’t really “hike”, she was in the backpack carrier, but now that she is so big, she refuses to stay in it for long.

Angelman syndrome (AS) is a neuro-genetic disorder characterized by intellectual and developmental delay, sleep disturbance, seizures, jerky movements (especially hand-flapping), frequent laughter or smiling, and usually a happy demeanor. While Angelman Syndrome is complex in its symptoms, it really is a very simple disorder, involving only one gene that affects neurotransmitter function in the brain. Dr. Edwin Weeber cured AS in the mouse model three years ago, which gives families raising children with AS great hope. He is about to begin human clinical trials of an FDA-approved drug that has reversed many of the Angelman characteristics in its initial trials on mice. Because it is a rare disorder, all research is privately funded as the government and pharmaceutical companies do not have much interest in it. The implications, however, of curing AS are far greater and could ultimately help develop therapeutics for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Autism as well.

3 reasons to Business Blog

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3 Reasons to Business Blog

This is part four and the final part of my series on Social media for business.  In the first three parts of this series, I outlined how to set up your Facebook business page, as well as your LinkedIn Profile, and your Twitter account.  Hopefully you are now posting in Facebook and Twitter regularly, and you have updated your LinkedIn profile.  Now, I will move on to blogging, and why it should be  included in your marketing plan.

Saving time…

Working with small businesses I often hear the same things expressed about blogging…”I don’t have time for that”, or “we have a Facebook Page so we don’t really need to blog” or “I have no idea what that is for”.

Here is how I would respond to these concerns:

“I don’t have time for that”- Although you will need to be posting regularly, blogging can actually help you SAVE time! By providing FAQ’s in your blog, you can then direct customers there for answers to their questions when you are not available. It is also a great reference tool for customers, which again saves you time.  How often should you blog? At least once a month.

“We have a Facebook Page so we don’t really need to blog” – Blogging addresses customer issues that other social media platforms cannot.  It should be used alongside your other social media. You can post informative articles in your blog to help educate your customers about your products and things that affect them.

“I have no idea what that is for”- Blogging is for any business that wants to connect more effectively with their customers, and help their customers get the information that they need to make informed decisions.  Blogging also helps with your SEO.

Since many businesses are using various social media outlets, let’s quickly review how each could be used for your business:

Facebook: use to make announcements, post pictures, and engage in day to day conversation with your clients.  There should be 2 way communication here, so you can also use Facebook to get customer feedback.

Twitter: tweet and retweet about things that affect your customers!

LinkedIn: At the very least, you should have an updated profile so when customers or business colleagues find you, it is accurate.  You can also use LinkedIn to network, whether it is with clients, colleagues, or vendors.

Google+, Pinterest, and other social media sites: You may be on one or more other sites as well.  Each has a purpose and something to focus on while you use it. Just remember that you should be selective about which sites you use, and once you are on them, do not neglect them!

Now, on to blogging…

Everyone has opinions about what to use blogging for, how often to blog, what to blog about, and why.   However, I like to focus on blogging to give better customer service, because a positive customer experience is so critical to building loyalty.  Even if you are blogging for other reasons, customer service is always a consideration. So here are the top three reasons that I recommend blogging to most of my business clients:

1. Enhance your customer’s experience. Businesses that thrive do so in part because they add VALUE to the customer experience. The way you can do this in a blog is to determine what “after care” your customers need after buying your product. Provide material in your log that can be used by customers as a reference tool. You could have blog posts about when, how, or why to do something (or not do something). You can also provide complimentary posts that don’t directly relate to your product.  For example, if you are a holistic doctor you might write a post about a community garden opening up in town.

2. Answer common questions. Here is where you will SAVE TIME!! As a business owner, you know what questions each customer is going to most likely ask.  Why not address those questions and answer them in your blog? This way, because your blog will be linked to your website, they can be an educated consumer and come to you with a better understanding of what they may need. Also, if they are on your site after hours or on a holiday, they can read your blog and start to get to know you before they even call. You save time because you can point them to your blog to reinforce information when they need it. The more relevant blog posts you have, the more this will save you time!

3. Build trust. Showing that you have a working knowledge base builds credibility, which builds trust. Customers buy from people they trust, because they know you are looking out for their best interests.  Your website probably has on it a lot of information about what you do and your products, but it probably doesn’t change much.  You can post to your blog frequently, and add to it posts about whatever the current issues are for customers.  For example, if you have  a landscaping business, in January you might blog about when to plant Spring bulbs. You could then tweet about the blog and put a post on Facebook about it. People will start to follow your blog when they see that it has useful information, and that in turn should lead to sales.

Perhaps the most important thing about blogging, though, is to have fun! If you enjoy what you are writing about, this will come through in your posts and they will be fun to read. Write about what you know, and others will appreciate that you are sharing your knowledge!  To start a blog, I recommend Tumblr or WordPress, and both are free and easy to use!

Happy blogging.  If you found this article helpful, please share!

Kim Julian

Busy Biz Girl

303/483-3558

www.busybizgirl.com

www.ptcbizport.com (an exciting new Busy Biz Girl project!)

on Twitter@busybizgirl

on Facebook@busybizgirl

 

Peggy Thomas, She’s Positively Successful

Joe, Peggy and their dog , Cooper, enjoying life.

Photos by Marie Thomas

We’ve all heard the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In other words, sometimes life presents us with obstacles, and we have to turn them into opportunities.

But when given lemons, entrepreneur Peggy Thomas doesn’t settle for lemonade; instead, she’ll recruit your apples and my oranges, and make fruit salad.

Peggy is fabulous at 50. She exudes positive energy and warmth. She’s happily married and enjoys her two well-adjusted teenagers—one of whom, her son Kevin, has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism. And in the true spirit of lemons and lemonade fruit salad, she’s taken her experience in advocating for her son and built a successful education-based business.

This year, Peggy will lead the Fayette Chamber of Commerce as Chairman of the Board.

Born to be in Business

Peggy Odum Thomas was raised by her parents with her three sisters in Greensboro, N.C. Peggy’s dad owned an electrical and plumbing supply business. He and her mother worked hard, but both struggled with alcoholism. Peggy’s mom also battled breast cancer. Probably due to high medical bills, Peggy wasn’t encouraged to go to college. After high school, Peggy worked in the retail industry for a year. That Thanksgiving, her mom had a request. “She made us all divide up her stuff, all the furniture and pictures and china.” It was cancer, again, and this time it was untreatable.

Because of the strain on the family, Peggy’s father asked her to move back home and work for his business. At age 20, Peggy traveled four states and gained valuable sales experience.

After her mother’s death, Peggy wanted to move to Richmond with her sister and applied for a job selling copiers there. The owner said to Peggy, “We like salespeople who are hungry. Are you hungry?” She answered, “Yeah, this is my third interview here, and I drove four hours.”

“He didn’t laugh,” Peggy remembers, “but I sold a lot of copiers for him.”

In the meantime, Peggy was considering going to college, but it didn’t seem to make sense since she was already making a good living.

“It was 1982, and I was making $35,000 a year,” she says. “And I put $35,000 on one hand and ramen noodles on the other. I weighed it back and forth and didn’t look back.”

Personal Business Takes Flight

Joe, Peggy and their dog , Cooper, enjoying life.

About that time, Peggy met Joe Thomas, a tall, handsome Air Force pilot. “I liked Peggy because she was optimistic,” Joe says. “She liked her job.” He was 29, she was 27.

“He and I talked into the wee hours of the night,” recalls Peggy. Joe shipped off to England, but stayed in touch. “He wrote me these hilarious letters. One postcard said, ‘I went down to the pool and all these girls were topless, so I took off my top, too.’”

When Joe returned from England, he immediately came to see Peggy, and the relationship strengthened. Peggy became fast friends with Joe’s mom while dating him long distance for two years. “She told him, ‘You’d better marry that girl,’” Peggy laughs. “And he listened to his mom.”

“We had a traditional military wedding and a priest who liked to gamble in Vegas,” says Joe. “He started the ceremony, ‘Life is like a cheeseburger. . .’” They picked him because Peggy sold him a copier.

Corporate Business Copied

Joe and Peggy moved to California, and Peggy began a corporate sales job with Sharp Electronics. “I’d been working for a local distributor, so the corporate staff knew me,” she explains. “When I interviewed with them, I said, ‘I don’t have a college degree.’ And they said ‘That’s okay, we’ll give you a waiver.’” She covered California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii for Sharp.

Her rise in the company was fast. Terri Ameen, a friend and business associate of Peggy’s since her single days, remembers, “Even as a young person, she was on top of the game. She was a local salesperson who went national. She rises to the top with her leadership skills, common sense, and her people skills.”

Peggy and Joe in the Canary Islands on a family vacation in June 2011

On one occasion, Peggy had to compete with eight of the best salespeople at Sharp on demonstrating a complex new copier. It was a high pressure situation—and she started off with a mistake. “I had pressed copy without putting an original in,” she remembers, “so I said, ‘Look, it’s a copy of a polar bear in the snow.’ And they all laughed.” Peggy won a free vacation.

“I was shocked. The others had so much more experience than me,” Peggy says. It was her approachability and her sense of humor that they appreciated.

For Peggy and Joe, marriage was good, too. Joe explains, “I was home two months, gone two months flying U2s. She was flexible with that.” Also, Joe wasn’t threatened by Peggy’s success. “She made twice as much as I did,” Joe says, “and I always said that’s fantastic. You can make ten times. Why wouldn’t you want your wife to be successful?”

The End of Business as Usual

Unfortunately, Peggy’s corporate career ended in a crash—literally. On a mountain biking trip with a friend in Lake Tahoe, she hit a rock and lost consciousness. Her serious head injury—leaving her seeing double for the next six months—meant that she could not work awhile.

Peggy and Joe decided it was time for a family. From the beginning, that’s what Peggy had wanted out of life. “I had a goal that I’d be a stay at home mom and raise my kids,” says Peggy.

Their first child, Kevin, was born at 34 weeks, weighing three and a half pounds. Kevin had mild cerebral palsy and other physical problems that required multiple surgeries in his infancy.

As he grew older, it became clear that Kevin had sensory issues. Peggy would try to talk him through it, narrating their day together. “I would carry him in a backpack at the grocery store, and say, ‘We’re going into the grocery store and I know you don’t like the lights. You can hide your head if you need to. We’ll only be in here 20 minutes.’”

“I found out that was really important,” Peggy continues. “Kids with Asperger’s want to know their schedule. Because we were watching the cerebral palsy and sensory issues, we did the right stuff for his Asperger’s.”

More Baby Business

Daughter Carol, Peggy and son Kevin and at a chorus concert at Starrs Mill High School.

Two years later, at her father’s funeral, Peggy’s aunt told her, “When God takes a life, he gives a life. And it’s you, you’re pregnant.” Whether vision or superstition, Joe and Peggy’s daughter Carol was born nine months later at a healthy nine and a half pounds.

By then Peggy and Joe were living in Florida. Joe had retired from the Air Force and found a job with Delta. Peggy was a full-time mom, but she was finding it difficult to make sure Kevin was getting a good education.

Joe explains, “When Kevin was going into kindergarten, his Pre-K teacher recommended a classroom with kids who couldn’t talk or move. Peggy said, ‘No, we’re not putting him in there,’ against the experts, both the teacher and the county psychologist. She followed her own beliefs.”

They pulled Kevin out of Florida’s public school, putting him in Catholic kindergarten. It was the right decision. By the end of that school year, Kevin was reading at a second-grade level.

However, as Peggy remarks, “We didn’t want to live in a place where they felt that secluding kids with special needs was a good way to educate them.” Peggy and Joe believed in public school, so they searched for a place with more inclusive and progressive special education programs. They found Fayette County and subsequently relocated to Peachtree City.

Now How About a Business

Joe, Peggy, and Mark Lucas, CEO of Club Z! Inc, receiving a franchise customer service award in August 2010

Soon, with both Kevin and Carol settled in school, Peggy and Joe decided to begin something new and start a business. None of the franchises they researched had the flexibility they wanted, until they found Club Z! In-Home Tutoring.

Peggy and Joe bought their Club Z! franchise Nov. 3, 2004, planning on having a part-time business. Club Z! central told them they should be able to enroll one or two kids each week. But to their surprise, after opening in January 2005, they had enrolled 28 kids in the first month.

“Suddenly I was working full time,” Peggy says.

Her Club Z! franchise manual instructed not to invest in the local Chamber of Commerce. “But our Chamber has a very strong Partner in Education program. That’s just a smart business move, to get involved in the schools when you have a tutoring business,” says Peggy.

As part of their Partner in Education participation, Peggy and Joe worked closely with McIntosh High School to develop a program they could use to screen students and raise their SAT scores. Peggy and Joe turned it into a fundraiser for the guidance department. They extended the SAT program to all Fayette County high schools.

“We have raised and given $17,572 to Fayette County high schools. That’s over 875 kids. Now we’re writing that program for the whole country for Club Z!,” said Peggy. Because of this program, Club Z! won Partner in Education of the Year from the Fayette Chamber of Commerce in 2009.

Business the Positive Peggy Way

Peggy and the Tutor Hall of Fame board. Club Z! has between 75-100 tutors at any one time, and since tutors work in their students’ homes, Peggy and Joe don’t see them in person very often. The board with the tutors’ photos is kept in their office so that they can look at them when they talk to them on the phone.

Peggy’s work in the education arena didn’t go unnoticed by the business community. The Fayette Chamber awarded Club Z! with Small Business of the Year, in 2007, their third year in business.

Peggy’s natural abilities to inspire, motivate and lead others were also noticed. Soon, Peggy was on the Fayette Chamber Board, and quickly on their leadership ladder. This year she’s the Chairman.

Along with her strong leadership style, Peggy makes strong personal connections. She’s made a great friend in Fayette Chamber President Virginia Gibbs. “Peggy is such a sharp, intelligent person. She looks to how she can best support the Chamber as a servant leader,” says Virginia, continuing, “We met through the chamber, but we’ve got an amazing friendship. How do you not like Peggy?”

Together, Peggy and Virginia tackled Operation Boot Camp after winning a silent auction bid together. “There we were at 5:30 a.m. in the mud. We had to do an alliteration of our names to introduce ourselves. Positive Peggy was hers. It was so appropriate. Whatever challenge she faces, she keeps that perspective,” says (Victorious) Virginia.

This year Peggy’s theme for leadership is Positively Fayette. Her focus is on maximizing the business community through the strength of the Fayette Chamber. She sees good beginnings ahead.

About the Business of Faith

Club Z! office staff Jeffre Ray and Michelle Brown, Peggy and Joe celebrate the five-year anniversary of their business

“Peggy is a woman of substance. She has a deep spiritual side. She always finds the best in people. She has my respect,” says Virginia Gibbs.

Faith has been important to Peggy since she was a child. In spite of their struggles, Peggy’s parents faithfully took her and her sisters to church each week. When her mother was sick, her faith was a refuge for Peggy, and she wanted the same foundation for her children.

Peggy and Joe had raised the kids in the Catholic faith, but with Joe’s work travel and her kids’ boredom with church ritual, they got out of the habit of going. Then, the Thomas family found Heritage Christian Church, close to their Fayetteville home. “It had what I was missing: relationships and a purposeful warmth,” says Peggy.

Last year, Peggy experienced a spiritual renewal. “I sat in the pew and cried every week. I felt a resurgence in my faith. I was baptized on Easter.”

For Peggy, God was more and more evident in her everyday life. Her daughter asked her to lead her group at church.

Peggy didn’t see it at first. “My schedule was so packed. And I didn’t feel qualified.” But she took on the group of 13-year-old girls, and is grateful that she did, because of how she’s been able to impact their lives and connect with her daughter. “I needed to be there. I understand my daughter so much better now that I am spending this time with these girls,” says Peggy.

Her First Business, Her Kids

While Club Z! is a student-focused business, Peggy makes it her business to take care of her children first. Carol, who is now a freshman in high school, thinks that her mom is doing great. “She’s really caring,” Carol remarks. “I look up to her because of what she does in the community. She has a big heart.”

Peggy knows that perfection isn’t the key to parenting; it’s something that runs much deeper. “If you love your kids—and my parents loved us—they’ll turn out okay.”

Carol, Peggy and Kevin in the Canary Islands in June 2011

Peggy encourages Carol’s athletics and her desire to cook. Carol continues, “I’ve never felt second fiddle. I think they raised us in a way to accept other people. Kevin sometimes needs more than me. Sometimes I have to do more than Kevin. My mom has done a good job of raising us to love one another.”

Having an exceptional kid like Kevin, who is now a junior in high school, has changed the direction of Peggy’s life. And having Peggy as a mom means that Kevin has achievements you might not normally see for a kid with Asperger’s. Kevin, in spite of his challenges, has published movie reviews and editorials for the last five years. He credits his mom: “She’s the reason why I’m writing stuff. The Citizen asked for kid reviewers, and she got me to do it.”

It’s a common misconception that Peggy actually does the tutoring in her business. From her basement office, she coordinates an army of 80-100 tutors, all with at least a four-year degree in different subject matter expertise.

Over the course of her work with Kevin and with Club Z!, Peggy has heard disheartening reports about bright kids with Asperger’s winding up as couch potatoes. So, consistent with her let’s-make-a-difference ethos, she’s bringing experts to Fayette for a conference on helping students with Asperger’s attend college. (see article below).

Education IS her Business

Peggy’s experience with Kevin and with countless clients since has given her a unique education. So she applies these great skills for Club Z!’s clients.

“When a student is newly diagnosed with a learning disability, it can feel like a maze. The teachers are on one side of the table, the parents on the other,” says Peggy, “but I become the bridge. I understand the systemenough to navigate it. I go to the parent-teacher meetings, and we don’t charge for that. I report to the tutor. We are able to pinpoint the challenges more quickly and do very specific tutoring to make that child become an independent learner.”

Joe, Peggy and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Joe, as Vice Wing Commander of Dobbins ARB, was asked to host Gov. Perdue for a Braves Game. Peggy and the former governor discussed the number of waivers for support given to people with disabilities in the state.

Peggy likes to say that her goal is for Club Z!’s tutors to work their way out of a job. It’s gratifying to see students win—with higher SAT scores, better chemistry grades, learning to read or conquering math fears.

How to Succeed in Business

Peggy is a natural business success. Part of that is because her marriage works so well as a business partnership. When Joe’s not flying he handles the operations of Club Z!, from finding tutors to finding process efficiencies. Peggy’s arena is in managing people and developing the business. Together, they are unstoppable.

Still, finding balance between business and personal time from day to day can be challenging. “When I was a stay-at-home mom, I always took time for myself. Now that’s a problem for me,” she admits. While Peggy likes to read and to garden, she jokes that her front lawn is a “disaster of patchy soil.”

But Peggy’s busy looking to the future, rather than lamenting her lawn. She feels good about where her life, business and the Fayette Chamber are headed.

“If we focus on the true needs of the businesses and are transparent and open in our dealings, then the entire community will benefit,” Peggy reflects. “God has blessed me with these opportunities to show that you can do the right thing and still succeed in business.”

And she’s positively right.

 

College and Career Path for Kids with Asperger’s


Peggy Thomas has had college on her mind a lot lately, and not just because she facilitates SAT prep high school students; her son Kevin, who has Asperger’s, is a high school junior.

In true Peggy-fashion, she has researched and found all kind of resources for kids with Asperger’s. And she’s not keeping them to herself.

Peggy has put together College Bound Conference for Students with Asperger’s and other Assorted Learning Differences.

Asperger’s is a form of autism, characterized by a higher functioning individual who often excels at one or more subjects. Peggy believes that students with Asperger’s have incredible untapped potential and wants to see that they are given every opportunity.

The College Bound Conference is Saturday, March 3, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., including a continental breakfast and lunch. Held at Grace Evangelical Church, 164 Flat Creek Trail in Fayetteville, the conference features best-selling author John Elder Robison, who wrote Look Me in the Eye. Several other experts will be presenting from both education and experience standpoints.

College Bound Conference is made possible by the MetLife Center for Special Needs Planning through Hallman Walters Wealth Management. Tickets are $95 for adults and $59 for students. Register at http://tinyurl.com/CollegeBoundAspies. Those with questions can contact Raissa Chandler at 770-713-6731 or Fayette@p2pga.org. For more details, visit www.SouthsideSupport.org/projects/college-bound-conference/.

“We’ve brought together people who truly understand creating a path to success for students with Asperger’s. We need to give our kids with challenges every opportunity, and this is a good start,” says Peggy.

 

 

5 Minutes With Fayette Woman Peggy Thomas

Hear Peggy’s thoughts on parenting, education, business and more in a supplemental video interview.  Follow this link to the video, or visit our YouTube channel at: http://youtube.com/fayettewoman.

 

Social Media for your Business-Part 2

Busy Biz Girl



Social Media for Your Business- Part 2

Facebook and LinkedIn- Purpose, how to add

Welcome!  This is Part 2 of my 4 part series about how to use Social Media for your business. This series focuses on these  areas:

One: Make a List, Set Goals, website-preparation
Two: FaceBook, LinkedIn-purpose, how to add
Three: Twitter – purpose, how to add
Four: Blog- why? How?

Review: In Part 1 of this 4 part series,we took a look at what Social Media tools would be helpful to your business, and what information you need to get started. If you follow the recommendations outlined in this series, you will add to or update your social media a little each week, so by the end of four weeks you will have the groundwork done.  Then we can work on fine tuning, using tools to keep things simple but effective.Hopefully you got your notebook going and started thinking about how you want to use Social Media.  Keep your notebook handy to add information to as we get your Facebook and Linkedin set up.

So, you have decided to start using Social Media for your business but are not sure where to start.  You want to be where your customers are, so you can connect with them. Facebook is used by 1 out of every 9 people on the planet, so let’s  get your business on there so you can start accumulating fans!  The purpose of Facebook for your business will be to stay in contact with customers in between (or instead of) Newsletters.  It is to keep your customers informed about what is going on in your business.  Special events, sales, giveaways, coupons- these are the types of things you could be posting to your Facebook page.

Facebook as a Customer Service Tool

As a business you will want to post once or twice a week. When you post, you should ask yourself  “what information could my customers use?”.   Ultimately, the types of things you post on here, and how you engage with your customers will have a positive impact on your customer service!  If customers feel welcome to post questions, and you are quick to respond, they will know you care.  You can also ask your fans questions about what they like or think should be changed.  Their answers may surprise you.

Facebook Fan Page Setup

You will not set your business page up the same way you setup your personal account.  It will be set up as a fan page, so that when you post to the wall, it will go to each fan’s news feed.  You can also have tabs on your page for events, photos, polls, etc.  This will make it easy for your customers to find what they need, when they need it. To set up a basic fan page, follow these easy steps:

1. Login to your personal Facebook Page (if you do not have one, simply go to Facebook.com and set up a new account. E-mail me if you need detailed instructions).

2. At the bottom of your personal Facebook page, click on “add a page”

3. Select the type of page you wish to add, then fill in as many fields as possible. PICK A GOOD NAME!!! One as close to your business name as possible so your customers can find you!

4. Pay special attention to “posting ability” in the “Manage Permissions” section. You will decide there whether to let others post to your page.  If you wish to get customer comments, this is where you select that others may post.

5. To make changes to your page settings and content, click on the “Edit Page” button on the top right. Be sure to use a Profile picture that makes it obvious this is your business (ie: Company Logo).

6. To use the Internet as your business (so when you “like” other pages, it shows up on your business page), click on the arrow on the top right of the page, and the pop down menu will give you the option to select your business page.

7. Make a page in your notebook with how you have set up your FB fan page (name, etc.).

8. Once you reach 25 fans, you can claim a User Name for your page!  This is important, because it is the address your page has on Facebook, and it makes it easy to spread the word about where you are.  For example, my user name is “Busybizgirl” so my address is “www.facebook.com/busybizgirl“. To claim a User Name, go under “Account Settings” at the top right of your fan page. Select “User Name”, and type in the name you wish to use. It can be your whole business name, or just an abbreviated version- it is NOT going to change the name that is displayed when you are on the page. Warning: YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR USER NAME ONCE YOU HAVE CHOSEN ONE, so choose wisely!

You may be wondering how to find fans.  Spread the word that you have a Facebook page! Here are a few suggestions: Put a link on your Website home page. Send an e-mail announcement. Add a line to your e-mail signature with a link to your Facebook page.  Put your Facebook name on your business cards. If you have a store front, put a sign or two up- one in the window and one at the register.

Linkedin is where you will put your personal profile, not your business profile. It is a place to connect with other individuals in a professional space. Some people on Linkedin just post their Profile so it serves as a directory. Others use Linkedin as a great networking tool!  To join:

1. Go to http://www.Linkedin.com

2. Click on “Join Today”

3. Fill in your name and choose a password

4. Once you are in, you can start adding to your Profile. Make it as complete as you like, but I recommend at the very least putting your current work information.  Your profile on Linkedin can even read like a resume if you like.

5.  Once you have your profile information complete, you can start looking for connections!

6. Connect with colleagues!

You do not need to post on Linkedin regularly.  Just make sure your Profile is kept up to date, and if you have employees consider having them post a profile if appropriate.

Next week in Part 3 of this series, I will discuss Twitter, the exciting things you can use it for in your business, and changes coming up that will make it possible to personalize it so it reinforces your brand.

Have fun setting up your pages! Should you have any questions, I always welcome your e-mail.

Kim Julian

President/Owner

Busy Biz Girl

reach me by e-mail with questions: Kim@busybizgirl.com

follow me on Twitter@busybizgirl for small business tips!

Like me on Facebook @busybizgirl for small business idea sharing, as well as some fun giveaways!

www.busybizgirl.com

 

Portrait of a Dangerous Woman – Mary Frances Bowley

Photos by Marie Thomas

Photos by Marie Thomas

Mary Frances Bowley peers through the partly drawn blinds of a room that overlooks a wide, open field. Outside, two young women, who are adults by law but look like teenagers, meet each other’s gaze and break out into childish, hysterical giggles. They embrace each other tightly and head to a swing set a few yards away. Each takes a seat, one beside the other, and back and forth they rock, sharing secrets, the depths of which only they know.

Mary Frances watches this exchange, her fingers prying open the blinds wide enough to glimpse the scene, one she’s witnessed dozens of times before. Even so, she smiles and her eyes well with water, overjoyed at what appears to be a breakthrough. “Will you look at that?” she asks, her voice catching.

What looks to an outsider like a simple interaction between friends is to Mary Frances a miracle: a young woman, snatched from the depths of torture—abused, sexually trafficked, drug addicted, and hunted by her abusers—taking a risk to open up, share her traumas, and eventually, to learn to laugh again. “When she first came to us, she would sit on the floor in a ball and rock back and forth,” Mary Frances recalls. “Look at her now.”

A Force to be Reckoned With

Mary Frances Bowley talks fast and moves even faster. Maybe that’s what happens when your life has been as full of twists and turns as hers has: you learn to keep up and, if you’re able, get a step ahead. As director of Wellspring Living, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse confront and overcome their traumas through advocacy, education, and treatment, Bowley is always on the go. A typical day might include anything from working with federal law enforcement officials to rescue young women and prosecute adult perpetrators, to speaking at an event to raise awareness about the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), to lobbying legislators for tougher penalties against child predators. In fact, she was a vocal supporter of HB 200, Georgia’s anti-sex trafficking law, which was signed earlier this year.

Mary Frances and one of the Wellspring girls share a quiet moment.

Mary Frances Bowley is, to quote the title of her 2007 book about Wellspring Living, a “dangerous woman”—one whose passion for justice and determination to help restore CSEC victims and their families to spiritual, physical, and emotional wholeness, makes her a virtual force to be reckoned with.

Consider the facts: since its inception in 2001, more than 100 young girls and women have enrolled in Wellspring Living’s programs, and a whopping eighty-four percent of the participants have graduated; compare that to a nine percent graduation rate for comparable government programs. The group has engaged more than 125 churches on the issue of CSEC.

Wellspring Living has also garnered national attention: Mary Frances and her team have worked with more than 20 organizations here and abroad to establish their own rehabilitation programs for sex trafficking victims. In 2008, then-Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue appointed her to the State Commission on Family Violence. And last year, a team from the United Nations visited Mary Frances to observe best practices for the treatment of sexual abuse and human trafficking.

But what’s nearly as remarkable as Wellspring’s success is the story of how the organization came to be.

“I’m Supposed to Do What?”

Mary Frances Bowley was born and raised in Geneva, Alabama, the only girl in a house of boys. “I never did girl things,” she quips. A “good, church girl,” Mary Frances had modest aspirations, namely to be a wife, mother and teacher who would work hard and one day retire.

She married her high school sweetheart, raised two sons, and became a kindergarten teacher. But no way could she have known then that a quiet retirement wasn’t part of the plan.

Mary Frances looks on as Wellspring girls share their creative writing.

A devout Christian and teacher at heart, Bowley had been director of women’s ministries at First Baptist Church of Peachtree City for ten years, when she felt the desire to do more. She shared that desire with about forty women in the congregation, and before long, the group began organizing conferences to bring together women from various churches and different denominations in Peachtree City for fellowship and spiritual outreach to the community. The conferences were held over a period of three years, each time with record attendance and participation.

She shared her concerns with about forty women in the congregation, and before long, the group began organizing interdenominational conferences for women from various churches in Peachtree City. The conferences were held over a period of three years, each time with record attendance and participation.

Then, in 1999, Mary Frances got a call that would change her life. Ann Graham Lotz, daughter of Reverend Billy Graham, wanted to hold a women’s conference at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, and she wanted Mary Frances to organize it. That was a tall order for a kindergarten teacher from Alabama with modest dreams. Yet Mary Frances stepped up to the challenge. The event was a success, attracting more than 20,000 women. It was the largest cross-cultural, inter-denominational, international gathering of women Atlanta had ever seen. But still, Mary Frances felt she needed to do more. “I thought, ‘This is great. But is that all?’”

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and Mary Frances. Mrs. Deal came to visit the girls’ program and tour the home.

Helen Heard, a friend and member emeritus of the Wellspring board of directors, remembers the event well. “There were hundreds of volunteers. The women who had been part of the prayer team felt they worked so well together,” she said. “The idea came to try to pull people together cross culturally to meet the needs of women in Fayette County and Metro Atlanta.” And there, among that core group of 40 women, Wellspring Living was created. The group took its name from the Biblical story about the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.

The women reached out to other ministries and missions inside the city of Atlanta.

Before long, they began working with women whose lives were in shambles. Some were drug addicted, some had eating disorders. Still others wrestled with self-mutilation. Nearly all had been ostracized by their families. Soon, Mary Frances and the other volunteers discovered that although their symptoms were different, most of the women had one thing in common: they had been sexually abused as children. It was something Mary Frances would later learn happens with startling frequency. “One in four girls has been sexually abused by age 18,” Mary Frances says. “She either goes toward perfection or destruction. Addiction, cutting, and eating disorders are symptoms of the problem, or ‘presenting issues.’ We needed a program to treat the core issue, not the presenting issue.”

But before they could do that, Mary Frances and her team decided the women needed to have a place to come and start their lives over. “We were in business without being in business,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I’ve got no social work, no psychology background. I have nothing in common with these women, and I’m supposed to be leading this?’”

Wellspring’s operations director, Jennifer McEwen, playing Scrabble with two of the girls.

So she went back to her church and asked for help in finding temporary homes for the women. Teri Crabtree, a friend and Wellspring advocate, remembers the day Mary Frances spoke in Sunday school about the need to find homes for the young women. “She said, ‘The Bible talks about going to Jerusalem or the ends of the earth to help those in need, but there are people here who won’t open their homes.’ That’s when I realized: my Jerusalem is here. Shame on me if I don’t open my doors,” Teri said.

In 2003, Teri opened her home to a young woman who had finished the program. Prior to going to Wellspring, the girl had been addicted to drugs. But Teri remembers her as a “wonderful, neat girl who was growing in her faith.” In fact, the two women still keep in touch, although the woman has moved to another state, gotten married, and taken a management position for a national retail chain. “You see bad things that happen on the news or people who need help and you say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible. Someone will do something about it! A lot of people will say what needs to be done, but Mary Frances does it. For those of us who get to come along and participate in a small way, it’s great,” Teri says.

While this foster family arrangement would work in the interim, Mary Frances and her team knew they’d need a viable long-term solution. But with limited funds and the bureaucracy that accompanied getting approval for such a facility, there didn’t seem to be much hope. “I couldn’t see how in the world I would build a building and get a children’s home license. It was a two to three year process,” Mary Frances says. That issue resolved itself when the pastor of a local church called Mary Frances to say they always had an empty children’s cottage available. Suddenly, she could see how her teaching background came into play. Mary Francis began to envision a homeschool environment with volunteers and a holistic treatment approach that would help to restore the girls’ physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

“We Focus on Strengths”

As Mary Frances guides me through one of the two refurbished children’s cottages on this 500 acre estate, I marvel at the love, devotion, and attention that has gone into making this place a real home for the girls. Everything in the house—from the curved furniture and pastel bedding to the dark, wooden floors, to the elegant, yet durable beadboard walls—was done by volunteers. “We want the girls to walk in and know two things: one, you’re of value and two, you’re going to be safe here. Look at this beadboard. Isn’t it beautiful?” Mary Frances asks, running her finger down the length of the wall. “It’s elegant, but tough. The girls can’t punch through the walls,” she notes.

Mary Francis and her husband Dick.

Even after the girls are rescued from their perpetrators, they carry considerable rage and distrust, a natural offshoot to what is, in many cases, lifelong exploitation. It is not uncommon, Mary Frances says, for girls to try to hurt themselves or attempt to run away. To support the girls through those difficult times, Wellspring Living has a 24/7 residential staff at the cottages to provide support and supervision.

The staff also includes licensed counselors who provide weekly counseling and group therapy classes three times per week. Tracy Bussey, Wellspring’s Clinical Director, came to work for the organization in 2009 after working for a county mental health agency for several years. Here, she oversees different groups, such as art and equine therapy, which are designed to help nurture the girls back to health. She also hosts monthly alumni gatherings so that girls maintain a connection with Wellspring staff and volunteers no matter how long they’ve been out of the program. “We focus on strengths, not deficits,” Tracy says.

And it’s those strengths which will be developed, nurtured, and ultimately, restored under the watchful, loving eyes of Mary Frances and her staff, that will make these young women, once victims, themselves forces to be reckoned with. Paul Bowley, Mary Frances’s son and director of Donor Relations for Wellspring, says that strength is evident from the day the girls arrive at Wellspring. “These are the bravest women I know. They’re essentially saying, ‘I haven’t done my life well enough and I’m going to place my life in someone else’s hands.’

“They have so much more faith than anyone gives them credit for,” he continues. “When a woman is violated, it doesn’t just affect her; it affects everyone around her. When you help her to heal, she changes the entire community.”

The Bowley Family, Back Row: Mandy, Lindsay, Dick; Front Row: Paul holding Cal, Matt holding Rett, and Mary Frances.

His father, Dick Bowley, agrees. He is his wife’s biggest advocate and marvels at how what at first looked impossible is now a ministry with national affiliates working to restore hope to so many women. “I call it a virtuous circle,” Dick says. “The people who become volunteers or workers, they pour in, but these young ladies pour it back. I thought I’d been through some tough times in my life, but to look at these women and see so much courage, they’re my heroes.”

Matt Bowley, Dick and Mary Frances’s oldest son, doesn’t actively work with the organization, but sees the impact his mother’s work has on the community. “Her life had always been for me and Paul. She always gave her spirit to us and now she’s giving it back to them. It’s an awesome thing,” he says.

And the work is far from over. At the time of this writing, Wellspring Living is working to retrofit efficiency apartments which were leased to them by the Atlanta Mission. Plans are also underway to create a cosmetology center so program participants can get a work certificate.

The organization is also planning to open a fourth location for Wellspring Treasures—its upscale resale boutiques—in the Morningside section of Atlanta.

Mary Frances Bowley, the little girl from small town Alabama who had modest dreams of being a teacher and a mother, could not have known all those years ago that her humble longings would have such massive impact. But like any true mother, when asked how she’s able to do all she’s done, she deflects attention from herself and focuses instead on her girls. “I believe they’re the most courageous people on the planet. How do they know we’re going to do what we say we’re gonna do? They have to have courage.”

To learn more about Wellspring Living or to volunteer or donate, visit http://www.wellspringliving.org/.

Social Media for your Business-Part 1

PeachtreeWoods 005

 

Social Media For Your Business- Part 1: Make a List, Set Goals, Visit Pages

“WHY”, you ask?

Because… it is FREE!  and… your customers are probably already on there.  As they are out and about with their smart phones and tablets, you can connect with them!!

All this is with MEASURABLE results that you can then use to adjust your marketing campaigns.

Before we get too much further, let me say hello. Greetings!  This is part one in my four part series about how to create your basic social media presence, one step at a time. I encourage you to reach out to your customers!  They like your business, and connecting with them regularly beyond your website is a critical step in building brand loyalty.  Your website, if you have one, is like a foyer.  It is where introductions are made. Social Media is the Living Room!  This is where friendships are formed.  Start with a few of the top sites, then expand from there once you are ready.  You don’t have to jump in with both feet all at once!

 

So many buttons…so little time!

 

 

Where to begin…

The plan here is to add to or update your social media a little each week, so by the end of December  you will have the groundwork done.  Then we can work on fine tuning in January, using tools to keep things simple but effective.  The series focuses on these  areas:

One: Make a List, Set Goals, website-preparation
Two: FaceBook, LinkedIn-purpose, how to add
Three: Twitter – purpose, how to add
Four: Blog- why? How?

First, let’s talk about why you need to add this project to your to do list…

So many small businesses are strapped for time and resources.  So you may wonder why  you should add more to your plate?  Perhaps you feel that “customers know where you are”, or you “already have too much business”.  Maybe you have a website, maybe not.  Connect and engage with your customers and potential customers-  if they are  already using Facebook or Twitter, they expect to be able to find you on there with them.  They are probably waiting for you…the approximate numbers of people on the top 3 Social Media sites are:

Facebook: about 1 in every 9 people on the planet are on Facebook!

Twitter: over 145 million

LinkedIn: over 100 million

 

Now that you know why you should do it, let’s get down to the  nitty gritty.

This first week your assignment is easy.  Get a spiral notebook to keep notes in. You need to gather information and think about a few things.  Because you are going to be doing just the basic set-up, we won’t get too bogged down in details here. Follow this checklist and make notes in your notebook:

Step 1. Make a list of all the websites your business is currently using. This includes your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and any other Social Media sites your Company is on currently. If you are using your personal Facebook Page for business, include it in this list. If you have no Internet presence yet, note this.

Step 2. Think about why you want to connect with customers more through the Internet.  Is it because you want them to give you feedback, or do you just want to give them information? Announcements? Specials? Make notes. Decide if you can commit to spending some time each week to updating your social media.

Step 3. Go to your website and make a note of the theme- what are the colors, style (fun, funky, modern, etc). You will be complementing this theme throughout your presence on the Internet so your customers recognize your brand.  Social Media is a great way to build your brand!

Step 4. While you are on your website, take note of the last time it was updated. Are there old announcements floating around on it? Does your home page grab your attention? Do any links not work? If you do have a presence on any Social Media sites, are there link buttons on your home page? Make notes and make changes as necessary.

That’s it for this week. I will check in again on the 8th of December with information about Facebook and LinkedIn. My tips will include how how to add them, how to update, what type of things to post (and how often).

Should you have any questions, I always welcome e-mail!

-Kim Julian

President/Owner

Busy Biz Girl

reach me by e-mail with questions: Kim@busybizgirl.com

follow me on Twitter@busybizgirl for small business tips!

www.busybizgirl.com